This month’s cover art comes from Caroline Jamhour, an artist who works with not only digital and traditional media, but also as a tattoo artist in Curitiba, Brazil. Influenced by mythology, mysticism, and the occult, Jamhour brings a sense of story and texture to her many works of fantasy.
APEX MAGAZINE: Your cover art for this month’s Apex Magazine, the beautiful “Song of the stars,” has a wonderful cosmic feel to it. At the same time, the subtle textures are evident, adding an emotional depth. How important are textures to the feel of a piece, especially in digital art versus traditional painting techniques? Does an artist’s medium matter as much as what they do with it?
CAROLINE JAMHOUR: I think textures add interest to a painting in a very peculiar way. A picture is something that consists in visual elements like colors, shapes, luminosity, contrasts. But textures evoke a new sense beyond sight: they appeal to the sense of touch. So I think it adds a new dimension of sensorial experience to an image, even if it’s only visually implied and not something you can actually touch. One thing I dislike about digital art is that it can frequently have a sort of “plastic” look—too smooth and unnatural—and sometimes this smoothness is what you’re going for and it works, but other times it just looks too artificial and lacking interest. So I try to add a more natural, organic feel to my digital paintings by adding textures or trying to keep my brush strokes unsmoothed. I believe there’s a charm in a little distress, in something that is not perfect: it says that it has a story, that it’s alive, even if we’re talking about a painting. Digital painting has an interesting character: it doesn’t have a natural texture like traditional materials do. But you can mimic these materials to convey the visual feel they produce, so it’s a very versatile tool that allows lots of experimenting. In traditional painting the material has its own way of behaving and interacting with your tools and surfaces, so it allows for a more spontaneous acting, while digital painting allows, and also requires, more actual control. So it’s really up to the artist’s intentions when deciding what the medium that they want to deal with.
AM: Many of the pieces in your DeviantArt gallery feature the concept of night prominently. What is it that you find captivating about nighttime and/or the dark? Is it based on your painting techniques, or is it more based on the idea or the story for each piece?
CJ: Night and darkness have a strong symbolic appeal to me. I feel most magic happens at night—it’s the time when I feel more creative and introspective, when I can dive into myself. Also related to sleep, which brings me very vivid, fantastical dreams that compose my inner world and bring me inspiration. But also, it’s about the shadow parts of ourselves, not as something bad, but vast and mysterious. I like to play with dramatic contrasts, light and dark: usually bright, colorful lighting in a dark environment. I don’t think it’s something I pursue deliberately, but more of a language that just happens when I’m going to express myself through art. I want to evoke an atmosphere of mystical, oneiric feeling.
AM: Your gallery offers many pieces that highlight mythology, such as your piece “Cetus,” and it seems that Greek mythology is inferred throughout your galleries. How do those mythologies inform or influence your overall work? Does a change in the mythology or belief system, say, Greek mythology versus Buddhism, alter how you approach a piece?
CJ: I have a big interest in mythology and symbolism, because these things offer such deep, infinite possibilities of meaning, and stories to tell and that we can relate to. Though not by personal choice, I think Greek mythology turns out to be a major influence because it’s the mythology that is more popular and has more influence in our occidental culture, so its characters and symbols are probably more present in my personal imagery. However, I don’t take any particular mythology or belief system into consideration when creating a piece, except when it’s specifically about a character from that mythology. I think of all mythologies, its gods, stories, and characters as symbols and storytellings of the multitude of human experience and our relationship with natural forces, from within and without. I like to study various mythologies, so when I have an idea or feeling I want to express, I have enough symbolic language as a resource to be able to express it.
AM: In a couple of your gallery images, I noticed that people suggested a nudity label. In a previous discussion about censorship and nudity with another of our cover artists, Adrian Borda, he said something that as a fellow artist I agree with. He said, “I find quite hopeless the war against the people who are offended by a few pixels on the screen.” Have you run into issues with censorship or others that are concerned with the nudity you portray? How have you dealt with it in the past, and what impact do those types of comments have on your work?
CJ: Though it was only a few times that people seemed concerned with the nudity label on my images (that I stubbornly refused to add until it was forced on by the website’s staff), it upsets me that people feel that nudity in art can somehow be offensive—especially regarding female nipples! It upsets me because it comes from an ill culture that sexualizes the entire female body, even when it’s not in a sexual context whatsoever. How can these people be on an art website and have a problem with nudes? Wouldn’t they go to art galleries, or do they believe minors and children shouldn’t? And I believe this is harmful in many ways, as it highlights the unhealthy relationship we have with the human body as a culture. I, personally, am not very fond of adding clothes to the characters on my paintings, with rare exceptions; I simply can’t, it feels uncomfortable. I love nudity as it’s about truthful and pure being, without disguises or artificialities, and it’s very adequate for what I wish to connote, which is a sense of honesty from within.
AM: The description for your piece “Vanitas” explains your method of automatic painting, defined as a work that starts without planning or a reason. Many artists, myself included, use a similar method often in our works. Are the ideas you come up with using this method a surprise, or do they still follow your normal ideas or styles? Does the physical act of painting the piece bring out ideas you never thought would be in your mind?
CJ: It’s hard to say it’s totally a surprise, because in any case, it will be something from the matter of my inner world so it will be somehow familiar—but it’s something I probably wouldn’t come up with in a planned way. Though I don’t often use this method of automatic painting or drawing, being restricted to a few experiences, I feel it is somehow an inherent part of the developing process of all of my drawings and paintings, since the ideas and directions come up as I draw, and not as a previously well-established plan. Even when I believe I have a plan, it changes along the way as it materializes. Drawing/painting is more like a dialogue and a discovery than just a plain execution of an idea. In the end, I often feel like I don’t know where exactly that picture or character came from, like it’s something beyond me, or a hidden part of myself. It’s actually pretty exciting, as every painting, when finished, comes as a surprise and a message, rather than only a result.
AM: Thank you to Caroline Jamhour for an intriguing look at her work. Visit her galleries on her website at www.carolinejamhour.com and aeryael.deviantart.com.