This article is part of the Alpacawhal interview series A Couple Minutes on Crypto Art, where we talk with brilliant and emerging crypto artists.
Alpacawhal: Hello, Oficinas TK! We are already good friends, but please let the readers know a bit about you and your artistic journey before the interrogation begins... 🤣
Oficinas TK: My artistic journey began at the age of 15 when I started to learn how to paint with oils and made my first collective show at the local small-town city hall gallery :) Later on, I enrolled at a prominent national Art school that I could barely afford, and eventually dropped out after two years. Over the course of the following years, I self-taught myself on many subjects which interested me and developed new skills such as engraving or photography and eventually 3D modelling and Augmented Reality.
Back in 2012, just before the world ended, I started this new incarnation called Oficinas TK as an output of my new found interests, which by now also included micro-publishing. I kept on doing engraving - which I still do today - and started publishing some self-made translations of somewhat obscure texts, like 'The Book of the Law' (Aleister Crowley), 'The Soul of the Indian' (Charles Eastman) or the 'Septem Sermones ad Mortuos' (Carl Jung).
Alpacawhal: OK, wait what? The world ended in 2012? We were pretty stoned then and might have missed that...
Oficinas TK: Yep, it did. After 21st December we've been living in a simulation.
Oficinas TK is an extension, a furthering of something I was doing before: let's call it TK. 'Oficinas' is a Portuguese word that can mean both repair shop but also a workshop. 'TK' dealt with more theoretical subjects while 'Oficinas TK' is the material side, the active side. I took this name when my work needed a more 'physical' manifestation, like engraving or handmade books. Eventually, it came along when I started exploring the more ethereal side of digital art, as the concerns are pretty much still the same.
"You must remain inquisitive, not just curious you see? You have to challenge your own conclusions if you are trying to do something great."
Alpacawhal: Thanks for that clarification; certainly many wonder about the meaning of your identity and that's a great explanation. One thing that shines in your work is the obvious knowledge you have of particular methods and techniques which are fundamentally amazing at producing visually stunning results, but stand in almost calming contrast to the glitchy and seizure inducing palettes or animations prevalent in so much crypto art. Particularly interesting are your linocut and woodcut style works. You have obviously studied a lot of traditional techniques with several being Eastern and Asian influenced. What are your favorite of such techniques that you use and are there new ones you still want to experiment with?
Oficinas TK: I can't really say I studied a lot about engraving techniques, but I do feel a special love for some aspects of Japanese culture, engraving being one of them. Woodcut (and linocut) was one of those things that I learned by doing - I'm not very good at it - and once in a while I carve a matrix and print. I like to explore subjects close to drawing but with a painterly quality: I do 'brushstrokes', or stuff like fake suminagashi. Meaning, I try to reproduce paint strokes with engraving, which is something that fascinates me as an artist that started out in Painting. I do use a lot of it for my translations, as I also do the covers and these techniques allow for a more streamlined process while maintaining the manual aspect of it, it's artisanal quality.
I also have a deep love for Photography and in particular for some older techniques like Cyanotypes, Gum Bichromates, Anthotypes, etc. It was through some of these techniques that I started merging 'digital' with 'analogic' since I use digital negatives to print the images. I did photograms at first, then some digitized pictures but at some point I realized, I could 3D model stuff, or illustrate it with vectors and then print them with sun-exposed iron salts (cyanotype) on paper.
This duality of 'digital-analogic' really interests me and I explore it through many different media. Even my cryptoart is very tangible (I hope) and pervaded by a sense of 'matter'.
There are still a lot of techniques I would like to try for sure, but the most recent one is photopolymer intaglio. I still haven't achieved great results, but it's very interesting for the detail it provides. I also dabbed a bit with a sort of novel old technique based on iron salts (called Ferric Gum) and would like to further the experiments I made.
Alpacawhal: Wow, yes! The sense of matter is fully present in your work. Probably what we mean by the "calmness" that your art holds. Whereas many artists are relying on flashy motion tricks or even deliberately intense visual animations (the infamous seizure styles of crypto art), your work absolutely has this grounding in the analog, this heaviness of matter and that is what sets it apart from the majority of art in this space.
Your photographic pursuits are certainly rich in their scope, and it is clear that you spend a good deal of time researching techniques and applying them to your practice. For artists who are not as far along in their journey as you are, what is one resource that you would recommend to them to help them explore and learn from other cultures and artforms as a way to enrich their own work?
