October 11, 2013

Spotlight: Vilte Fuller

Blood, pop culture and experiments in surrealism.

About a year ago, I came across a blog with the strangest header I'd ever seen. It was an illustration of a green schwa-type alien dressed in a red robe and gangster chains, alongside a floating jellyfish. I saw that it belonged to one Vilte F., which made me picture a Slovakian supermodel typing away behind a screen somewhere. I got talking to its author, who turned out to be 17-year-old Vilte Fuller, an English artist who shared my love of Quentin Tarantino and rainbow-haired models. Her work is full of violence and beauty; a strange mix between Pop Art and Surrealism, done in a style reminiscent of Edvard Munch. Glorified images of female icons stand beside blood-soaked abstractions of high and low culture; familiar motifs re-constructed and distorted into brilliantly disturbing works of art.

Reading her blog, I get hypnotized by her use of color and animation, and the way she interprets mainstream media content and transforms it into something more surreal, or shocking or funny. I consider her a friend as well as an inspiration in the blogosphere, and found out a lot about her in the process of creating this feature that I feel will enrich my enjoyment of her future work as an artist and a blogger. The girl behind the gangster alien turned out to be just as full of contradictions as you would expect. I spent some time chatting with her about film, fashion and how she uses her art to explore areas outside of her experience, or outside of reality altogether.

THE LE SIGH: You're a painter, first and foremost, but you also run a blog where you post everything from your nail art to amazing GIFs you've created. How has having an audience affected your work? How do you balance being an artist with being a blogger?

Vilte Fuller: I didn't think blogging would affect my work until I saw the amount of different people that actually visit it. Yesterday, a family friend came across my blog somehow and saw my work and messaged me about it. Thankfully she loved it, but sometimes I worry about the content I put on the Internet, as anyone can see it, and that scares me a little. On the other hand, I see my blog as an extension of myself, so whatever I put on it, it's just me being me. If I want to put up a painting of a drugged-up alien called Hunter holding a human head, then I will do just that. If I paint a guy resembling Jack Nicholson with his eyes cut out, I will also do that, and have done that.

TLS: What made you first want to be an artist?

VF: I was always into drawing, since the age of three. I wasn't much into toys at that age; a bit of newspaper and a pencil made me happy. I thought about maybe going into criminology but knew if I went down that route, I'd be wishing I was at home splashing paint instead.

TLS: What usually makes you want to draw a celebrity?

VF: I only draw people I like. When I like them, I really do like them. I know their biography; I find everything I can about them on the Internet. I have quite an obsessive personality, which I think works in my favor. When I draw someone I can't just draw them from one picture--I have tons saved on my computer, phone and iPad, so I get to know the person's features and it becomes easier to draw them. Drawing is just a way for me to get out my inner obsessive.

TLS: A lot of your work is influenced by high fashion. You paint portraits of models like Charlotte Free and Abbey Lee Kershaw, as well as create catwalk animations from your own sketches. Has fashion helped you hone your own visual aesthetic? What designers do you admire?

VF: Fashion illustrating has helped me learn how to draw clothes, definitely. As a designer, I'm useless, but illustrating clothes that have been already physically made makes it easier for me to learn. My favorite designers are probably Rag & Bone, D&G, Burberry, Valentino and recently N. Hoolywood--it may be a men's clothing brand but I would still wear everything from their latest collection. I love anything to do with South Western (North) America; and that line is basically Utah in fabric.

TLS: Your blog has always reminded me a little of Bip Ling--do you have any influences in the blogosphere? Who do you follow?

VF: Most bloggers start reading blogs first and then decide to start their own, but I never even knew there was such a big blogosphere when I started. The only influences I had were Chloe Norgaard's blog, Charlotte Free's, the LOVE magazine website, which looks blog-ish, and like you mentioned, Bip Ling. I just thought that was how you blogged--with tons of random moving images and even more edits. I follow many people now but tend to always come back to the same ones, and those of my friends.

TLS: Music features in your work quite often, like in your drawings of Kurt Cobain. How has music shaped your art, particularly the grunge movement?

