When people think of an artist, most assume a background of entitlement, an art intensified education and a life of immersion into the creative industries. That tends to be the case, as most art forms are a luxury and those that manage to make it as professionals in the field normally have the support and opportunity to do so. That is not the case for Russian based artist, Anton Bundenko. Unlike many of his colleagues Bundenko has not had a formal education in fine arts nor has he lived in a city that enabled him to connect with individuals in the field. Yet, he seems to have found a way to make himself known. Through the power of technology, he has shared his art work through social media and has managed to break through to a large international audience.
Up until recently he was doing that while balancing another job as a shot-firer in rural Russia. His endless drive, passion, and capability to self-promote have been so successful that Bundenko has landed a widely envied collaborative deal with well-known mass retailer, Zara. Now, with a big move to Moscow and the brave decision to pursue art as his sole career path, Bundenko allows Metal Magazine to look into his new, exciting world and the many adventures it promises to hold.
When did you first start creating art and what was your first artistic medium? How did you begin to develop that into a career?
In 2010 I met great, talented people and that was a good start for me. Together, we started from scratch and made our works as we thought they should be forming this way a team which was different from the others (VOSK). It was a great time and I really miss it. After that, I moved to another city where I started evolving as an artist. I wouldn’t call it a career; it’s my lifework. If you look at me I appear as a fanatic in the form of a professional, I am my own director. In the past, it was all about taking pictures and experimenting with collages, this year I’ve started working in many more different directions. I’ve started working with Onsitegallery and I’m continuing my collaboration with Zara. There’s been a couple of interesting projects with an Italian clothing brand, we are designing patterns for their collections. Besides, I’m also in the process of launching my line of printed sweatshirts; I’m still shooting, doing new work and experimenting. It’s all become more steady, more thoughtful. As a job it came naturally, when there was a necessity to structure things and to express responsibility and dedication.
Did you receive any formal education to assist you in learning how to become a better multi-media artist? Did you have any artists mentor you?
I never had a formal education in art, which has its pros and cons. I often think I lack fundamental knowledge but, on the other hand, I have more space for self-evolution and making my way in the art world. The best way to master your techniques is to put them into practice, acquiring this way more tools. To be me, what's essenstial is to have a unique sense of style, which comes with the right perception of the era. The more refined and subtle your perception of here and now is, the more delicate and truthful your work appears. I have also had some experience working with BHSD, which has helped me a lot. The Internet has immensely increased our possibilities. All doors are open for us, we just need to learn how to open them. I have had great friends over the course of my life, and each of them is a mentor in their own way. We learned, discussed, experimented together and I really loved it. I’ve moved to another city now and I’m sort of in transition, thinking of it all through and putting it together in order to start working with a team on a higher professional level.
You do a lot of work for fashion brands and publications. How do you feel fashion and art balance each other out and work together? Do you believe fashion is an art? What do you like about working with these fashion companies?
I think it all depends on the definition of fashion and art and on the people who define them. There are designers and photographers in the fashion world who have their own unique perception and they have an artistic approach to their work. Fashion is just the tool for them, it gives them a possibility to embody their ideas in the material world, to depict them in the surface of real time and ideals incarnated in fashion. I don’t take into consideration necessary aspects of fashion as a business. One has to understand that art, as well as business, has its own restrictions which motivate to do your work according to demand. Where there’s offer, there’s demand. I think that it has all been mixed now, not in terms of directions that both art and fashion take, but in terms of institutions, their management systems and politics. I try not to think about it, I just do my work with maximum dedication in order to make something meaningful. My collages have a lot of implications, which you can’t see at first glance and can’t be the subject of clients’ censorship, but if you look at them carefully you can find a lot of interesting things. That’s how they come alive. Collages allow me to express myself, fashion gives me the space to use them. If it’s considered art one day, I’ll be really happy.
With all of the artwork you do, why do you still work as a shot-firer? What do you enjoy about that career and how did you choose it? Have you ever found inspiration there and integrated it into your art?
