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Interview with Ray Cesar

by Stevehen J. Warren

Ray Cesar stole a bag of dream sand and harnessed nightmares to do his will. He says he was born a dog, and talking to him does nothing to convince one otherwise. He seems friendly and trustworthy, but rabid creatures are adept at these simple tricks of light and shadow. He was raised by computer literate wolves They are not, in general, as skillful at creating digital paintings of such startling vividness that the mind recoils that they did not originally exist in the real world. The mind recoils, and then it goes quite still, because he is looking at you and he knows. The twisted imps in the painting know too, their innocence more striking then their claws. They are, you must admit, beautiful.

  1. You use digital media for the basis of your artwork. On your website, you go into detail in describing the process of creating a piece. Now is this to encourage others into follow your lead into the digital field or to justify to your critics that your work is more then simple cut and paste?

    I wasn't aware that I had any critics!
    Actually! I put the details there because I was getting lots of email asking how I work so I thought that would rectify the situation a bit... hasn't really helped because people still ask how I work... I have tried "cut and paste" and it's not that simple. I was around long before "the digital field" and can remember when none of it existed in my world. I am just giving it a try as I have done with almost every other media and I suppose in a few years something new will come along and I will want to try that too... I just hope this new thing doesn't involve wearing a tight spandex motion capture suit as I chafe on the thighs rather easily.

  2. You started the drive down the artistic lane early in life. What was the final straw that pushed you in the direction of the artist?

    I always worked in art related industries like architecture, medical art, animation and eventually the film industry in visual effects. I gave up making personal "Art" for about ten years then one year, I lost four people in my family to cancer. I got the impression I should be doing something else with my life so I started making this stuff and approached a gallery for the first time at the ripe old age of 45. I never thought they would even answer me, let alone put my work up on their walls. I am actually quite a bit of hermit and hardly ever leave the house and the whole concept of people collecting things just downright mystifies me. I have no idea where it is taking me and I don't care as I just have this feeling I am on some sort of voyage and for the first time in my life I am not looking at a compass... I think I am looking at the "stars" instead. I don't think of this as "Art"'s just "what I love to do" and people can call it whatever they like. I just want to spend the rest of my time on Earth doing what I love to do.

  3. Mommy?
  4. Some critics see your work as a simple depiction of children. You've stated before that your work is more a glimpse into the inner self, and the children are more the reflection of out inner souls then anything else. There's a story behind using images of innocence in your work, and it's a great story for those of you out there willing to read it, tell it.

    I worked in a Children's Hospital in Toronto for 17 years of the largest Children's hospitals in North America. I worked in a photographic department that documented all the hardship these kids had to endure and like a lot of other hospital workers I thought I had "seen it all!" and felt my "personal armor" and "practiced indifference" was safe and sound ...then one day I saw some forensic photos of what I suspect was a young murder victim... and my carefully constructed safe world fell apart... I just didn't understand! I still don't. After 17 years in the same job, I quit within a few weeks and, although I had made "art" for most of my life, I just stopped painting. I never did like to show my work and I suppose it was more of a diary or response to my job than something someone would hang on a wall. Anyway I began to create a new life in animation and worked for a film company for several years and things were easy and fun. Then as I mentioned earlier ...four people in my family died of cancer in a very short period of time... they all went very, very quickly and it was a shock. I suppose I got kind of ill also and one night found myself laying in a emergency ward with severe chest pains that felt like I swallowed a concrete block. I began to have some very strange dreams and I guess you could call them "waking dreams" or "visitations" ...sorry to get mystical... I don't really like this part myself either, as it gave me what my doctor describes as "severe panic attacks" ...but I think something was scaring the sh'it out of me and I can tell you... I didn't like it fact, I don't even like talking about it but I get this feeling I am supposed to.. so I do. I am pretty sure it is my deceased Mother as she was always a bit strange and prone to the dramatic ...she dabbled in all this mystical stuff and we never had a good relationship so it was either my brain and subconscious f'ucking with me or it was her way of saying goodbye.
    As for my Images, I see them as calm wise spirits or photographs of a family picture album that sits in this massive hotel by the sea in my subconscious. Each room in this endless hotel is a dark hidden mystery or memory or ...lifetime... and all I am doing is running around this mansion of dreams and thought and turning on all the lights and getting everyone to come downstairs for a party. I see them as children but maybe they will grow and mature as my understanding of them grows... perhaps they will begin to grow old. I see each little 3D world as a sort of a "Heaven," a place where fear is replaced by calm and hate is replaced by love. A place where the things that are difficult to look at are seen as beautiful and no one turns away in pity or revulsion and all can see Truth and are filled with a knowing shared empathy as each pain and pleasure is immediately known and cherished. I imagine a day will come when no one is interested in what I am doing anymore but I will still be sitting here making these little odd places for my memories as I can't think of a better place to put them.

