When you first discover the art of Skinny Gaviar you feel as though you have just uncovered the real truth about Area 51.  Your first thought is “have others seen this and if others have seen this why isn’t this dude famous as hell?”.  Skinny’s art is unpretentious and rebellious just like him.  His digitally fabricated images are strangely romantic and unapologetically raw.  An alien (very unearthly) quality flows from his work that is reminiscent of a gritty cartel movie where you know the main character will die way before the final scene.  At Syle.No.Chaser we persistently pay homage and are still awed by the power of imagery – we don’t discriminate – what moves us will always be shared – and we are proud to say that Skinny Gaviar moves us.   

“I love critique. It doesn’t bother me when somebody hates or doesn’t care about my art, I feel …”

Please tell us a little about yourself – your childhood, siblings, where you grew up, what you liked as a child, strange thoughts as a child/now, unique attributes, where you live now, etc.?

I was born in the good old USSR in 1983, small town in a very nice middle of nowhere. I had quite the happy childhood and if you asked me back then about what I wanted to be when I grew up I’d probably say that I didn’t want to grow up. Really. Why grow up? This shit is so overrated. I liked usual kid stuff, you know, outdoorsy games, cartoons at 7 pm, Star Wars and Back To The Future, skipping school, acting tough around girls and older friends, setting things on fire and wanting to have a dog. I also invented yogurt long before it appeared in the Motherland around the mid-nineties (at least in our town). Well, sort of… You see, I was quite fond of pancakes (the ones that are referred to as crepes or Swedish pancakes in the US) – and some people dipped them in jam, others – in sour cream, some poured honey all over them, but I always loved mixing sour cream and raspberry jam which, for some reason, was frowned upon, not as much by my parents, but both of my grandmas. Unheard of gastronomical blasphemy. Every time I did it they would cross their arms, roll their eyes and start mumbling something like “Oh bloody hell, he’s doing it again…”. Anyways, when I first tried yogurt it really reminded me of my own pancake dip. Wait, what was the question again? Sorry, I got carried away. Oh yeah, strange thoughts as a kid – I don’t remember any of my thoughts but I remember a lot of my dreams and nightmares, I had super graphic repetitive dreams as a kid (there was one I had for about a month, same nightmare every night), all of them strange, lots of sharks and snakes, and drowning ones, too. So… yeah. Then I grew and grew and became an adult (more or less). And I also moved to USA.

How do you describe your form of art and what tools do you primarily use?

Never really knew the right way to name it, but recently I’ve been calling it “digital manipulation”. I take photos and Photoshop them. Then I print them. So, just like that, the main tools are: a camera, a laptop (with a mouse – that’s important) and a printer.

What does your art mean to you?

Scratching the itch, so to speak, and having fun while doing it. Perhaps, it’s just aesthetic satisfaction – I do it and if it looks good to me – great, if it doesn’t – I get rid of it. I don’t consciously pursue any message, meaning or symbolism, yet the art I make always turns out to have one or the other. Or so they say. The whole development from a blank screen to a finished image is improvisation; I rarely have a plan or know the next step. Exceptions are assignments, like magazine illustrations and other contextual stuff.

Your images are rebellious in a clever and cheeky way – can you expand on what you want viewers to experience and also how you came up with this unique style?

Everyone sees the same thing differently and interprets it in their own way – I’m cool with that. I never understood the whole art discussion, how the artist managed to reflect this or that through their work. It’s all silly words, yap yap yap. You look at something and you know right away if you like it or not, no words needed.

As for the style, it became what it is just by multiple hours (days, months, years) of experiments. First attempts were so horrendous that I’m glad I didn’t save any of that stuff, haha. I never took it seriously (I still don’t), it was more of a private meditation, or even mental venting, but a few people saw a few pieces and encouraged me to put it out there. And I did.

What is the worst critique you have ever received about your work? What is the best compliment that you have received about your work?

