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Maxim Zhestkov

The Visual Artist and Motion Designer Unveils His Latest Art Film; ELEMENTS

Still Image. Elements (2017) Maxim Zhestkov

How far can our own imagination take us, and is it possibly already a reality?
Russian visual artist and motion designer Maxim Zhestkov creates extraordinary landscapes that allow our own unrestrained imagination to travel and evaluate what is possible. It’s a mix of storytelling, digital design and animation.

After initially studying architecture, Zhestkov received a master’s degree in graphic design and fine art. Now, his digital art films explore and question nature and technology, and the organic to the artificial with an excellent score of sound to accompany the mind-opening visual language. From dystopian cities to vast and void landscapes, some Kubrick-esque and others as pure cinematography.

Yet it is through his films that here, Zhestkov provides a new perspective on the universe and our connection to it. We are both after all, just made of particles.

We spoke with Max on occasion of the launch of Elements, his latest art film exploring art, nature, collective behaviour, physics and love. This time, paired with his own sound design with a nod to his ongoing inspirations of Aphex Twin and WARP Label.

Still Image. Elements (2017) Maxim Zhestkov
Still Image. Elements (2017) Maxim Zhestkov
"To evoke emotions, that’s exactly why I create my works."
Portrait © Maxim Zhestkov.
Elements, art film by Maxim Zhestkov, 2017. (Design / Animation / Sound by Maxim Zhestkov)

Joanna Kawecki: Being based in Russia, how does this inspire or influence your work?

Maxim Zhestkov: I live in Ulyanovsk, a city about 1000km away from Moscow. I think this social isolation is a great thing for deep focus. I prefer to concentrate mainly on my thoughts and projects rather than social life, as I become immediately distracted and nervous after a couple of days in big cities.  This type of escapism is a perfect match for a small city.

From bubbling black walls in your other short digital art films; ‘Recursion’ to Blade Runner-eque future cities in ‘Perpetual Path’, where do you find your main visual inspiration? From a dream or various references?

I’m obsessed with nature and math. Not as a scientist (I’m really terrible in calculations and real math) but more as an observer: I love to find visual patterns and math equations in nature. Spheres, points and elements are main blocks of everything around us and inside us, that’s why I love to use simple objects. Everything is just billions of spheres in an immense patter/collaboration.

Still Image. Elements (2017) Maxim Zhestkov

Sound is as influential as visual graphics, how important is it to accompany your work and how do you select the accompanying sound or music?

For me, sound has more visual thoughts and deep abstraction than visuals. I love how free your thoughts can be when you listen to something. Each listener can create his own visual soundscape. We are visualisers of sound… I could daydream with abstract IDM or ambient and create an endless amount of visual stories. 

Your art works are usually accompanied by Bespoke Museum & Sound Design company ‘Combustion Studio’, how did this collaboration come about?

I’ve been working with Marcelo / Combustion since around 2008. I really love the results of our collaborations but I decided to start doing sound for my films now by myself, as it’s extremely important for me to have the total control on each element inside my projects. That’s how I love to work. However, it’s 10 times harder to create sound for your films because you get too stuck in the visuals and it’s hard to externalise, but I’m pretty happy with the result I made for Elements.

Still Image. Elements (2017) Maxim Zhestkov

Your work heavily questions concepts of nature and technology, to the organic and artificial. How do you view the rise of digital in our lives, from social media to AI home devices?

I’m sure that we live in a simulation. That’s why all my works have this type of idea. I’m doing it without a strong purpose, as I think that art is something like a mirror and you do what you think and think what you do. An extremely compound process. I’m trying to find my fears and play with them in my projects. Sometimes it’s totally about my nightmares, but when I’m doing scriptwriting or trying to write down my ideas everything becomes dull. We can’t catch visuals with words. True things can only be true when you perceive them, not when you think about them and are trying to catch them. 

Still Image. Elements (2017) Maxim Zhestkov
Still Image. Elements (2017) Maxim Zhestkov

What are you currently listening to, or reading this week?

At the moment I’m listening to Boards of Canada – Music Has The Rights To Children. I love the idea that I’m listening to this album more than 15 years now. I’m currently reading: Power of Habit by Charles Duhhig.

Find more of Maxim Zhestkov’s extraordinary films on his vimeo here.

Perpetual Path (2017) by Maxim Zhestkov
September, 2017