Berlin based digital artist Tony Futura creates wonderful simple colourful images with a twist which elegantly poke fun at western consumerist society and values.
We sat down with Tony to find out what makes him tick and to gain a deeper insight into how he achieves and sustains his creative might.
Here’s how it panned out.
What’s your name?
and your Instagram name?
Where did you grow up and where are you now?
I was born in East Germany, the former German Democratic Republic, on the countryside close to the polish border. At age 20 I moved from there to Berlin and began studying communication design three years after. After I finished the bachelor degree I began working in advertising as an art director. And almost two years ago I started my instagram account turning my job back into my passion again.
What’s your strongest memory from your childhood?
I think this is everything connected to my mother. She died last year and this made me finally realize how much she has been a strong influence for me. She was a pretty easy-going kind of person, she always danced a lot and never cared about what others thought while she was having fun. I miss her a lot but I know that I wouldn’t be like I am today without her teaching me to do whatever I want to do.
What first made you interested in art?
I started painting graffiti illegally when i was about 13 – 14 years old. Since I can remember, I always drew a lot or painted with brushes and such but when I started spray painting on walls, I suddenly felt that this could mean much more for me. I wanted others to see what I was creating. Therefore I began to think about ideas and concepts to make this more creative than the stuff of other graffiti artists in my town. I think that was the beginning for me realizing that my works can have a message and that it can be packed with a story behind all those colors and from then on I was looking differently at art pieces and paintings etc.
Who are your main influences and who would you most like to collaborate with?
Big influences are conceptional artists, I’m more taken by the actual ideas in projects than by their execution. Banksy was a huge inspiration when I was younger. His anti-capitalist and against pop-society works opened my eyes towards modern life. Also Maurizio Cattelan or Brock Davis are great sources of inspiration. I once visited an exhibition in Venice / Italy where there was his horse with its head stuck in a wall. It just blew my mind. I’d like to collaborate with all of them though I know that isn’t really my league. But i’m working on it.
What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
When I was younger I often helped my dad building stages for concerts. He is a sound engineer and that meant a lot of rolling out cables, stacking speakers and setting up microphones for me. I always worked, whether in clubs and bars or on supermarkets counters. I also worked in a company that freezes vegetables once, that was right after school and after I served in the german army before I started studying history and philosophy (for 3 weeks). I found out pretty fast that this can not really be my way and decided to break up and try to get into design school. Now I really think I’ve found what I was searching for.
Professionally and creatively, what’s your goal?
I don’t really have a certain goal in life, I mean sure it would be awesome to work as an artist selling the stuff I love to do in galleries around the world. But I’m a simple man and I’m already quite happy with everything I’ve got. But to give a real answer on that: I’d really like to have my work shown in a respected gallery somewhere in a single exhibition and the feeling, that this is some new unexpected step I took on my way through life.
What does your typical day look like? Morning rituals etc…
I’m really not a morning person. Almost every day I stay awake until 2 am let’s say and then I wake up at 9, pretty messed up, brush my teeth in a hurry and grab a coffee on my way to work. I play a lot of video games, that’s something that still remained a part of me since I was a teenager, I am really bad at cooking, that’s why I often eat outside when I come from work. It’s a good opportunity to try something new and to take a walk through the streets. I guess the only real kind of ritual I have is that I take a long relaxing bath every sunday. With candles and music and bubble bath and cigarettes and sometimes wine or something. I get angry when I don’t have the time to take a good bath.
Do you ever get creative block and if so how do you break through this?
Sure, all the time. It’s hard for creatives when you feel like you can’t focus on a project. I often feel like “Okay, well that must be it. That’s the end.” but actually, all I need to do then is wait. Wait and chill. You can’t force a good idea, at least I can’t. So i just try to distract myself a little and wait until I feel like i can move on with something. I guess that’s why I play video games so often =D
What’s your scariest experience?
Three years ago I was suffering from a hurtful wrist pain. Almost one year I lived with this until the doctors found out where it came from. It was some kind of tumor in my wrist that caused a hole in my wrist bone and I needed a surgery. I’m not believing in god or anything but this made me almost pray for my right hand and that the surgeon won’t mess up anything in there. Without my hand I really couldn’t do anything.
What’s your favourite art work of all time?
It has to be Duchamp’s “Fountain”. Triggering the whole modern art society by declaring a simple porcelain urinal as art shows how strong an original idea can get. I really love that.
What are your top five Instagram accounts.
At the moment it’s:
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
I once lost my baggy pant when i was skateboarding through a crowd of people on some kind of fair when I was 15. That was horrible. Besides that I can’t remember anything that was much more embarrassing than that.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Oh these were quite different. I got a lot of love and also hate for my work. Sometimes I get messages and mails of people who just want to thank me for inspiring them and for making them laugh. These are such a pleasure to read and I am really thankful that my work touches a lot of people. Making them feel something and think about a certain topic is the highest goal I can achieve. But I also get hatemails sometimes, that I show no respect for this or that, that some images are anti-feministic, anti-vegan or have lack of respect of the american veterans and so on. I don’t take this personally but it’s kind of funny and interesting how simple images can turn people into hateful monkeys using just UPPERCASE letters and exclamation marks!!! I like that.
What makes you (incredible hulk) angry?
Stupid people. People who think they’re super special when they’re not and people who think their opinion is the only one that really counts. That’s the worse.
What superpower would you have and why?
I’d really love to calm down every kind of stressful situation with stupid jokes and puns. That’d be quite helpful and funny as well. Or letting my head explode. That would irritate certain enemies a lot and also be a good party gag.
What is your dream project?
I always wanted to throw thousands of synchronized moving slinkies down a huge stairset, in Tibet or something to create a massive moving and pulsing rainbow kinetic kind of installation. But please don’t tell anybody about this. I’m saving money right now for all those slinkies.
Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
I don’t like to be compared to others. If so, I could stop what i’m doing and let others do the job.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
My former graphic design professor told me, that once I’ve made an idea, I should cut all the unimportant parts on it until a clear essence is left. I try to follow that simple rule and it really helps me to get to the core of an image.
What couldn’t you live without?
Breathing. I think this is quite important for me. And my hands.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Thank you very much.
If you live in Berlin or happen to be visiting you can see Tony Futura’s work in the flesh at Gallery Seven Star, Gormannstr. 7, 10119 in the four man group show “Augmented Routine”
Opening Preview, 20th April, 7 pm.
The show will feature Futura’s work as sculptures and prints and photographs and paintings by Christian Kage, Sven Kaiser and Tom Palluch.
A very big thank you to Tony for taking the time out to speak to us.