When American Death Metallers, Obliterate The Apex, contacted visual artist Wolven Claws of Crystallomantic Art they only had a modest idea of what they wanted for the cover of their new album “A Programmed Sense Of Self.” The designer, however, had been working for a long time on a piece that inadvertently was what the band was looking for.
In the interview below, Wolven explains in detail the origins and making of the piece, which is actually a model he put together using diverse types of materials and then photographed it.
What inspired the concept for this particular artwork?
The main inspiration comes from a lifelong love of science fiction; particularly robots, androids and cyborgs. When I was younger I was fascinated by the concept behind the TV program The Six Million Dollar Man; man and machine unified. There is also a scene in the 1980 movie ‘Saturn 3’ which made a big impact on me as a kid. Hector, a robot which uses real human brain tissue to operate, kills his human master, rips his head off and places the decapitated head on top of his own. The scene is quite shocking in the sense that a robot ‘wants’ to ‘look’ human but not only is doing so grotesque but is ultimately very nonhuman.
You mentioned that it is a photograph of a model you made, can you elaborate more about that and the making of process as detailed as possible.
Wolven Claws: I have always enjoyed expressing my creative flare in ways other than just painting. When I was a kid I used to make spaceships out of cereal boxes and household odds and ends. I see a certain beauty in circuit boards and electronic components, particularly of the older pre-micro sized variety, and molded plastics, things like toiletry bottles and lids etc. As a result I found myself collecting them. There came a point about 20 years ago where this collection was getting far too big and ridiculous and so I decided to utilize some of it. I started making the individual components out of various plastic lids and bottles and savory snack tubes which I altered by adding screws, wires and hand cut cardboard plates so that they could not be easily identified.
I used the main framework of a TV set which had just died, one of those massive old fashioned sets predating modern day flat screens, as a base to work on. I then attached all these pieces which I had made and added more wires, circuit boards and LED’s. The human head is life size and is made out of modelling clay and was the first attempt I ever had at making one. Finally I painted the whole thing with an acrylic paint and PVA mixture and used dry brush effects to finish it off.
So is this a sort of mixed media piece?
Wolven Claws: It is not really a mixed media piece as such. It is a digital photograph of the actual model which remains largely unchanged. The only computer elaboration is the addition of the title and the band logo. The band wanted the logo to look like it was part of the actual image and so as it has a kind of corona discharge or lightning effect in it I thought it would look cool if I extended the electric charged sparks outwards to six electronic points using my computer software but all done freehand.
How did you become involved with the band and this particular project?
Wolven Claws: The band contacted me after seeing one of my other artworks on my facebook page which they used for a shirt design. They were so pleased with how smoothly the whole thing went that almost immediately they asked about the cover image. When they told me the album title ‘A Programmed Sense Of Self’ I just thought ‘wow, that fits the image perfectly!’ I have built a good working relationship with the band and I hope to work together again.
How long it took the whole making-of process?
Wolven Claws: From start to finish the model took around five years to make! I must stress the point though that it was an on/off process where I just did little bits here and there. It took a hell of a lot less time to make it into an album cover than it took to physically make.
This artwork seems to have certain socio-political overtones – were you trying to express something specific through it?
There is no deep theology behind the image. Talking as the artist and creator I may hold a different view to it than the band in respect to their lyrical concept. But for me it is the idea of a machine wanting to be more human.
Humans make machines and computers and try to program them with a sense of self; the actual thing that makes us ‘human’. But can a machine even experience and appreciate the basic senses such as sight, sound, smell and taste yet alone the complex things like morality, the difference between right and wrong and reasoning? Of course it can try, it can try to experience human senses and it could do it in the most physical way possible; by dissecting its creator and integrating it into its self.
How did the band react when they saw the original piece, did they request any changes/additions?
As mentioned, they really liked the image anyway and did not ask for any specific changes or alterations. When I made it into the album cover and showed them the finished thing their reaction was, and I quote, ‘fucking sick!!! Holy shit, awesome work man!’ Ha-ha, that is the type of reaction which makes doing this worth my while!