Kefan404 creates digital artworks that act as a moral compass to one’s fantasies, phobias and dreams, painting spiritual disharmony entangled with nuances of fear and anxiety. Using hyperrealism in his 4D pieces, the images evoke the personification of an inquisitive soul, a mental discord, and the rebirth of self. As the digital artist helms the interview, his advocacy lies in four words: reality is your perception.
How would you define ‘digital artist?’ What mediums do you use to conceptualise and actualise your art?
In this modern, highly digital age, the concept of digital art should become broader than ever, even for photography. How many photographers will publish their works directly without retouching? I think creators who use digital tools to assist their creative process can be identified as digital artists.
In my workflow, the software I often use is Cinema 4D and Blender. Most of the time, I start to build the scene directly based on the ideas that popped into my head, and occasionally, I sketch to register flashes of inspiration from my dreams.
Why did you get into digital art? What was your earliest memory of it? How about any educational background that helped you find your style and voice in art?
I spent quite a lot of time travelling between 2016 and 2018. During that period, I was influenced by the wanderlust trend and spent most of my budget travelling every year. I was a self-proclaimed landscape and lifestyle photographer and published my shots on my other Instagram account.
At the end of 2018, I participated in a university project in which we needed to produce a title sequence for a fictional movie. It did not take long for me to generate a script that I was happy with, but I thought it was going to be extremely difficult to shoot all the footage by myself, and that if I had invested a lot of money on this, I would not have had enough budget to continue my landscape photography. So, I taught myself how to use Cinema 4D.
In 2019, my interest in exploring the world gradually faded. Coupled with my self-reflection about my wandering life, I realised that the concept of travelling on the road did not suit me at all. If I wanted to go around the world, then I would have to drive a huge RV (but this would not work at all since I live in Europe and suck at parallel parking). I had collected objects to bring home with me from my travels as souvenirs.
In the summer of 2019, I picked up C4D again. Since then, I have fallen in love with the feeling of being able to create non-stop without having a big budget nor leaving home, more so during the pandemic when I have to stay at home every day.
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Could you guide us through your creative process? How do you work on a digital artwork before, during, and after its conception?
My workflow is not complicated at all. I build the scene on C4D after the idea has been formed, occasionally using some functions from Blender to assist the creation. After rendering with Octane Renderer, I use Photoshop and Lightroom for post-processing.
As I became more familiar with the tools, it became more challenging to look for inspiration. In my early days of creation, many of the works were the exact reproduction of my dreams. Now, I hope to incorporate some elements of social and current affairs into what I create, but at the same time, I do not want to lose my aesthetic pursuits. Therefore, you may find that the continuity of my works is not strong and the visual style is rather variable.
In be the sheep and a colourful world, you have used a template to create both artworks, but they differ in terms of colour. In both images, the philosophy of standing out comes out clear. Is there a need to stand out among the rest? Thinking about the hardships one may face in the process, is it worth it?
Curators and viewers always expect the creator themselves to describe the meaning behind their work, so that they can have a standard answer and not fight over different interpretations. In most of my works, I do not even think about giving any particular meaning to the work that requires profound reflection; rather, the decisions are purely based on visual considerations and the viewer’s interpretation. As I see it, ‘perception is your reality.’
The choice of colours in these two works was a deliberative attempt to create a visual conflict, and there were some comments at the time that be the sheep was a racist work. I was shocked and felt extremely sad at the same time. As an Asian, I deeply understand the damage that racism has done to the world. Political correctness should never be used as a weapon to attack others, but as I have said before, perception is reality and I have no way to pre-define other people's perspectives.
Referring to the question, I do not think standing out is applicable to all, but in terms of personal choice, I would leave no stone unturned if given the opportunity. I believe that every designer and content creator, to a certain extent, will make the same choice as I do. We choose to create and express because we want to offer more possibilities to the world; not necessarily better, but definitely different.
Gulf and underwater floating feature the repetition of pink flamingos and orange-hued jellyfishes. The stark tones of the foreground over a mellow background allow the viewers to instantly recognise the imagery in the frame. How essential are the colour schemes in making digital artworks? Do you have some go-to palettes for your curation? How do colours help create the mood of the artworks?
My choice of colours should be quite similar to my photographs, and I prefer to use less saturated ones. There was a time when I tried to replicate the colour palette of Blade Runner 2049 and eventually realised that what they use might not be applicable to small-screen devices like smartphones.
Colour plays a critical role in the control of mood an artwork comprises, and I would love to use a cinematic film's colour palette as a reference. But because the work covers quite various themes, it is difficult to get a consistent tone style.
