Stefan Stanojevic, known as `Tony Star‘ (b.1987, Serbia), feeds our digital vice with each of his posts, where he discourages the ego of artists with his technique, and with games and metaphors he challenges a whole generation of people who have shared the streets as a canvas and as a source of learning.
We inhabit and dis-inhabit the space, and sometimes we take it with us. Ideas, creations and works that have no meaning without knowing where they come from, in a period where digital reality overwhelms every second, we seek hyperreality, in everything we do.
His technique continues to be “valued” by all audiences and praised by critics, but what is behind this technique? During the creative process, “we don’t want to be alone with the creative genius and his emotional storm”… but if we are honest … his magnetism traps us.
Today we approached Tony to know more about him, to share, to talk about life, the processes, and the search.
Hi Tony 🙂 What was graffiti for you? As a catalyst, as a tool, as a lifestyle? I ask you this because I think it’s very difficult to separate yourself 100% from it. Tt makes you understand the environment and the context in a different way, where the symbols become messages and the way of perceiving the world is also transformed, maybe it’s the dopamine or maybe it’s the need to keep moving forward, who knows?
I can say that graffiti is the main catalyst for everything I do visually today. For me, graffiti was my first visual impression / expression, and my first freedom. While classical graffiti is trapped in conservative letter forms, they introduce beginners to a myriad of visual aspects. During the years I testify how people break these rules all over the world and bring new expressions to life. It’s a non-stop evolving thing. Even though my goal is a fresh expression, I still enjoy classical graffiti forms – especially those painted on the trains.
You were working as a designer for more than 10 years! Tell us about this stage, and what remains of this experience in your work today? Nowadays it seems natural to move from letters and aesthetics to design, it makes sense, now, it makes sense. But what about before? Was it a search to advance with respect to your work in the streets?
10 years in design was a huge experience for me. I didn’t jump into design to expand my graffiti. It’s a profession in itself. But every visual field opens horizons for an artist, while teaching you new things and sensitizes you. I think it’s natural for an artist to be interested in different visual fields. A lot of things can be dropped into a trash can, but a lot of it has artistic potential – that is of course if the individual recognizes it and makes new connections from it. For example I drew realistic icons in photoshop for online casinos and I thought it could be really helpful if I stopped guessing the light and render it. So I “learned” a 3D program for this project. Since I had experience painting realistically, I later decided to paint a 3D work physically.
Speaking of corporate design I can tell you it’s too limited, and it’s not the field where I feel fulfilled. It’s just a business. The best fit for this role is a person who copies current trends and doesn’t have an attitude. Even if your job is to bring identity to life. Not to mention that personal expression doesn’t exist. If you want progress, you become a manager, a businessman, or you change 10 agencies and hide your work behind the titles. Honor to exceptions. I was never interested in titles or being a boss. My work was really what was important to me so I moved from doing visuals for others, to doing visuals for myself, and ultimately for all of us. I’m super lucky that I didn’t contaminated my art sense during the agency period, and that I had projects where I was able to do interesting things in that field.
When do you begin to generate artistic work in a studio? How is that process? What is the spark and the beginning, where does the ideas come from and how do you develop them until you reach the end goal? Any obsession in that process?
I became a full time artist 2 years ago. Usual scenario: I get a vision/idea/concept, or a random aesthetic impression. Sometimes I sketch it and then I do modeling and rendering. Things goes really fast up to this point. Then, I make the decision of what I should do with it. Either I do canvas, figurine or mural at this stage. Everything goes in a slow pace. Process is tough and it’s a long road from idea to realization. Lots of ups and downs. It brings a lot of joy, but as a profession it brings a lot of decision making and responsibility. In my setup, I’m really happy that I have separated the physical studio from the digital studio and that all production is in-house. It’s really nice to have an environment shift from time to time. Outdoor is a bonus. Sometimes I enjoy technology, and sometimes I enjoy chemicals. It’s a different world, and I often feel stretched across my work. Especially when crosswise production occurs. Not to mention logistics and firm regulations. Despite these real world troubles I’m most excited when I jump into the next thing. That’s when I always feel like things are moving again. I also enjoying modeling sessions without responsibility.
Considering what triggers me, I generally love art, so everything can trigger me. Colors, forms, letters, architecture, light, gesture, narrative, fashion, nature etc… I guess it’s an obsession, since all elements around us can be considered as art elements and ideas & narratives come from every corner of our lives.
An aesthetic of clear volumes that confronts us with paintings of “sculptural” character. The volumes come to life and we could say that your paintings are a simulation of 3D! You are a plastic – digital artist!
Then we can say that artists who paints from life are also simulating a 3D world 😉 3D tools often simulate the real world, but it’s up to the artist to decide how these tools will be used. And the possibilities are vast. I was always impressed with the shiny surfaces and smooth forms. I even tag “Star” on the streets. I get excited with the idea that one art form becomes another art form. In my case digital sculpture has become a physical painting. I painted my first digitally modeled graff in 2013. Before that I painted a myriad of different things, including physical ceramic figurines, marbles etc… and that made me wonder – is it OK to paint other artists work? While some people argue it’s OK – I personally don’t feel comfortable with it. I wanted to create too, not just to paint from reference. Later on I was in a good position in terms of skill and technology, to produce my own shiny stuff. We are living in a great period when humans can simulate realistic light, much easier than used to be. That gives an artist a whole new area for exploration.
The subject matter of your works varies between “still lifes”, to elements of contemporary pop culture, but there is always “a moment”, something like “trapped”, in time.
Everything is trapped in plastic. Sometimes narratives drives me and sometimes aesthetic. I love both worlds and they can work separately or together, so I vary.
Always a wink, always “a joke”, I see your sculptures and I can read them. They always make me laugh! ass – heart, and at the same time whatsapp peach, OMG! your work is encrypted for our generation, and its message is universal for contemporaries!
With figurines I try to play with common items and communicate context in a simple way. I guess that is from my design background. I also try to connect things that are not connected in context, that resonates to my personality. Sometimes it’s a joke but more likely it’s a newborn that visually works and expresses a message.
What currently interests you the most in your creative process? What stimulates your adrenaline as a Painter?
Forms. I explore a lot of forms and I get excited in that process. I am also exploring new painting media.
Galleries, institutions, the artist’s reality and the art market. How do you deal with all of this?
I’m more focused on my work than on the art market. So far I’ve had a good experience with gallerists and clients. I know what I want, and I know when to say no. I believe it’s important for an artist to define their own goals. It’s easier for everyone.
What 3 things would you say to the Tony of 10 years ago?
Believe in yourself. Do more of your own stuff. Do not get affected by the wrong values.
Tony, where are you going? What are your dreams and desires?
Towards the unknown Viktoria. I have the freedom and stability to paint my own stuff and express my own visions. I guess that is the dream come true for every artist. I push myself to produce more because I’m overwhelmed with ideas. It’s literally a dream come true when I transform visions into something tactile. That moves me and keeps me awake, and it often reminds me that life is short.