Stories. Interview with Art Platform ‘EscapeArtMagazine’ Owner from Manchester – David Aparu

I met David on the streets of Manchester on a typical Saturday evening while visiting Manchester. I was there to pub crawl and listen to live music; something for which Manchester is famous.

This city is a mecca of British cultural life and live music. Also, the city’s vibe has very positive energy, nice people, and incredible architecture. Music is a big part of Manchester, so no surprise every corner, every bar and cafe (even small cafe shops) had live music. I asked David and his friend ‘where is the party’ and good live music. We ended up hanging out in about 6 or more bars and even got into someone’s Birthday party. After some chatting, we discovered that both are art bloggers.

So, what do attractive people do when they meet each other on a Saturday night after spending all evening in pubs with live music? Right. Interview and podcast about Art (coming soon).

Art Platform ‘EscapeArtMagazine’, Future of Art and Manchester

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I want to start with the most discussed topic (unfortunately), the worldwide Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic. How did this impact your life?

I work in digital marketing as my full-time job and I can assure you that this is indeed the most discussed topic at the moment. All digital marketers had to pivot their copy and creative content in order to not get lost in the sea of posts about this virus outbreak on social media and google. It’s almost impossible as a content creator to address any other theme besides this topic.

I am actually getting called by the police twice a day and asked to come to the window of the apartment where I live alone in order for the government to check I remain isolated. If I don’t answer my phone, I can receive up to 2000 euro as a fine.

In the UK I am currently renting a little small room in a 6-room house. It works for me because I am usually out and about and I use the room only to sleep in and create training videos for an upcoming course I’m coming together. I imagined what would happen during lock-down and the imagination scared me.

I took the first flight back home to Romania. Now self-isolating and working almost 13 hours a day for my full-time job and the EscapeArt art platform. Plan on leaving for the mountains where my family has a vacation’s house and setting up an office there. I personally enjoy the time alone because I finally have the time to work on all the things I had planned to work on for so long. I wake up at 6am and go to sleep at 10pm which works perfectly for my work routine. Currently, working remotely for my full-time job as we sell courses online.

I am actually getting called by the police twice a day and asked to come to the window of the apartment where I live alone in order for the government to check I remain isolated. If I don’t answer my phone I can receive up to 2000 euro as a fine. I think the government is taking extra measures because Romania’s health system is absolute crap. If the coronavirus hits us there will be no more Romania.

What are your thoughts on the future of art, events, and travel markets for the nearest future?

It’s very difficult to talk about the future when we are not even sure what is going to happen tomorrow. I can definitely see a lot of events happening online. There are discord channels being set up to motivate artists to keep working on their technique and style. There are twitch streams of painters working in their home-made studios. Galleries setting up virtual tours online. I’m actually creating a 3D virtual space with my brother at the moment to let artists continue showcasing their work since so many shows and exhibitions had to be cancelled.

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I feel like there is a big elephant in the room everyone keeps postponing conversation about. That elephant is called the economic crisis that will follow the Covid19 outbreak. Artists will definitely be affected as high-end art is considered a luxury item. On the other hand, there will always be billionaires in the world ready to spend millions of dollars on bananas taped on the wall so there will always be opportunities for artists.

I’m creating a 3D virtual space with my brother at the moment to let artists continue showcasing their work since so many shows and exhibitions had to be cancelled.

The emerging side of the art world is going to suffer. If they’re not careful the brands of newly established artists are going to suffer. The travel and entertainment market is probably going to have one HUGE boom when all this blows over as everyone is going to want to go party and travel after all this isolation. However, with the impending economic crisis businesses all over the world will have to create better focus and systems in order to survive.

I’m not an expert in this area, so I don’t want to spread false information, but I expect everything will be very unstable and a lot of small businesses will have to close. If you’re smart about it there will always be work to do because in today’s world money is our God.

Do you think people will stop uploading silly TikTok videos and we will have Pink Floyd again? 

