Artist Tea Strazicic’s work is influenced and driven by fantasy, humor and her own friendships. Believing in the power of teamwork, her work often manifests from a collaborative effort within her inner circles. Born in 1990, Strazicic, who also goes by the alias @flufflord, grew up drawing and painting on the coast of Croatia, then went on to go to art school in Dubrovnik and followed that with getting a Masters degree in Animation. Her Instagram bio reads ‘just an amphibian’ because she self-proclaims that she ‘flops around’. In an effort to keep herself engaged and interested in her work, there’s an intentional fluidity to her art and versatility in the mediums she uses - creating across animation, 3D modeling, album art, music videos, graphic design and now a footwear collaboration with ITCC and SHCR. Below, Strazicic talks about making her own bootleg Batman merch as a child, growing up in the Dalmatia region of Croatia and wanting befriend Kanye while living in Los Angeles.
What mediums do you work in with your art?
My profession would be an animation director, but I don’t really like animating as much as watching and creating plots. Learning to 3D model, working online and my friend group pushed me more towards the music art scene. I make album art, music videos and graphic design for musicians. I know it’s not the best career move, but being versatile with mediums it’s what keeps me interested in creating content.
You got your bachelors and masters in animation. How’d you originally get into art, and then more specifically animation?
I used to draw and paint, but gradually it got too inaccessible. Having a studio with a few computers was just more economical. I was born in 1990 in Croatia, which was unfortunately at war with Serbia at the time. But the amazing thing was there was still TV. I remember watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Candy Candy, Il était une fois... la vie, Pokemon, Digimon and Batman. There wasn’t any Batman merch to buy at the time so me and my dad would make everything out of cardboard and clay - totally bootleg comic book style. It was so cool - probably the reason I still do art like that.
Where are you currently living? How has it shaped your work?
I just moved to Berlin with bod last October. Can’t say it shapes me as much as I was already shaped to fit here... I am grateful to live here surrounded by a great bunch of friends and greenery. Seeing my friends from all over the world dance together to the music here is such a good feeling. Everyone comes to Berlin eventually, so I feel safe that I’m going to see everyone I miss from the other cities I lived in or visited. Also, for the work we are doing it’s much easier and cheaper to be stationed here.
How do you think being from Croatia has informed how or what you create?
Meet Tea Strazicic - the Croatian artist that believes the education of fantasy is more likely to shape young minds than sitting in a classroom.
I’m from Dalmatia, a coastal region of Croatia. My family is from Dubrovnik, recently known as King’s Landing and Biograd - both medieval towns that got touristified in past few years, so I don’t visit as often. Until I turned 20-something, I was in complete denial that I’m from anywhere specific and didn’t really acknowledge or care about history of the country I grew up in. I just loved reading books and playing in wreckage. Later on, after exploring it bit by bit, I found Croatia fascinating and full of unmapped areas, old Roman ruins, fantastic filming spots and very interesting characters dwelling in small places. There’s also good food that just grows around - you can pick it and eat it on the spot. I miss living by the sea.
You also lived in Los Angeles. Can you tell me your personal take on the city and what kind of impact it had on your pieces?
My partner Nick Zhu was living in LA, we fell in love and I stayed as much as my visa allowed to. We were living with Matt Dell and Bapari - both musicians and promoters, so I was often DJing. That was such a dreamy time and living there changed me a lot. It helped me crystalize reality from the fantasy I had of USA as a kid. The city eats money, just drains it from you; streets are so dirty; police are spooky; Mexican food is amazing; there is a huge gap between poor and rich; downtown looks like a scene from Robert Crumb's comics... On Tuesday nights, you visit Little Tokyo to hear @djswisha play foot werk, or you can end up going to Chinatown for Cameo or some other hidden alley party. You find yourself in the car most of time - it’s like Looney Toons. Then you end up crashing some crazy party you are not supposed to be at and Ricky Martin is there. The thing that changed the most while I was there was my outlook on the art world and survival. I’ve seen some quite horrible and very expensive exhibitions. Everyone I know was mostly surviving there. I think these days the U.S. takes more than it gives. Both me, and especially Nick, left so much art there. I brought back some dry desert wood. The only thing I regret is not seeing Jonathan Davis from Korn and Marilyn Manson on the street. Also, I wanted to befriend Kanye, but I never even saw him there.
I really love Reddevil. That’s my favorite of yours. Can you tell me more about how that piece came about?
Red Devil is a 3D modeled asset for a video game and game engine film I was making with Marta, who alias is @pirate_sheep. She’s my sister and an amazing 3D generalist. The idea was to make a frisky looking business devil that runs over a melting iceberg in a hellscape. It was a very odd metaphor for business being of greater importance than living in actual hell. We exhibited the piece as installation and demo game in Galerija Mocvara together with Ittah and Yoda. That devil also makes it’s cameo in Whale Fall.