I love critique. It doesn’t bother me when somebody hates or doesn’t care about my art, I feel like that myself about many things. But frankly, I don’t hear negative stuff often anyway (last time was about a year ago at an art show, an older guy beckoned me with his drunken finger and said “You the artist?”, I said “Yeah”, and he said with a very sad face expression “Do you call this art? Art? What’s it all about? I don’t see how it’s art at all…” then a lady showed up, grabbed him by the elbow like “Come on, Herb, you had too much, we’re going home” and they left). The best compliment is the one that comes from someone I admire (as an artist or as a person).

Which artist/s do you look up to the most?

I don’t purposefully follow what’s happening in the art world, I’m pretty arrogant when it comes to names and styles, especially in contemporary art world. Yet I have a recent discovery, a guy name Michael Hutter who creates really disturbing yet beautiful work, I’m a big fan of his. Other than that, I’ve had the same favorites for years now: Ralph Steadman, Ian Stevenson, Terry Gilliam (his little animation bits from Monty Python’s Flying Circus) and my dear friend and a father from another grandmother Andy Ewen.

Since Style.No.Chaser is a men’s lifestyle magazine, what attributes/items/clothing /etc. do you think define a man?

Hard to tell, everyone has an option to figure out what works best for them. It’s the art form of its own. Some people look great wearing Adidas sweatpants and gold chains, others might try to copy that and fail miserably. A lot of it depends on your personality / vibe. I don’t think it’s the clothes that define a man or a woman, even though a book is often judged by the cover, so being aware of certain attire techniques is a powerful tool for anyone who’s somewhat public / social. 

I’m a jeans / black t-shirt kind of guy, so I’m not really in a position to talk about fashion.

What is your personal life philosophy?

I wish I had something meaningful to say here, but I’m still trying to figure things out. Well, not really “trying” trying, but I’m constantly being nonchalantly confused and puzzled about the existence. The meaning of life thoughts never torment me though, because my gut feeling tells me there isn’t any meaning, and I’m glad there isn’t, it would just be too simple and I don’t trust simple, because it tends to have the catch. You can always find free cheese in the mousetrap, as they say in Russia.

What would you want your last meal to be?

Why is it a last one? Am I on my way to the electric chair? If so – I’ll make sure to stuff myself with pickled eggs and pinto beans and other funny things my stomach is never happy with, hoping to make somewhat of an unforgettable farewell for the spectators and their olfactory system, I don’t know why, but I think that’d be hilarious.

If it’s not an execution scenario and I just happen to know it’s my last meal – a stack of pancakes with raspberry jam mixed with sour cream would do just fine.

Who dead or alive, celebrity or not, artist or not, would you like to go on a two week road trip with and why?

Man, it’s just too many to mention, but off the top of my head: 

Dead: My two grandfathers (I feel like I didn’t really get to know them well enough), William S. Burroughs (he had such a great voice, I’d just like to chat about anything), Bill Hicks (because he’s great and I’d like to hang out), Frank Zappa (to see his daily routine and creative work process), Daniil Kharms (to see how crazy he actually was), John Candy (to see if he had the same friendly vibe as in all the films), Terence McKenna (to ask direct questions and get answers), Bruce Lee (to find out his weak sides), Graham Chapman (to get drunk together), Jimi Hendrix (to see what he was like), Judas Iscariot (to hear his story on what happened); 

Alive: Prince (I want to know what he’s like when not on stage), Robin Wright (because I like her), Brian May (I want to jam / learn some guitar stuff from him), Joey “Coco” Diaz (to chill and laugh in good company), Neil deGrasse Tyson (to sum things up about what I think I understand about the universe), Sylvester Stallone (my childhood idol), Howard Bloom (the old man claims he does 1000 push-ups in one go and I find it hard to believe, I want to make sure) and my friend Ake whom I haven’t seen for many years now.

What type of music do you listen to (if at all) when working?

It can be anything from classic rock to modern jazz and everything in between, it really depends on the mood. Hard to pick out specific names, but anything by the band Oregon is always a good choice.

How can people learn more about your current and upcoming works?

I post new work on my website and update my Facebook page every now and then.

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