Edgar Invoker 'Temporarily unnamed 1' painting for Blacklisted Copenhagen

Capturing dreams and consciousness in paint

I speak with Russian artist Edgar Invoker about his research into lucid dreaming and human consciousness, and how those subjects inspire his paintings.

Published: October 18, 2018Words: Edgar Invoker & J.Scott StrattonArtist Link: www.saatchiart.com/edgarSoundcloud: @edgarinvoker

The use of dreams for creative fuel and cognitive development has long been a practice, even going so far as to develop into a method of becoming aware of oneself within the dream and working to control it. In the fifth grade, I had an English teacher that introduced me to a practice of grabbing a pencil and paper upon first waking up to write down my dreams. I believe this was intended to foster a culture of daily writing, but I always found myself using the dream as fuel for my imagination.

I’ve since lost this practice, unfortunately. And it’s quite surprising how brief mind can hold the memories of a dream. For me, the morning-zombie-before-two-cups-of-coffee routine unusually negates any desire to open my computer and begin typing, and once my mind has had its caffeine fix, the memory of the dream is gone.

All this said, the places that our minds go when we sleep are still fascinating. They are a deep well of creative wackiness that is always just a little out of reach for most of us – simply because one needs to be relentless in a practice of their pursuit.

You wouldn’t know it upon looking at the detailed abstract paintings of Russian painter Edgar Invoker, but an academic and spiritual investigation of dreams (and consciousness) lies in the subtext of many of his works. As dreams and human consciousness are completely subjective, it becomes impossible for one to look at one of Edgar’s pieces and make the connection to these subject. It would be too much of a cognitive leap to see one of his works and immediately assume, “Ah yes, this must be inspired by the practice of lucid dreaming.”

Yet, once this information is learned, it only acts to deepen the relationship between painting, viewer, and artist. Although, I was drawn to Edgar’s work because of aesthetic appeal, I was pleasantly surprised to find this whole other dimension of research and conceptual development behind the work.

I reached out to Edgar initially after a subject of his work that he sent to us, but after a little digging into his background, learning of his research into dreams and consciousness only deepen my intrigue. I got Edgar to speak at length about the inspirations and process behind his works, and what he said allowed me to look at his paintings in an entirely new way.

Edgar Invoker 'Until Untitled #0' painting for Blacklisted Copenhagen
Edgar Invoker 'Slumber Minotaurus' painting for Blacklisted Copenhagen

Tell me a little bit about the research behind your work.

Once I became interested in the phenomenon of lucid dreams. At first, it was just an intellectual fad in trying to figure out what it was. Then I began to experiment with various techniques for incubating such dreams, which led to the development of experience of being in controlled dreams.

Acquainted with the practical workings of a group of dream researchers “Dream Hackers,” I opened new horizons. Study of landscapes in the world of dreams, personalities and bestiary. My practice served as a detonator of a blast of some imaginative memory that was not subject to daytime impressions but had sources in the deep memory of dreams. Rorschach himself spoke about the connection between the interpretations of abstract forms of inkblots and dreams, and I tried to check this conjecture on my own experience.

In general, the fascination with this topic led me to general questions about our consciousness and its modes of perception. Such as sleep, trance, the experience of awareness in a dream, memory. The themes raised by me in the paintings have a direct connection with the research of dreams.

During practice, I noted the particular kinds of shapes found in dreams and the corresponding changes in their perception. So, so I discovered the meaning of the symmetrical forms that Rorschach also mentioned. Such forms rarely appear in dreams, but it’s the symmetry of the structures observed in reality that favors the recollections of dreams.

A special role is played by mirror and inversion. Both of these effects are pretty frequent to dreams, but rarely seen in everyday life.

When you fall asleep, the body flips along the vertical axis, which leads to a loss of orientation when you detect yourself in a dream.

I also noted the difference in the regimes of vision due to the change in the angle of the eye focusing angle, which creates distinctive effects of defocusing when realized in the dream and much more.

Through all my work I consider the theme of the formation of visual images in our minds. The moment of transformation of unstructured signals into a meaningful picture of the world. This is an essential feature of human perception with an inexhaustible source for research.

The primary goal of my research is the systematization of the dream and everyday experience of perception and its expression in specific symbols and images. In his works, I strive to create multiple levels of interpretation. Aesthetic, intellectual, and level facing the viewer’s subconscious.

Edgar Invoker 'Double Mind' painting for Blacklisted Copenhagen
Edgar Invoker 'Clouds' painting for Blacklisted Copenhagen

The stylistic approach to your work changes quite a lot from series to series, so take me through the process of how you discover and test new styles and mediums?