Haha, I wish. TikTok is getting picked up by marketers so that will see a huge boost soon. Additionally, the way our reward system in the brain works will always attract easy instant gratification over meaningful, slow dopamine release.

Do you think art people have predicted such unexpected (and still hard to believe in) catastrophes? How?

There’s a book written by Stephen King called The Stand where a pandemic breaks out and wipes out more than half of the population. There’s also an episode of the Simpsons where the narrative follows a virus outbreak from China. As similar as these instances of “prediction” are I think that it all comes down to people being inspired by the fragility of life.

The media loves to make a big deal out of everything in order to get more traffic, more views and more clicks. Naturally, the most discussed topics are the apocalypse and the death of our problem. I really wish there was more positivity and a way to escape this insane world.

Tell me about your country (Romania) and the city you were born. How is cultural life in Romania?

Romania has a very sad and raw culture. The films that are being created depict life in villages with themes of corruption in political backdrops. The theaters showcase acts about elections with dark humour undertones whilst the fine art sector is almost inexistent.

I’ve worked for an art gallery when I did freelance work after university but it was very rare for me to see artists creating something about our own culture.

We have many traditions such as dances and weird rituals during Christmas and Easter but they all come in some way from Christianism and communism which is two things I try to stay away. I respect them for their values but despise them for their implementation.

The classical music world is very vibrant and we have a few yearly festivals in Sibiu, Cluj and Bucharest which transform the cities in giant cultural shows of theatre, film and music.

And what about the UK and Manchester. For me, it was the most lively (in terms of partying) city I have ever been to (not only because we were partying all night). I had a feeling that live music was everywhere.

Manchester is basically a miniature version of London. It takes the life and energy that London has and takes out all the traffic and crime. I absolutely love this city. There’s graffiti and events everywhere. I’ve been dragged to meditation classes, slam poetry sessions and even learnt how to spit fire without me doing any active researching or planning my weekend. It’s an amazing city and I hope this virus outbreak won’t limit the city in the future.

Photo by David Aparu

Remember your three best cultural experiences in other countries?

As cliché as this may sound, I think the most cultural city I’ve visited was Paris. The whole city is a museum with incredible architecture and places you can visit.

Another place that I remember for its art culture is Prague. I’ve been there for a film festival in the past and I vividly remember all the paved roads leading to a big bridge connecting two sections of the city. It was absolutely beautiful from an architectural point of view but I was too young and stupid to understand the beauty and importance of culture.

The third place I’d choose (for the sake of not going with another cliché answer like London) would be Sibiu (Romania). As I mentioned before, every summer Sibiu becomes a display of theatre with parades and street shows. People come outside on their balconies and watch as hundreds of people in costumes come and dance on the paved streets of the cities. Every evening of the festival all cinemas and theatres have shows from all over the world and it’s simply an amazing time to be alive and take it all in.

What encouraged you to create your art magazine and platform ‘EscapeArt’?

I landed an art gallery as a client and that led me to create a lot of marketing materials such as interviews, brochures, websites for individual artists represented by the gallery. I noticed that there are amazing artists in the world with absolutely no clue on how to market their art. I also discovered that the practices used in e-commerce or tourism do not apply in the art market because it is being controlled by an elite group of curators, galleries and collectors that make money and evade tax.

I mentioned before that I worked as a freelancer. I landed an art gallery as a client and that led me to create a lot of marketing materials such as interviews, brochures, websites for individual artists represented by the gallery. After that, I discovered that there are amazing artists in the world with absolutely no clue on how to market their art. The practices used in e-commerce or tourism does not apply in the art market because it is being controlled by an elite group of curators, galleries and collectors that make money and evade tax. So naturally, as any digital marketer would do, I started experimenting.

I created an Instagram account under the alias FleeSociety and tested a lot of growth strategies and tools. That account took off and became EscapeWithArt and later on EscapeArtMagazine. I don’t feel like I own this platform because it’s a feeling that many of us feel: the need to escape the world.