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Someone who experiences ‘thalassophobia’ may fear the vastness or void of the ocean and what lurks beneath it, just like your moby dick and underwater creature. The colossal whales that dive into or swim underneath the sea are enough to trigger this phobia. Were you portraying such emotional horror in these artworks?
I tried to find the connection between thalassophobia and megalophobia. Fear of giant things is a widespread phenomenon in many cultures, from the Great Buddha to the Presidential Hill. It seems that many people in this world love to build statues. Perhaps this is an ancient memory left in our genes during the evolutionary process, where we hold our breath and feel our insignificance in front of creatures, even lifeless statues, that are bigger than us. Therefore, I think thalassophobia might just be an extension of megalophobia, a fear towards giant unknown space.
Combined with the answer to the previous question, my themes can be broadly categorised as ‘conflict,’ ‘repetition,’ and ‘contrast.’ These mentioned works here belong to the part of ‘contrast’ in terms of size, which delivers quite often the strongest visual impact.
Do fear and anxiety play a role in your digital art?
Fear and anxiety, including violence, gore, and sex, are frequent themes in my works, not for the ulterior motive of using emotions to grab attention on social media, but to underline these normal emotions that we all experience over and over again. Life is a mix of tragedy and comedy: a realm filled with comedies, spreading happiness, joy, and positive energy, within a world of tragedy.
Instagram, the main platform where I publish my work, has deleted two of my art pieces for the reason of ‘promoting gun violence’ and ‘encouraging suicide and self-harm.’ I understand that a completely uncensored social platform does not exist in today's world, and the fact that my posts got removed without violating the law is in itself a compliment to my artworks.
In distant skyline, a lone figure bikes across an endless puddle while the blue sky and white clouds almost touch the ground, as if the utopia has merged as one. Gazing at this, soul-searching comes up, one’s timeless journey to self-discovery. How does one find their purpose in life? Have you found yours?
I am 25 years old. I know that a way to realise my value is to create visual content, but I am afraid to admit this as my sole purpose in life. For now, I would rather say that it is something that I am good at. I need to keep encouraging myself to embrace the unknown.
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Looking at last session, the hall is filled with pastel-hued, empty seats aside from the two characters, who sit one chair apart. As the sunset breaks, clothing the portions of the wall, the man bows his head while the woman holds hers high. The precipice of a separation or the dawn of falling apart permeate through the visuals. What does separation entail for you? How do sombre moods affect your artistic curation?
This piece was published on Valentine's Day 2020. In fact, I have not experienced painful partings. My family and I have a happy and intact relationship, and I have not experienced any major setbacks in my education, career, or personal life. I can only feel the dark side of romance from other people's stories, then I add my portrayal of these narratives.
I am quite good at regulating my emotions, and the influence of emotions in my creativity is always minimised. Emotions are personal to me, and I would feel uncomfortable if people could easily tell my ups and downs at a certain period in my life simply from the works I have published.
In my bird of paradise, a personal favourite, the man, lost in the sea of birds, water, and a purple and pink skyline, journeys to search for himself and his purpose. Gazing far at the horizon, he ruminates over what and who he has lost and how he can seek, transform, discover, and find. How do you reflect? Does it influence the way you make art? What life and art philosophy do you bear in mind?
As always, I just construct a visual. I encourage the viewer to define the meaning behind the artwork. I am a firm believer that perception is reality, and the reason that one cannot fully convince a person is because their reality fails to apply to others.
4:00pm and 4:00am mirror the transition of time in our daily lives. They reveal the buzzing energy the morning creates and the melancholy the sunset evokes. As a digital artist, do you have a preference in the time of the day? How does it alter the way you feel?
It has to be early in the morning, in which the time feels like it passes slowly, and the feeling of waking up before the world does makes me feel exceptionally refreshed. I used to like creating late at night, and I believe many creators enjoy the silence of the late-night as well, but from my experience, the efficiency of creating during those hours is not as productive as in the morning. The only advantage is that you can probably have one or two drinks while creating something.
To wrap it up, I believe one may sense that I have tried to avoid giving a clear interpretation of the work. If the physical body is the cage of the spirit, then imagination might be the only key to unchain us, and I hope that this key is unique to each person. Therefore, I do not want to impose my own interpretation on others.
I grew up as an outgoing person who likes to communicate with people, but as I grew older, I realised that I was not able to speak philosophically or write beautifully, and this became one of the major reasons that I am a visual creator today.
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