We get a lot of artwork and photography sent to us here at The Raccoon and the level of ability is always incredibly high. However, every now and then we find someone who really captivates us and gets us all flustered and excited.
Sébastian Bertoa, AKA Stab, is a mysterious figure whose gripping work we’ve been admiring for a while, and thus it’s a great privilege for us to be able to interview him.
Ladies and Gentleman, via street art, sex toy magazines and monsters we grant you access into the wonderful and weird world of Stab!
Hello Stab, please introduce yourself…
Well, I usually don’t talk much about myself, I prefer people focusing on my art. I change the biography on my Behance portfolio from time to time, and some of the fake lives I invent – even the most absurd – are taken very seriously: recently, some blogs over the Web depicted me as a Romanian artist who grew a passion for cutting up and pasting as a censor under the communist regime.
How would you describe your work?
I describe myself as a picture manipulator. I mix images in order to illustrate ideas, to express messages, to please the viewers’ eyes, and sometimes just for fun.
What/who would you say your main influences are?
The influences you can find in my art are quite diverse: 60s advertising, vintage porn, old-school science fiction and horror, 19th century and early 20s illustration, vintage freak shows, medieval representations of hell and demons, religious and historical painting, totalitarian propaganda… As a kid, I was fascinated with monsters, I played with the most horrible toys and kept drawing scary creatures all the time; I even had an album where I pasted pictures of all the evil movie characters I could find in TV magazines. Somehow, I think those monsters still dwell in my brain. All of the pop culture I absorbed as a teenager – movies, music, book, comics and videogames – also grew deep roots inside my brain. Later on, I was deeply influenced by the surrealist movement, and more specifically Max Ernst’s collages. I also admire Jean Lecointre’s work a lot.
In the field of street art, I could mention well-known people like Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Blek le Rat, Blu or Leo&Pipo, but I was also influenced by all the street artists whose work I’ve been photographing for years before I started making my own.
When did you start making collages?
Maybe 8 or 9 years ago, I was bored in my student flat on a rainy evening, and I suddenly paid attention to what was on the table in front of me: a Christmas toys catalogue I had received on the mail, a sex toys catalogue one of my friends had left there some time ago and some kind of tabloid magazine. I took scissors, glue, and a sheet of paper, and started cutting images and trying to assemble them in different combinations. I spent a few hours on it, getting increasingly excited about how, despite the limited choice I had, I always found the next element that fitted perfectly in the image I was building. I lost this first collage since then, but I remember it perfectly well: a naked woman with a monstrous face and sharp teeth, with a big flying cock in front of her. Quite a Freudian vision. I spent some more months doing only physical collages, and then got started with Photoshop and digital collage: not the same pleasure as creating something with your own hands, but it makes it possible to materialize almost any vision you have in mind.
What is your normal routine for when you start to create a collage? Do you go looking for images or do you stumble upon them?
It really depends. Sometimes I see an image, and an idea of how I could twist it immediately comes to my mind. That was the case for almost all my work based on 60s advertising. Sometimes, the idea comes first, and then I start looking for images in books, magazines or over the Web. I really enjoy this scavenger hunt, digging through piles of images until I stumble upon the exact element that I had in mind. Sometimes, I go and take pictures myself, as I did for my ‘Subway’ series, or draw the elements I want to add, like the giant hairy monster in ‘Le Voisin’
There’s a recurrent theme of juxtaposition in some of your work, mainly between innocence and evil, is that reflective of how you perceive the world?
Most of the times, my work intends to highlight – often in a humorous way – the dark side of the ideal world depicted by advertising, television, fashion, religion or politics. My ‘Anorexic Bags’, for example, confront the glamorous image of fashion industry and the sad situation of many anorexic-like models, and the millions of girls desperate to look like them. The ‘Icons’ series juxtaposes historical or religious icons to what is considered sacred today, i.e. fame, technology or fashion. The ‘Logom’ series shows the absurdness and violence hidden behind the perfect way of life naively depicted in 1960s advertising, and so on.
What’s been the proudest moment of your career so far?
Since I still consider myself an amateur and don’t have an actual career so far, I’m proud each time I get to exhibit my artworks, each time I see a reference to my work over the Internet, and whenever I get positive feedback on what I do. As you might know, one of my artworks was recently published in Elementaire Zine, which made me really happy. I also illustrated two short stories over the last year, both for anthologies published by Les Artistes Fous, and have some more publications to come.
Have you got any exhibitions/showings coming up?
Not at the moment. I’ve recently moved from Paris to Brittany, so I have to start looking for places there where I could exhibit my work. And if anyone that reads this interview is interested, feel free to contact me!
So you previously lived in Paris, how important is it for an artist to reside in such a culturally rich location? Do you feed off it?
The years I spent there were very rich in the artistic field. The libraries and book shops were a great source of inspiration and material for my collages, there are many fantastic exhibitions in the city’s museums and galleries, of course (the last I got to visit was ‘Hey Part 2’ at la Halle Saint-Pierre. It was really impressive – it ends on August, 23rd and I recommend anyone living in Paris to go and see it !), and the walls of Paris are also a permanent gallery: I used to take long walks with my camera, looking for street art.
And lastly, we love the chick in ‘Saint George and the Dragon’ and it got us thinking… is there any chance of Raccoons cropping up in your work anytime soon?
Well, I planned to include a kitten in my next wheatpaste, so why not replace it with a raccoon?!