VF: In a way, I don't find the actual artist inspiring so much as the artist's image. I suppose I'm brainwashed by their management to like the brand more than I actually enjoy the music. Such as Nirvana--I appreciate their music but I'm much more inspired by their image, as I am fascinated by the "grunge" movement, as you say. It's so reckless and authority-free, with tons of "things" that make you see...things. It's the complete antithesis of me. I'm very traditional and love watching Sunday morning politics; Boris Johnson is my favorite politician (you can tell by my constant tweets to him, to which I have sadly not had a reply...yet)--so that view of life, which is so different to my own, fascinates me. I like to draw the occasional Kurt Cobain with a syringe here and there; I like to draw images that looks as if they've been done under the influence of drugs whilst listening to rock music, but the sort of lifestyle labelled as "grunge" doesn't really appeal to me personally.

TLS: My favorite piece of yours is probably "Mia's Fun OD," your painting of Uma Thurman's character when she's had an overdose in Pulp Fiction. What is it you love about Quentin Tarantino?

VF: I love everything about Tarantino. I first saw Kill Bill at the age of nine, and it was my favorite thing ever. I loved the storyline and the visuals and I remember little me thinking how impressive the manga cartoons were. I read the Pulp Fiction script before I actually saw the film, and I preferred it over what I had imagined in my head, which was surprising, as usually when you read something you always prefer it over the film. I like to paint blood and Tarantino has plenty of blood scenes in his movies.

TLS: Do you consider yourself a Surrealist?

VF: I love Surreal art--Max Ernst particularly, and Dali was a favorite from a young age. Only recently can I say that some of my work could be filed under "Surrealist." I've been experimenting with Surrealism in my sketchbook, drawing things that I see in my dreams or random visions. Drawing stills form Twin Peaks is quite a surreal experience as everything on that show is so otherworldly and not quite right. Recently, I've been seeing the advert for Peugeot 2008 Crossover on the television a lot and it weirdly inspired me; the shots in Utah with the car driving past and the music--so lovely.

TLS: You have an "alien-watch" feature on your blog where you encourage your readers to send you pictures of an alien if they see one, or "alien-type things." What's the story behind that?

VF: I really want to create a bigger alien community on the web. There's a huge ghost fandom and I feel aliens have become somewhat neglected. Obviously there are more ghost sightings in the world than there are aliens, but I would just love to hear about other people's alien theories, even if it's just for a laugh. Back in the 90's, when I was around the age of three or four, I very clearly remember seeing flying saucers when I was visiting my Nan in the countryside. Whether I hallucinated the whole experience or the saucers were just Frisbees, I don't know--but I remember that being my first thought about aliens. It turned into an obsession one summer with my cousin, back when the site Piczo was all the rage. We created our own alien blog. That cousin came over to visit me a few months ago and when we looked it up, sadly the blog we created when we were children no longer existed. I'm trying to resurrect that old blog and put it into my current one. So if anyone reading this sees something that looks alien-y, snap a picture on your phone or whatever and email me!

TLS: You're only 17 and you've already been selling your work for years--what's next for you? How do you see your future as an artist?

VF: I don't really advertise my work; usually what happens is someone likes something and asks if they can buy it and I say "yeeeeah, sure." I like to give my work away for free too, because I love the idea of someone having a little bit of me, even if they don't really know me. In the future, I'd like to try my hand at everything! I want to film, I want to write a screenplay; I want to direct and animate; I want to design and further illustrate. I can't imagine my life without studying, I feel that once I finish my courses in art I won't be able to just get on with it. I'll want to study something else. I always want to know more about everything. One day I'd love to travel to the "Four Corners" in the USA and create some sort of art from the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and most of all Utah. I'd probably create a documentary while I was out there as well, seeing as Roswell is in New Mexico and everyone knows how much I love aliens.

Check out more of Vilte's work here.

Holly Cassell, who is an artist and blogger who loves to travel, and has a longstanding love affair with hotels. Her floor is always covered in glitter. She writes about her world here.