Artwork by Leif Podhajsky
It’s easy to get a little lost inside Leif Podhajsky’s artwork.
Odds are you know what I’m talking about, because if you’ve ever listened to Tame Impala, Bonobo, Mount Kimbie or London Grammar, then you’ve seen his mind-melting, psychedelic album artwork. The Berlin-based digital artist and creative director creates swirling galaxies of colour and marbled patterns that seem to float off into eternity, like a supersized kaleidoscope, and there’s no one else making anything quite like it.
Although Leif lives smack-bang in the middle of a sprawling European city, he draws a huge amount of inspiration from the natural world, and his upcoming London exhibition, Post Nature, is no different. I caught up with Leif ahead of the opening to find out more about creating movement in static images, whether he’s a glass-half-full or half-empty kind of guy, and how Post Nature first bloomed.
Your work is often inspired by the forces of nature. Do you ever feel like you have to work hard at feeling that connection, living in a big city?
You definitely feel quite removed from nature living in a city; it can get claustrophobic. I recently moved to Berlin which, in summer, feels super-alive and a little overgrown, and I really like that untamed element. London always felt hard to escape. Over the last few years, me and a group of friends plan a number of hiking trips throughout the year; just get a big house somewhere remote and try to slow down and re-connect. We’ve been up to Scotland and few times, and I really love going there. I’m also planning a more gruelling hiking trip in the Austrian Alps for summer.
What was the starting point for creating Post Nature? Was it one piece in particular, or a singular idea that kind of blossomed?
It initially stemmed from thinking about climate change and human impact on the environment, how we don’t seem to be part of the eco-system anymore. We’re currently in the Anthropocene age in which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.
I wanted to explore the idea of a modified nature—investigating resonances between living and artificial systems and the future cross-pollination of digital and natural environments and their impact on us as humans.
What will this new digital nature look and feel like? Will there be a technological singularity which gives way to AI and a need and desire for a new form of nature? Will we merge with technology and bring with it the legacy of a past natural world?
I created a series of artworks that try to pursue harmony between digital techniques and organic-feeling outcomes. I wanted to engage the viewer and make them question how the work was created and what is ‘real’ nature.
Your latest exhibition investigates the relationship between living and artificial systems. Are you more of a pessimist or an optimist when it comes to nature and technology trying to co-exist?
I see-saw between the two. I’d love to believe we’ll use technology to better work with the natural cycles of the earth, but a big part of me thinks we are in a downward spiral. I recently read that every return flight from London to New York costs the Arctic three square metres of ice, and plastic production is set to triple by 2050… that’s very sobering. In the work for Post Nature, I wanted to look at how nature might adapt to these shifts.
How do you create a sense of movement in a static image?
Creating a sense of depth and layering can convey the idea of movement. Use of colour and drawing the eye to certain areas can also create a sense of movement.
Did you approach Post Nature in a different way to your client work?
For me, I’m always trying to communicate an idea or story—whether I’m creating work for a client or personal pieces, I like to come at it from this core approach. But for sure, there is a freedom in creating work of a personal nature… there’s a lot more license to push boundaries and maybe focus on the extremes.
When are you at your best creatively?
It’s a weird mixture and always elusive. Sometimes it can be really hard trying to find that space to be creative. The world seems to set up things to dissuade us from it: bills, chores, distractions. I find I work best when I’m allowed the freedom to just think and experiment without hindrance. Getting rid of all the noise and just having fun can be the key.
If you’re in London this month, get to The Print Space to check out Leif’s incredible new exhibition, Post Nature.