I combined this need with the afore-mentioned issue of artists not knowing how to sell their work and currently I’m working on projects that are meant to close the gap between artist and patron as well as figure out a way to stop the elite 1% of the art world.

I don’t expect to succeed but the journey I’ve embarked on brings meaning and life into my reality and I can confidently say that I’ve escaped with art. Now I need to teach what I learnt.

Describe the day you understood that you are going to be a creator. What was the turning point?

I don’t think I’d label myself as a creator. In my mind creators are highly inspired people that can draw, sculpt and can create visual masterpieces out of raw materials (or even thin air!).

Being an artist is a profession whilst the literal definition of profession is a discipline that allows you to make money.

I currently make no money out of anything I create. The films, the writing and the motion graphics that could be considered “art” or “creation” are way too personal to surface and I make them for myself.

The things I produce for selling come from already defined material such as photographs, fonts, colours, textures and so on.

I know you got studies in Filmmaking both in Romania and the UK. Why have you moved and taken filmmaking as your choice?

I did some basic film studies in Romania through my scholarship at the American International School of Bucharest. The most learning I’ve done over those years were from extra-curricular events such as workshops and festivals (for which I’ve actually won an award). I did my undergraduate degree at Kent University in Canterbury but decided against following a Master’s due to the fact that I felt really drawn to the technical side of film; graphic design and special effects.

I’m not trying to advise against following higher education but most of the things that I learnt came from YouTube tutorials and spending enough time with the software I was trying to use.

On the other hand, I did make the active choice of moving to the UK. Romania is a beautiful country but it isn’t filled with opportunity. My parents are both musicians and play violin in the national orchestra in Bucharest. On the other hand, they both had to work extra jobs in order to be able to live a comfortable life. I guess simply put I would say I left Romania because I thought I’ll have more opportunity outside.

Lynch or Kubrick?

They are actually two of my favourite film directors. I wouldn’t be able to pick one over the other. They both are geniuses in what they do. I resonate more with Lynch because I feel like he is obsessed with accepting the disturbing and the disgusting. I am a strong believer of “letting life happen” and that implies letting the surreal happen.

Kubrick is more of a master of the visual which I can definitely appreciate but movies such as Eraserhead and Inland Empire produced more of a visceral impact in me than Clockwork Orange or The Shining.

You are from Romania but went to the UK to study filmmaking. Is this because of Kubrick’s “Clockwork Orange”? (I am asking because it was one of the reasons why I fell in love with the UK).

I loved that movie and felt extremely guilty watching it when I was younger but unfortunately, the reason why I moved to the UK is more opportunistic than culture.

David Lynch was an artist, and Stanley Kubrick was a photographer. Lynch in his book “Catching a big fish” described the close connection of artists and moviemakers. How in your opinion Fine Art (any visual art) reflects and influences cinema?

Without getting into too much detail, I feel like everything is connected. The world is a conscious being that reacts to itself.

The world of cinema integrated photography and visual art as its footage. The literature becomes the script and the music becomes the soundtrack. A director’s job is to use all of the art forms in a combination of genius and create a completely new art form. It’s a difficult job to do and unfortunately the movies that make it to the top of the entertainment industry are simply entertainment – they are not art.

What do you think of the modern art market? Do you feel that art is degrading or do you feel the opposite?

Very similar to my mentioning of Christianism and communism, I can respect modern art for its ideas and values, but I despise it for its execution. The first issue of EscapeArt magazine tried to answer the question: “What makes art good?”. We found out that the common answer implies there are two things needed:

  1. Art needs to create a conversation between the viewer and the artist.
  2. There needs to be a degree of research and building on foundations of the masters and their findings.

If you look at how art itself developed from prehistoric times you will notice that each creator and artist started building on the foundation of the artists before. Sculpture was a race of finding the best materials and empowering poses. Realism was a race of finding the best way to respect anatomical proportions (DaVinci took matters in his hands and dissected at least 30 confirmed bodies in order to understand muscle anatomy and what happened inside the human). Then came reflections, perspective, it was all a race of iterating on previous studies.

