Daisy Alioto: Can you tell me a little bit about your background as an artist?
Silphwave: I've been drawing for as far back as I can remember, but it was never my original intention to become an artist. After a freak accident one summer where I nearly drowned to death in a river, I was terribly ill with a chest infection from inhaling so much dirty water and missed all my college exams. Instead of resitting the examinations for these mostly conventional subjects that I wasn't entirely passionate about, I decided to start anew the following September and pursue something I knew I'd enjoy everyday; Graphic Design. This led onto studying Fine Art and Art History at university. It's a risky field of work to venture into and I wish someone would have convinced me earlier that a formal education in this area isn't at all necessary; but it reinforced my desire and discipline being immersed in art classes for 5 years. Most of the skills I've picked up have been self taught and after a few scrapped social media art accounts over the years, I finally settled on the alias of Silphwave. This name is a combination of "Silph Co" (a fictional company in the Pokemon universe) and "wave" as in the suffix of a genre such as vaporwave, synthwave etc.
DA: Where do you look for inspiration? When did you gravitate toward Pokémon
SW: I was obsessed with collage art from 2014-2018 and most of my inspiration came from the source material I was cutting up and splicing together, which was mostly vintage National Geographic magazines. I'd make surreal landscapes and superimpose megastructures onto them in a similar style to the art of the Italian 60s Superstudio movement. I began weaving other interests into the mix by adding characters from my childhood loves such as Pokemon, landscapes and ruins from The Elder Scrolls series, old album covers, elements from Pokemon trading cards and all sorts of miscellaneous sources.
DA: Why do you think vaporwave has become more mainstream?
SW: An integral part of Vaporwave is built upon remixing and borrowing from other sources, so it's great at adapting and integrating itself into any fandom, which helps it reach a far and wide-ranging demographic. It's a very screen-based internet art culture so maybe its relaxed, hazy, nostalgic themes provide a brief moment of respite and escapism from the usual relentless barrage of provocative headlines, thumbnails and buzzing notifications that make up our modern life online.
DA: What was your first encounter with NFTs? Do you have any predictions about the future of artists using NFTs?
SW: I follow so many crypto accounts, channels and influencers across many platforms that I really can't recall the first time I became aware of them. My first thought was "Wow, this will be a great new form of Pokemon collecting" or any form of collecting. I can imagine big franchises getting in on the action with online sticker albums for football players, sports cards, superhero and anime character collections. It would be interesting to see how the gaming space integrate NFTs too with micro transactions for cosmetic items becoming a standard business model in recent years. It wouldn't surprise me to see the likes of Fortnite and Call of Duty selling limited edition character and weapon skins that only a select number of players could own.
Individual artists may have a difficult time making advances in the NFT scene without first building up an online presence of their own. We'll have to see how copyright laws develop in regards for fan art too. I believe blockchain technologies are inevitable and will be common place across all digital assets and systems as more energy efficient methods are developed. It will protect artists work in the future.
DA: When you think about what makes a piece of artwork “nostalgic,” is it nostalgia for the earlier technologies or for the time in our lives when pixel images were most prominent?
SW: It's definitely a yearning back to an intangible feeling. Despite all the graphical advancements in modern gaming systems, I am yet to feel that level of complete immersion and escapism that I got from my old Gameboy games. The limitations of the technology forced me to fill in the gaps with my imagination, I was more involved with what I was playing on a more personal level. The 2D 8bit trees on my screen were the irl woodland near my home in my mind, the pesky Zubat caves became the mines I visited on a school trip as it was the only relatable visuals my child brain could conjure up. It's similar to books and radio, the reader or listener is actively involved in bringing the experience to life, rather than being spoon fed every sense in HD surround sound. There's also an uncanny valley effect to the hyper realist progression in graphics that can ironically break immersion even more than the technologies of old.
DA: The t-shirt you designed is based on an imagined Dirt video game. How do you become an elite player of the Dirt game?
SW: Dirty is on a mission to rejuvenate the world's soils one pixelated tile at a time and collect some rare rocks and minerals along the way.
DA: Finally: Bulbasaur, Charmander or Squirtle?