It has been a year since I stopped working as a shot-firer. In 2012 I resigned and moved to Moscow to start evolving as a photographer and collage artist. 2013 has been very intense, eventful and ground breaking in my career. In the beginning of 2013 I got many interesting offers which I couldn’t refuse so I sped up my development not only as a photographer and collage artist, but also as an artist and print designer for clothing lines. I’m sure it’s a transition point before the next, more important and more serious stage of my life, which I hope will happen very soon. I used to work as a mining engineer. Living in a different social environment gave me the opportunity to compare life in its different interpretations and broadened my mind. Now my life is a continuous road, a way of getting to know myself on a deeper level and clearing my mind of stereotypes.
You're based in Russia. How has growing up there influenced your work? What is the art industry like there?
I face a lot of stereotype problems here. A lot of people judge your works not basing them on their personal subjective opinion, but on awards, publications and references from respected and important people in the art and fashion world. I think don't think it's just a Russian peculiarity, yet it’s a fact that my works have more interest and demand abroad. Russia has a very powerful cultural and historical background. The Russian Empire had its distinct history and culture and there was great value in it. Then, when the Soviet System came to rule, everything was equalized to one general idea, which also had a certain meaning and generated many great artists, poets and composers. Now that it’s over, Russia is going through a new phase with new ideas. I can’t be objective about the art industry in Russia, but I’m planning to find a more comfortable and favorable environment to develop, somewhere where my work will be in demand and relevant. For now I can’t find that environment in Russia,however, everything is relative so I will only be able to fully judge this only after I’ve lived and worked in different parts of the globe. That would be a great experience and research that I would love to accomplish.
Between photography and collage, Is there any medium you prefer over the other? If so, why? What does each of these mediums provide you with?
At the moment I’m trying to work on more projects. I like the idea of getting full sufficient material (photos, silkscreen prints and even clothing prints and abstract work) from one particular subject by going to its depths and researching and experimenting. Technically it looks quite simple. Original shots are left as photographs. Then I start making textures and collage backgrounds from the raw materials. Some works will be left as collages, some works will be made into more profound pieces, more abstract, some of them are silk printed and some of them become clothing prints. It can go on and on. It happens very often that the final result doesn’t resemble the original material at all and becomes more of an expression of spontaneous subconscious work of mind at the moment of creation.
Where do you find inspiration for your work? Are you influenced by other artists and designers? If so, who?
I’m a very expressive person in many ways and often create my works relying on my inner perception of this world at the precise moment of creation. I catch the thought and start developing it. I always try to have some material to work on. You can call it subconscious art, when in the process of creation the artist follows their intuitive subconscious instincts and doesn’t fully realize the outcome. I think a lot about what the present is and what it will be associated with in the future. I now feel an enormous endless stream of information. Valuable as well as useless in many ways – some sort of universal rubbish which we have heard of but have never seen yet. From the moment electricity was invented, we’ve hardly evolved in terms of technical progress, getting surrounded by a huge amount of gadgets and technologies. During the World Wars we learnt to produce the most powerful weapons. We’ve stored a huge “bundle” of technical progress. I say “bundle” because I think that from the point of evolution, we haven’t learnt to use it properly. Nowadays, we might be coming to the stage when technological progress, development of economy and growth of industry and population become a threat for humanity. With all this social networking we’ve become more self-centered and less sociable, wasting time on learning about our friends’ news on the Internet .This is a progress catch. But I’m not saying that technical progress is a bad thing, on the contrary, it’s great it’s just that we have to learn to use it in the right way. Personally, I collect it from all around piece by piece: I watch people’s emotions, their actions. Recently I’ve been looking a lot at “box-like” city blocks with offices and apartments in them, ballistic missiles and ranges, Manhattan projects and a lot of nuclear and atomic weapon testing in the USA and Soviet Union during the Cold War and after. I have been researching the idea of inversion, cycles, irreversibility, fate...
What other projects are you currently working on? What would you like do more of? What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
Right now I’m at the point of transitional development and I lack direct contact with fashion and art institutions. In the nearest prospective I would like to get training and start working with a team, to become part of the process and unite with it. I really love the work of Belgian guys 254FOREST and Pierre Debusschere in particular, and I would love to get the chance of working with them. I’d also love to do more collages. This is what attracts me most at the moment. Besides, photos and collages for lookbooks and campaigns, more experimental work for silk prints and prints, conceptual art works for art market. I’m planning to paint more and do more material artwork, experimenting with different techniques, combining modern digital instruments with historical material ones, sort of connecting both eras.Trust me, there’s so much to be discovered, we don’t have a clue.