Ravi Zupa: The Colorado Artist Enjoys Combining Rather Disparate Elements Of Culture Into One, Beautifully Drawn Piece
Ravi Zupa is constantly improving his artwork. By combining seemingly disparate elements of myriad cultures, he's successfully created hemogenous artwork with a unique feel. Spirituality, mythology, hip hop, are just a few of the underlying narratives in the Coloradan's artwork. We talked with the artist about all things process, Squid Games, and revealing his fears to Rooster!
Hometown: Littleton/Denver Colorado
Favorite cheese: Pretty much any
Biggest fear: Revealing my fears to Rooster Mag.
Every artist should have: Something interesting to share.
Show you’ve binged lately: Squid Game, like the rest of planet Earth. It was completely great! I don’t know a lot about modern Korean culture but I remember seeing news of labor protests in South Korea in 1997. The footage was crazy and it really stuck in my memory. It made me think that the labor culture of South Korea was a lot like European countries. That news segment is always in my mind when I see films from Korea like Squid Game and Parasite. They do seem to be more conscious of and more ready to discuss class honestly than some of their neighbors. Just an opinion obviously.
What do you think the world needs more of? Slow.
Describe your artistic style? I don’t really have a style of my own. I look closely at other styles from around the world and throughout history and I bite those styles. My main intention is to integrate seemingly disparate elements from different cultures and time periods and find how they relate or mirror one another. I think there is something uniquely mine and identifiable in my work but it’s not clear what that is. Hopefully the meaning and the ideas… Probably the specific ways that these other styles are combined. I’m not sure.
You do everything by hand, none of it is digital. What is the process like and how long can a piece take? It depends a lot on the type of work but generally I look at a lot of books and Pinterest. I find things that I love and look very carefully at what it is that makes that style unique. I then try to emulate the sensibilities of the lines or the anatomy or perspective or whatever it is that makes that particular art special and magical. Sometimes I bite whole characters or portions of an old piece. I’ll redraw or paint them with something altered or added for my purposes. Other times I just steal the style of line weight, or whatever it is, and draw something entirely new in that specific style. As if Albrecht Durer drew a backhoe for example. I feel a strong responsibility to make it relate to our current lives and culture. I think about ways that I can include objects or events from my lifetime for example. I often redraw the thing many times. Like I said, it varies a lot! I draw very quickly so I can make a whole piece in a day or it can take a month.
You’ve spent decades studying art, mythology, religion and history of culture, how has this manifested in your work? To be entirely honest, I consider myself more of a thinker than an artist. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way (though people do sometimes find me rather arrogant). Not that I’m so brilliant, just that my identity and my toolset for interacting with the world is deeply oriented in intellect and thought and ideas. More than anything else. I have a lot of technical skill with drawing and painting but those are largely vehicles for getting across thoughts and ideas. Mythology, religion, science, culture and art are all ways that collectives make sense of being alive and it never ends. Just doing my part, like everyone else.
What are some of the challenges you face with your artwork? The main hope is to generate that special feeling in others that I experience when I see amazing art that I love. It’s not easy and I never know if I’m really succeeding. I hope so.
Social media: is it tearing apart society or has it been helpful in your eyes? It seems like the world mostly agrees that it’s both. It is arguably the most significant contributing factor to every large-scale shift that we are seeing in our species right now. The shifts that provide expanded rights and dignities and the shifts that destabilize important social structures. I think we have a long journey ahead to learn how to integrate it into life. Things are going to get considerably worse before they get better. In the end though, when we figure out how to manage it’s influence and when we have better shared control of its yields, I’m pretty confident about it. There’s certainly no guarantees though. A.I. is going to make things much worse, very soon. And the most important course of action, in my opinion, is to establish the boundaries of what is public property and what is private property in the digital sphere. In the same way that we know very clearly where the roads and sidewalks end and the personal property of a home or business begins. These things are not at all clear yet and right now it’s all private which is a recipe for disaster. In the same way that having all the roads and sidewalks privately owned would be a disaster. People are focused now on Facebook and Instagram’s knowledge that their products harm young people, particularly girls. This is really important. I’ve been close to a lot of suicide in my life. Including my father and my brother and several wonderful, close friends so I know something about this type of harm and it hurts a lot. A.I. will make these things both better and worse in very unexpected ways. Stay alert! In my experience, being alive is one of the hardest things anyone will ever do. It will always be that way.
Can you put into 5 words or less how art has impacted your life? Love, focus, isolation, fun, purpose.
Where does your art go from here? Onward!
Shameless Plug: ravizupa.com