Australian digital artist Jason Ebeyer may be best known for creating the surreal, 3D animated music video for Troye Sivan’s Bloom in 2018, in which the singer’s alien-like avatar floats around a dreamlike, neon, nighttime garden, his elongated limbs glistening with a sheen resembling Instagram’s plastic face filter. In fact, many of Ebeyer’s characters seem to imitate the typical social media influencers and models who set the bar for today’s beauty standards.
Ebeyer’s work celebrates the fantasy and delusion of the masks we can so easily wear. Among online subcultures which can be equally harsh as they are accepting, Ebeyer hopes to indulge the reverie, taking us to otherworldly, hallucinogenic places where he subverts what we see as uncomfortable or grotesque and shares instead the distorted embodiment of erotic ecstasy.
Can you tell me about how you started out as an artist and designer?
I've always been a creative person. Even as a kid, I was always drawing (terribly) and making things. After I left high school, I studied illustration, which led me into discovering digital art. Once I completed that, I moved to university to pursue a career in graphic design. I think I was in my final year of university and I was really unimpressed with graphic design and found it too restrictive and felt like it was killing my creativity. My boyfriend had been encouraging me to look into other creative outlets to keep the spark alive, and that is when I came across 3D artwork on Instagram. Straight away, I fell in love with the medium and started to learn everything I could from videos and tutorials.
How long did it take you to learn how to create these kinds of videos and images? What kind of software do you use?
I'm constantly learning new things and the software is also constantly growing and developing. I've been creating in these programs for nearly four years now. I work across lots of different programs and software depending on what I'm creating. My main staple programs are Blender and Adobe Creative Suite. I first started with Blender to try out 3D and see if I liked the workflow before I forked out money for Cinema 4D (I was a uni student at the time, so the cost of C4D seemed unattainable). But after working in Blender and learning the tools, I found it to be just powerful enough for what I wanted to do, so I just stuck with it.
The figures you design look like avatars of modern supermodels and social media influencers – tight stomachs, wide hips, big breasts and six-packs. Do you take a lot of inspiration from online personalities?
The models I create aren't really inspired by any one specific person. Overall my aesthetic is heavily influenced by supermodels from back when that word actually had meaning. Women like Naomi Campbell, Lara Stone, Kate Moss and Linda Evangelista have directly influenced the looks of my models. But I don't create these figures for people to look at and want to be – they're not human. The models I design are meant to appear humanoid but they're not of this world. They're a fantasy.
My work is more directed at capturing an emotion or feeling and translating that through a machine. In my opinion, there is such a difference between erotic art and pornography. Pornography focuses on the bodies and the sexual acts, whereas I feel erotic work is more about capturing that moment and emotion of ecstasy.
Your work moves quite seamlessly from erotic to grotesque, with tentacles entering mouths or figures debaucherously embracing bloody machetes. Can you tell me a little about how you manage to intermix these so well and what influences this crossover for you?
I've always thought and said that something being grotesque is such a subjective thing. I feel like eroticism can sometimes come across in a grotesque way for certain people just due to the subject matter. It’s sad that sex, nudity and lust are still such taboo topics for some people. When I'm creating my work, I don't set out to create something people may be disgusted by, but if it invokes some emotion in them, then I've done my job.
Your clips are a lot more surreal and alien-like than what we may see elsewhere online, with neon, dreamlike scenarios. Did this style emerge as you started working with 3D graphics in particular or is it something you’ve always been interested in?
I think it's a combination of both. Back when I used to illustrate, I would draw similar looking characters in surreal environments with similar iconography littered throughout. As I developed my 3D style and grew older, my inspirations and influences also evolved. I've always been inspired to create unreal worlds when I'm making art but keeping them grounded enough in reality that you might feel like you could go there one day.
You’ve now also created various music videos, like Troye Sivan’s Bloom. Have you always seen your work aligning organically with music or was this something new you were approached about?
I never set out to become an artist who works on music videos. But I'm eternally grateful when other creatives want to collaborate on projects like that. I don't play any musical instruments or anything like that, but music has always been a really big part of my creative process, so being able to work with musicians and add not only another layer to their art but also my own is really cool.
What are the challenges you face making a music video, in terms of length and collaborative processes? Do you prefer working collaboratively or alone?
They vary from project to project, but normally, issues are just based on timeframe. I mean, ask any creative and they'll tell you the hardest part is knowing when you're finished when creating. It can be hard because when you're dealing with release schedules and labels, everything is done by the calendar. When projects I've worked on drop, I still look at them and think, ‘I would have loved another week to tweak this and add that’.
If I'm working on another creative person's project, I want them to be involved. Most musicians I've worked with have been 100% involved with everything from initial concept all the way through final cut.
In Troye Sivan’s video Bloom, you’ve given him an ultra-beautiful avatar. With the trend of CGI, 3D-looking models and influencers across Instagram, do you think online personalities will start taking more digital steps to appear ‘flawless’?
I feel like everyone already does this now as it is. Most people online use FaceTune or edit their photos to look like their idea of an ideal version of them. I don't think it's a bad thing though, the internet can be a harsh place, so it makes sense that some people want to put up a mask of sorts.
Who are you planning to work with next?
I've just wrapped up a big project with a popular beauty influencer which will be dropping soon, so I'm really excited about that. I also have a few other commissions and projects in the pipeline but I can't drop any names yet, unfortunately.
The clothes worn by the figures in your clips seem to be extremely considered and become a large feature of the overall aesthetic. Is fashion a big inspiration for you? Would you ever consider moving more into fashion?
Fashion is definitely a massive inspiration for me. Mugler and McQueen specifically have influenced my work heavily ever since I first saw their designs. I don't know if I would ever shift into fashion but I certainly want to collaborate with fashion brands and companies 100%.
Do you have plans to exhibit your work? If so, how would that work?
Yes, I do! So I'm an artist first and foremost – I create my 3D work digitally, then I have it blown up and produced on a thick printing medium, then I have it framed and exhibited. I'm really aiming to put together a solo show within the next twelve months, but at the moment I'm currently in talks with a few curators for group slots in the United States and Europe for 2019.