What does modern art do? It operates on the basis of “if you could’ve done it, why didn’t you?” There is no degree of striving to perfect a style or to come up with a combination of materials and disciplines that will revolutionize the whole world. It’s a race of wrong creativity.

There are works that create a visceral impact that might remind us of Lynch’s work. Or brave creative ideas like the art installations by Claire Morgan. There is definitely some amazing work happening under the umbrella of “modern art” but there is definitely a divide between creativity and stupidity.

Who are your favourite artists?

There’s too many. How many can I mention? I could fill in a whole book with names.

I will not mention any of the greats as much as I would love to. On the other hand, I am a big fan of Steve Cutts, Matias Almargen, Alex Grey, Pawel Kucynski, Vladimir Kush, Dariusz Zawadski and so many others.

What is the future of art?

Art will always be around. I’ve recently had an interview with a business promoting art events in Manchester, UK. They discussed that digital art has and will always be undervalued because of accessibility. You can print out as many photographs or graphic design renders as you would like.

What makes fine art, sculpting and all these other fun media so expensive and long-lasting is the fact that they are unique. There’s something in the human psyche that draws us to owning limited edition products and artwork.

The digital world is constantly changing and innovated and as long as technology will advance digital artwork will continue to be produced. As far as the more expensive part of art, there will always be people wanting to own unique work from famous artists. And then marketing will take care of the rest.

How can modern artists promote themselves?

It’s one of the hardest industries. The competition and the world that an artist needs to navigate is unforgiving and difficult. On the other hand, I feel like I’m close to creating a framework that can give artists focus in their efforts.

As an artist the first step you need to take is finding your focus and mastering your style in a specific area. Figure out what you want to do and where you style fits. You can’t sell cartoons in an art gallery the same way you can’t sell death metal albums at a classical music concert.

First of all, you have to figure out where you stand. Are you a musician, are you an illustrator, sculptor, digital artist? Furthermore, I need to specify that each of these areas has sub-areas. An artist can do so many things using their expertise. They can sell art in galleries, they can create interior design of schools and institutions, they can create the artwork that goes in children’s books, card games, websites, tattoos etc.

As an artist, the first step you need to take is to find your focus and master your style in a specific area. Figure out what you want to do and where you style fits. You can’t sell cartoons in an art gallery the same way you can’t sell death metal albums at a classical music concert. Or at least not easily.

Each focus has its own strategy but in its most basic form, it is about finding your way to the right audience.

What are the main challenges on the way to create your art magazine?

The most difficult part is putting everything together. After I interview and talk to so many creative and diverse souls I then have to contain all this crazy wonderful information in a few pages of text and images. Art is limitless and I feel like an art magazine ironically limits it.

On the other hand, it is one of the best ways of raising status for artists and that’s why I’m doing it. It sounds great to “be published” when you are trying to promote yourself. On the other hand, the real magic happens in the background.

How do you find the artists for the magazine?

For the first issue I searched for artists and manually sent them messages over email, Instagram and Facebook. I reached out to people I thought would have an interesting story and people that I felt needed a bit of visibility.

For issue 2 people have managed to find me and I didn’t have to reach out to anyone. I already have a few people for issue 4 that are eagerly waiting for me to finish Issue 3.

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What are your plans for EscapeArt for the nearest future?

I’m currently working on the third issue of the magazine which focuses on Manchester. I felt like I should pay some attention to the local talent and actually taking this opportunity to meet people. The coronavirus kind of destroyed my plans but I have already talked to some amazing people in my city.

I’m also working on a lot of projects such as a 3D virtual art gallery, a series of podcasts. Also, an online course I’d like to eventually use to teach the framework I mentioned before. I’m currently reaching out to artists to see where the pain points are. And create a lot of free content aimed to help artists understand how to market and promote their work. Just keep an eye for anything that has escapewithart on it 😊

Are you going to make your own movies?

Yes, there’s one movie I feel I must make before I die; but more on that later.

Visit EscapeArtMagazine and submit your work!

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