Oficinas TK: Yes, my work is pretty calm and crude when compared to the more flashy or polished ones. I like to focus on simple subjects and my tricks are a bit more veiled. 🙂 I tend to focus a lot on composition and atmosphere and the subject ends up shining on its own because it's in the right place. It does matter if it is an egg or an apple, an idol or stone but, ultimately, it's more about what you don't see.
I am not sure if I am in the position to give advice, but the one thing that works for me is just 'watching' and by this I mean to allow yourself to really see something, with your eyes, but even more so with your mind and heart. Art imitates Life so you just have to pay attention, and then all that is truly universal and cross-cultural will become clearer and may, hopefully, inform your work and mindset. You must remain inquisitive, not just curious you see? You have to challenge your own conclusions if you are trying to do something great.
Alpacawhal: This part about challenging your own conclusions is precisely it. You are in the the position, see?! Very much in a agreement about this in that an artist is constantly working to challenge their own conclusions, almost a sort of perpetual refinement in pursuit of different ways of seeing. Absolutely right on.
You mentioned eggs, apples, idols, and stones. These objects permeate your work and are full of ancient wisdom aren't they? Let's presume that we have no idea about these symbols or their use in art. Please explain to us why you feature these specific objects so prominently in your work. Our hope here is that those who are unaware of their significance can receive some good ideas on educating themselves about them directly from you, since you certainly have this knowledge yourself.
Oficinas TK: As I said above, I focus on simple elements, and my aim is to make them universally recognisable as a first step. So, if I'm addressing 'matter', like I did on 'Foundations of Matter' for example– it's a fairly good starting point to have a rock, as it fully embodies many aspects pertaining to it. It is not about conveying a new perspective on anything rather than providing a setting for the viewer to imagine, and ponder if he/she so chooses to.
The 'Praise Your Titans' and more recently 'The Seven Saints' series are pretty much like that as well: I'm creating this world, a new cosmogony of sorts where these characters play an important role, but it is beyond the point to detail it. I prefer to lay a scene where a sense of reverence or sacredness can be perceived while not fully understanding what is being revered or worshipped. I am clearly very inspired by megaliths and other manifestations of pre-historic art as they always struck me as very genuine and truly mystical and this certainly influences the way I chose to portray my subjects.
These early manifestations are intimately connected to Nature which is what my work is mostly about. Nature as a pagan sees it: a magical source of bewilderment, where every flower is a miracle and every stone idol alive with a soul that precedes Humankind.
"Maybe I could keep an archive of past mandalas, but who cares? The wind has already blown them away."
Alpacawhal: Fantastic! This megalith figure aspect is without doubt something that we absorb from your art as a strong signature feel. For example in "Still life with a single pear and a self-reference," which you recently sold to collector Sov (so lucky!), there is this megalithic representation of self present there that also occurs throughout your body of work and frankly, the way you portray it, in 3D– yet with this hand-hewn appearance, it's absolutely startling in an impressive way!
These constant appearances of this sort of carved or whittled surface in the figures is completely fascinating. You have an excellent knack for rendering them and their accompanying light very well.
Are we to presume that all of those same figures are also images of yourself, or do those megaliths represent other entitites too?
Oficinas TK: They represent - or better still, stand for - 'the ones that came before' in whatever sense you may choose. The titans, in greek mythology, were the primordial beings that ruled before the olympian gods appeared, so in this sense, they would reference a pre-gods stage, the primal forces of Nature and so forth... but as artists, for example, we can easily replace that idea with the idea of the masters that preceded us and laid the foundations, and these megalithic idols would then become the petrified image of the 'old art.'
I hope that my viewers replace these symbols with their own concepts and develop a whole new world? Because I feel that it's what most of this work is about: creating new mythologies. I am enacting the role of the creator on a grand scale :)
On that particular piece, the self-reference was not about me but about my work. I've been working with different subjects and approaches on the different platforms that represent me.
On Known Origin, I did a big series called 'The Expedition' that dealt a lot with artefacts and loose narratives, while developing the 'Titan' themes on SuperRare. These concepts were intertwined, and at some point I did some artefacts for KO that were references to pieces on SR, and vice-versa. It's not that I find my work the most interesting reference :) it's just that it makes sense to spread the artefacts everywhere you can when you're trying to create such an elaborate hoax. For the story to be real enough, people will have to be able to follow threads that run through many places, and leave many traces.
Some of the collaborations I made - more notably, the ones with Ambiguous, Gisel X and more recently Thato - were a deliberate attempt at making my idols more 'real' having them being represented on other artist's universes too. As adding other souls to the egregore that feeds these idols. These artists, that I respect immensely, added their own thoughts, their hearts and souls to this vision. They brought their own representations of these idols to life, and that is something really magical.