My immediate reaction to your work was that it comes across other worldly, very non- human, with strong anime-esque references and roots in Japanese culture. Perhaps some would also find it disconcerting. How would you describe your work?
My work is not much different from anything else other artists do. It’s a hysterical need to execute some vision, and it often doesn’t fulfill the full potential, but it still lives. I guess that's why some would find it disconcerting. I have loved and studied manga and anime, with great respect, all of my life. I’m huge fan of Clamp, Osamu Tezuka and Maasaki Yuasa. Especially because of storytelling, I have found it more relatable than narratives seen in western movies. My art style tends to fly towards Heavy Metal Magazine, which I used to read as a teen, like Simon Bisley’s Lobo, Manara, Frazetta... But being from this part of world, I feel like looking in every direction, and no one is looking at what is cooking here. Probably mix of every possible influence.
I’m so curious to know more about your influences, as your work has such a strong sense of self, independence and autonomy to me. What others artists or types of things inspire you or inform your work? My friends influence me. Most of them I connected with online and later on met in real life, then collaborated with and so on. Teamwork is fun. Like recently I designed these crazy slippers as collab with @SHCR and ITCC on taobao.
The internet is such a vast place with loads of self-proclaimed artists. What’s your take on internet art and how do you navigate such a saturated landscape?
It’s like float downstream or upstream... At first internet art was something of a visual guide to online mess. Algorithms can lead you anywhere from gym buddy pics in Ibiza, to good music and small DIY events. Visually things got unified and shared certain consistency, so the entire setup of tiny-event-music-exhibitions can hold itself up above water and attract people with similar sensibility. Most of stuff is really DIY, queer and low budget. Things we do for love. Doing freelance over the net is so anxiety inducing... I think I won’t be able to stay healthy in all of that chaos-magic-swarm for long.
Fantasy also seems to play a large role in what you make. What do you think draws you to fantasy? Is there an element of escapism?
I guess some people are naturally drawn to social practices, abstract painting and minimal art. I’m not, and I’m definitely not escaping that. But I do think fantasy can talk about serious issues and induce change of thought - even bring generations together on topics that seem hard to understand, or too radical to cope with. Fantasy in the form of a video game or comic book is more likely to shape a young mind organically than 8 hours of sitting in a classroom. If you were reading Speaker of the Dead, Huxley or watching Miyazaki's films young, that tells a lot about power relations and damage made by thousand years of anthropocentrism and mutual un- understanding. Also, I think everything can be a fantasy - it’s so wide. Some people live in a business fantasy. It’s usually a fantasy of success through some economical stock market business. Some live in tech fantasy - believing silicon valley CEO boys can save us by making us make intelligent and great design. I live in a fantasy that I can actually earn money from what I like doing one day.
And what about humor?
Most important thing ever.
You’ve labeled the references in your work as ‘the Dalmatian gothic’. What is ‘the Dalmatian gothic’ and what does it mean to you?
Fish and squid ink on cold white stone, grandma wrapped in all black cloth coming from church. Bells still ringing. Bread on the table and cross on the wall, wind kicking sailboats that produce eerie noises. Time does not move. Dalmatia is always described as a cute tourist place, and I wanted to dismantle that sunshine-with-glasses idea we sell to people. It’s like being the only goth in the village.
Do you believe in aliens? If so, which of your pieces most closely resembles what you think aliens look like? Don’t know. Space is pretty vast. Humans are not really able to figure out what’s alive to their standards. I like to turn my speculations into storylines for films.
You also create in virtual reality. What do you think about the future of VR, both in general and in art?
Well, it’s fun. It’s a box with a screen inside and few trackers. Pretty exciting, but still quite undeveloped. I was lucky to experiment with it with during VR incubator residency organized last summer with @formatC, Marta, Sinisa Koscec and Adriatic Animation that brought international artists together for 7 days each to make a draft VR project. Projects are going to be presented this August in Split in form of a video and VR installation. I’m looking forward to doing more projects - @selamxstudio, @lukas8k and I already worked on some earlier this year. I’m also excited to see what @alpha_rats and @vladstorm are up to with their VR projects.
How do you keep up with the art world? Do you have any websites or resources you use to stay up to date on emerging artists and that whole space?
To be honest, I mostly scroll memes. If I get excited about art, it’s probably something that crawled out from the shadows. I have my friends to thank for exchanging fresh content and free flow of information, humour and existential stuff. They either curate art, run music labels or art magazines - some even mix all of that. Some examples are @christina_gigliotti , @v3st_a , tzvetnik , @killerweixin, @villecallio , @larajoyevans , @6footstranger , http://criticaltheoryindex.org/ , Klara Vincent Novotna, @ Peter Lee, @one________________wingedangel , @palmtrees_caprisun , http://quantumnatives.com/ , @jesseosbornelanthier and others
courtesy TEA STRAZICIC
interview AUDRY HIAOUI
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