  5. Okay, it's custom to ask artists what supplies they use, so tell us about the layout needed to create your work.

    Any typical home computer will do and a bit of high priced software called Maya from a company called Alias. A cup of earl grey tea a pair of comfy pajamas and plenty of spare time ...possibly a big canvas bag to put in all your fears ...then sip the tea and toss the bag in a river... that should do it.

  6. You did Hollywood for a while. Your credits include working on the television shows Relic Hunter, Stargate and various motion picture works. Do you still have that desire to do the Hollywood thing, or is it out of your system?

    No desire at all. I only did that to learn the software, production and the industry of making content with digital animation. I still think of my work as animation, as I have to move and pose the figure constantly to achieve the position I want... Ha! Animation is a series of still images to make motion but I use motion to make a still image. I did work on one little TV show that I absolutely loved called Total Recall 2070--the Philip K. Dick version, not the one with the Governor in it. I worked nights at the time and there was very little budget and no one telling me what to do. We had only two 3D artists and I was able to make whatever I wanted and in the morning they said "OK! We will use that." ...I had a lot of fun on that show making animated fly-throughs of Bladerunner-like cities ...We got nominated for an Emmy for special effects. Doggies do not like bad kitties who can't keep their hearts inside.  It's very naughty. It was hilarious as the four other shows we were up against were all Star Trek shows which had massive production teams and million dollar budgets. I got to walk my wife down a red carpet... I enjoyed that... Somebody (Possibly me) vomited in the limousine.

  7. Part of being an artist is the inspiration you receive from the greats of past. Whose work inspires you to keep plugging away?

    I have been fascinated with so many artists and so much of what I have seen is in my work. I absolutely love the French Genre artists of the 18th century such as Boucher, Fragonard, Chardin, Perronnaue. I also love the pin up art of Vargas and Joyce Ballentyne. The early American realists like Edward Hopper, George Tooker and Paul Cadmus and Andrew Wyeth. I love the work of Mary Cassat, Frida Kahlo and Joseph Cornell.
    I was lost in a world of comic books as a child and I see a lot of that in my work as there are little hints to Archie comics, Ritchie Rich and Hotstuff and all the DC superheroes ...I never did like the Marvel comics much as I saw them as a bunch of smarty-pants and wise alecks and posers... I was a DC man, where a good hero had dignity, no sense of humor and a paying job...I was a big collector of Vampirella and Eerie and Weird comics too. When I was six years old I got a small book of images by Dali ...I slept with it under my pillow and I now think that might not have been a good idea.

  8. The underground is a lonely place. Tell us about some artists we should keep our eyes out for, and tell us what makes them special in your eyes.

    I love the work of a Japanese digital artist called Chio Aoshima. She is part of that whole Murikami Factory thing in Japan but there is something magical about her work. I love it.

  9. Music, hey that's a decent topic. Is there a particular tune or jig that drives your creative process? This doll's telling me things... things I don't want to hear... and if it doesn't shut up... I'm going to comb its head... right... off.

    Eric Satie. I have this one record (a large black round vinyl thing that turns on a table using a needle and megaphone to make noise) and I play it over and over as I work and I have done so for years. I mean I play this thing all day long and I never tire of it as it sort of hypnotizes me into a fugue state ...I am sure a lot of people do this sort of thing. Other than that I like everything from Marylyn Manson to Liberace.
    Hmmm! A jig! I once had a dream where I was in a tattered civil war uniform (No! I don't remember the color but I think it had red pants). I was dancing to fiddle music on an outdoor table between pies and biscuits without touching a single confection... I awoke from the dream and ran into the kitchen in my pajamas and started dancing this amazing dance ...the memory only lasted about a half hour but I can still do this complex part with one foot... but the rest is gone. My wife laughs hysterically when I do it and tears roll down her face... especially when slip and fall of the table.

  10. There has to be something other then art your good at, without scaring the living day lights out of me. Tell me what it is and how it fits into your daily life.

    Oh! I dunno... I never learned to drive a car... I can't seem to use a phonebook... I can't keep more than 3 numbers in my head at any given moment.... but as a child I did speak to people who weren't there in particular who sort of whispered to me as if she was just standing just behind me... occasionally I still hear her ...sometimes she gives me a little push (I can literally feel a shove... those times you should step up to plate... or... standing on the edge of a subway platform). You know that time when you are half awake and half asleep... a sort of lucid time... I can kind of slip my head or awareness around a kind of doorway and see what's on the other side for a few moments... It's not dreaming and it seems more real than being awake and every time I do it... I see little more... but not too much, as what's behind that door can just grab you and drag you in as easy as pie.

  11. I know how these things work, as a self proclaimed media whore, I love talking about myself, and the various projects lined up on the chopping block. This is all about you though; plug something in the works that everyone will be excited to purchase.

    Actually, not much going on right now as I just finished my solo show in New York at the Jonathan Levine Gallery and I figure I will take some time to play with some new ideas. I will do a bit more peeking behind that door and make some more images and I think they will evolve... I might have some upcoming shows in Europe and Asia ...possibly a book... that's it really.

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