"There are one or two collaborations still waiting to happen - and they're not secret but I won't talk about them..."
Alpacawhal: We have always admired the collaborations you have been involved in, especially the ones of late like "Earthrise," the wonderfully detailed and delicately rendered collaboration you made with Thato that you mention. You bring a comfortable harmony to those collaborations, supporting the other artist in a truly remarkable way. We feel these works will be historically significant as they do demonstrate a sophisticated elevation of the craft. You can really feel the human intent there, which is refreshing in an expanse of colder more machine oriented art. Is there an artist that you would like to collaborate with, but have not yet had the chance to, or are such things too secret to discusse here?
Oficinas TK: I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to collaborate with a host of stars like Sparrow, Serena, Kryptocromo, Ilan Katin, Mattia Cuttini, Hackatao, XCOPY, obxium, Gisel X, Ambiguous and Thato. I usually approach artists that I feel might have a somewhat similar mindset and then it's easy to talk about what we have in mind and how we are going to do it. I try to work for something that will also look like a collaboration, i.e. that will have both our souls in it, and our particular stylistic approaches. Sometimes I give the main element, on others I have worked the elements given to me, but it is always fun - and a bit stressing - to expand your field and incorporate new constraints, while trying to create something interesting.
There are one or two collaborations still waiting to happen - and they're not secret but I won't talk about them - but there's really no one I would like to work with that I haven't approached. That's what I do: sometimes I have this idea that would make sense in someone's world, and I'll just message them and ask if we could do something together; I'm sure that when that happens again, and I have ideas that might be explored by others, I'll just hit them up and talk.
I am also very approachable, in case you're wondering, I might just be busy with something but I'll surely talk to you if you reach out for a collaboration. I was only turned down by one artist, but I understood his reasons back then, and it's likely we'll work together in the future so, my approach works!
Alpacawhal: That's a rad approach, and we agree that the results of your collaborations are all extremely fun and stunning pieces. The 3D runs deep and delightful throughout your work. Approximately how long have you been blending the digital element to forgive a turn on words? It's evident that your 3D experience is certainly not something newly gained, but what about the earlier years? We all have those learning projects that sort of embarass us. Do you have any 3D work like that? Some example output of your 3D beginner mind so to speak?
Oficinas TK: I started doing digital/analogic crossovers a while back; first it manifested in the making of digital images, that I would put on negative to then print with alternative processes.
At some point, I developed a big interest in Augmented Reality and that, inexorably, led me to learn 3D tools like Blender or Magica Voxel. From there to the current state was a little step; it was pretty obvious to me that with 3D I could control a lot more about the environment (like lights, materials, etc) and composition - that newly found power really got to me.
There aren't that many shameful exercises or examples because I approach most of my work with the mindset of a monk making sand mandalas to see them be blown away. When I try out something, or start working on a new piece, I never keep the exercises, I just delete them, because they served their purpose already. And it's pretty much the same with my physical work where, more than once, I didn't even keep a copy for myself.
Maybe I could keep an archive of past mandalas, but who cares? The wind has already blown them away.
There are two NFT's that attest my initial limited skills: 'A Setting Sun' and 'Gold Cube' and I'm not ashamed of them; they are the best possible work I could make at that point. As you might have noticed, I'm not really interested in remaking the same piece over and over with minor colour variations (although I fix myself on very strict themes), and my output is slow. As such, when a new piece is out, it's always the best possible effort at that moment. You have to be honest and true to yourself, but also to your collectors and supporters because they are paying money to get a bit of your soul; half-baked pieces, croquis and efforts are not really works of art and I refrain myself to share those, let alone to sell them. I try to achieve greatness every time, and sometimes I can. 🙂
Alpacawhal: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. We are extremely grateful for this experience and wish you the best in all your pursuits.
As a parting shot, we are curious about your take on the current state of crypto art. Have we "made it" yet? Maybe there is more work do (any ideas?) and if so, how long before you could answer with a firm "Yes" to the question?
Oficinas TK: The current state of art on the blockchain(s) is of infancy in my opinion. I'm sure it will be a lot different in a couple of years, with more 'legacy' artists finally stepping into the 21st century and joining the rest of us. But the ones who have been here for a while already made it in some ways; some made a shift in career and are now full-time artists, others realized that what could be called 'trash' also as an avid audience.
Personally, I feel I made it. I have garnered a nice reputation with my peers, some collectors have been showing their continuous support for my art, and I make more than my national minimum wage with every one and a half piece (on average) I sell, so, yes, we made it. Most of all, we made a strong case about this new way of distributing art, and that is what matters the most I think.
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