I change the stylistics quite significantly depending on the series. It’s connected with ideas and behavior of materials. As a rule, the form of expression finds itself unexpectedly and is part of the mosaic that suddenly appears during the work on the project. Often the behavior of the material determines the style of the future series and acts as an intermediary in the expression of ideas

In the process of searching, I find out the individual states of materials in the sense that they behave under extreme effects on them. Mechanical effects and the search for dysfunction.

I’m moving in two directions: an attempt to simulate any material or environment or surface. For example when I need to re-create the digital effects on the work surface, such as a glitch. And the definition of visual effects that are characteristic for the material or arise when exposed to it. For example, when I use erosion on acrylic with alcohol or alkaline cleaner.

Often the behavior of the material gives impetus to the formation of the stylistics of the new series. Thus, I open not only the formal potential of technology but also the ideological one.

As for ideas. In addition to working with the material in the formation of the style also affects the information space that I organize for themselves. This can be compared with chemical experiments when one substance is immersed in the other solution for a particular exposure.

The cultural, emotional and physical contexts influence the ideas that arise and develop in me. In many ways, the ideas arise randomly, but those planes on which there is a bounce affects the trajectory of the idea of progress. Therefore, here is an essential balance between setting and openness to possible triggers that bring in an unexpected sense of a project.

Summarizing it can be said that the formation of visual language takes place in two directions. The idea attracts to itself the most suitable form of expression. Materials and technology lead to the creation of certain concepts that grow organically from their formal state.

Edgar Invoker 'Guardians (Threshold)' painting for Blacklisted Copenhagen

You’ve mentioned in describing your work that you have a system which involves paint, body and subconscious mind. Can you tell me about this?

In the process, I was interested in the various fields of knowledge to consider consciousness as a field of research of its mechanisms, as well as the interaction of mind and body.

My gaze turned to various sources of information. Psychoanalysis, Esoterics, Philosophy, Medicine, and everything where questions of the work of consciousness and its connection with the body and the surrounding world are somehow affected.

As an artist, I could freely consider opposed to the field of human research, often irreconcilable with each other.

I began to apply a unique creative method which consisted of a free involuntary movement of the body allowing the subconscious mind to prevail over conscious processes. Paint being a very moving material follows the impulses of the artist’s body, and its behavior corresponds to the trajectory of bodily movements.

The body, in turn, is mostly influenced by the subconscious. Thus, the subconscious-body-paint bridge is formed. The bridge over which the hidden images fall into the area of directional attention

This is similar to Rorschach’s test, but in this process, not attention of consciousness draws an image. This makes the body the attention of the subconscious under control. Thus induction of a visible image by way of the boundary occurs after its formation in an abstract form. Subsequently, processed and recognized by consciousness.

What is some of the subject matter that drives your work?

In many ways, the stimulus for my work is to get acquainted with the materials of various studies relating to human consciousness.

It is not limited to the specialized literature and articles. Now the materials on this topic can be found in literature, in the visual arts, film, music and more. Interdisciplinarity in the approach to knowledge is a characteristic element of our time.

Dreams, and all that is connected with this aspect of human life. Attention – as a phenomenon.

Also, modern music plays a significant role. This area of culture allows me to study the context of the time in which I am. For me, the sound more relevant transmits the spirit of the time than the image. Musical culture reacts quickly to changes in the external environment.

I also get inspiration from sources not related to the visual arts. It can be any curious information from the field of astronomy, programming, esotericism, or just a story from the daily life of people.

Edgar Invoker 'InVersion' painting for Blacklisted Copenhagen

You’ve shown your work around the world, but tell me about the art scene in your native St. Petersburg.

Art St. Petersburg scene, in my opinion, comes to a state of a new stage of development. Although I can not call myself a person attentively following everything that happens in the artistic life of the city, the things I come across form certain feelings in me.

Directions are developing in a natural way. There are also directions that keep afloat by stimulating people’s attention to them. The propensity to lobbying is typical for Russia, as a whole, and this often creates unclaimed situations in artistic areas that do not have support.

The factor of luck and personal connections is great. Quite often I see the artists participating in collective exhibitions that do not fit their style and direction. But for not having other alternatives to demonstrate themselves forced to remain in this environment.

There is a large layer of artists of the so-called “classical school” and “avant-garde”. Suffice noticeable part of the artists working in the genre of contemporary art. Recently, street wave artists have intensified. But even these groups do not have enough exhibition spaces and audience activity and curators. Not to mention the huge number of different artists working in other genres and directions. Art scene is in search of ways of development and creation of dialogue with the spectator.

Looking back over the growth of your work, is there anything that you would approach differently?

Looking back I understand that I would not change the main direction of my movement. Perhaps I would have paid more attention to spontaneous projects and kollobratsii.

Do you have any famous last words?

Attention – one of the main instruments of human consciousness. Time, health, society, etc. – can be compared with resources. The main thing that we need in order to process these resources is attention management.