surmane: Van Zandt
year of birth: 1978
Q1: When did you start making art?
As a child in the 1980’s, I placed in a few art shows—charcoal and pastels, mostly.
Q2: What does inspire you?
What inspires me? Originality and critical thinking. I love that we live in a time where we can thoroughly explore and globally release any concept, no matter how offensive or avant-garde, without fear of persecution.
The ability to collaborate and network instantly on a global level opens a lot of doors. It affects art in subtly profound ways.
Q3: What are your techniques?
I can be very precise with metering, light placement, and camera settings; taking the time to get the overall “vibe” of a shot looking pretty close to what I envisioned right in the camera.
Editing is an afterthought—I usually know what I’m going to do in post before the shutter opens. After spending years in recording studios and movie sets, the idea of “fixing it in the mix” or “winging it” often feels unrealistic. You always benefit from having a plan before you begin, even if that plan drastically evolves in the process.
Q4: What is the main idea or feeling behind your works?
I explore a variety of concepts. Some have a post-apocalyptic feel, while others survey moments of joy, stillness, or tranquility. But…mostly dark lately—the older I get, the more I realize that the human race has always been a chaotic mess of greedy, selfish savages; one misunderstanding away from full-blown rebellion and rioting in the streets. My work often jabs at the fossad of utopian unity; the quiet hypocrisy that we all share in on some level—exploring the juxtaposition, the duplicity of a race clinging to lofty goals of justice and human rights while genetically doomed to slavery and an endless cycle of self-destruction. Most of the world operates in a state of paralytic denial…they can’t or won’t face the gravity of our global crisis—I find that very interesting…
Q5: What is the main color of your art and why?
I explore the gamut. Lots of black—negative space is useful. Shades have a primal relevance in the right context. I consciously make an effort to harness that.
Q6: What would you improve about your work and why?
I plan to continue my journey and stay out of the results. Some will say I improved; others will invariably cling to previous work. Human nature…
Q7: Do you have any project for the future?
Tomorrow we do clay body art. After that, a number of “storyteller” shoots involving grungy props, messy body paint, bold makeup, and original costumes. I am building some interesting gasmasks and lighting modifiers this month.
Q8: Describe yourself with 3 words capturing the essence of rvanzandt.
Authentic. Provocative. Inexorable.
Q9: Show us (link) your very first work. Describe it from techniques till feelings.
Everything was stolen from my Detroit studio in 2004—my art, my music, my equipment, and all my backups. (They should chop thieves’ hands off like in the Middle East or medieval Europe.)
Q10: What did change from your first work till now?
I stopped caring what others thought, threw commercial appeal out the window, and started doing the projects I felt like doing with no regard for the “why” other than wanting the work to exist.
Q11: What is art for you? Escaping from reality or the essence of life?
Both. Interchangeably. As with any passion, art can be all consuming—it occupies much of my thoughts. It influences the way I live and interact with others.