E.R. Pulgar is an editor at large and music writer at Highlark. He currently attends New York University, majoring in music journalism, poetry, and film. Catch him reading Virginia Woolf at a dive bar or writing album reviews in a tattered notebook.
Miami-based painter Ozzy Samper crafts landscapes that defy the imagination with an old-world quality that flirts with the modern. The worlds he creates are dominated by Pierrot clowns toting handguns, giant women, and nightmarish creatures. Despite the jarring imagery, Samper imbues his creations with a presence that melds the tragic with the relatable. His work has been featured on popular Facebook visual arts page ART HOE and award-winning college magazine Miamibiance, and for good reason. With a style as absurdist as it is sensical, this rising artist uses the style of the old masters of surrealism in a jarring, contemporary way.
We interviewed Samper about his Miami exhibitions, his goals for the future, and why he sometimes goes by “Blakfish.” Whatever you call him, keep an eye out for this talented new star on the Miami—and soon, global—art scene.
“The way I see it, the mind doesn’t work on a 1:1 scale.”
Q 1 || What inspires your artwork? Would you classify yourself under any style?
My work is inspired by a lot of the reading I do. Most of my work is dedicated to contemplating the psychology of the mind, the human condition, and my subjective internal experience of the world. I like to say I’m a surrealist because of my subject matter, but really I like to keep a lot of realism.
The way I see it, the mind doesn’t work on a 1:1 scale. That is to say when you are experiencing something, you don’t take it in as is—it’s filtered and processed by your perception, and a lot is put in and taken out. You never get an experience as is. Because of this, I like to not only, say, draw a woman: I like to paint giant women that tower over cities or take up entire islands.
Q 2 || Describe your process.
My paintings are usually small ideas that build up over time. I often find myself abandoning a painting soon after I finish the base layer. This is when the painting looks the ugliest to me, and I always feel like it’ll come out looking like crap, so I leave it in some dark corner of my room.
However, I think this is good because while it’s hidden, I still work on it in my head. This is usually when the idea starts to take shape in my subconscious. Then, at some point, I pick it up again and drudge through the ugly parts. I’m always surprised by the last layer of highlights, and I start to love it.
Q 3 || Are there any artists that you look up to?
I look up to the great surrealists a lot—Rene Magritte has to be my favorite. Right now, I’m obsessed with a contemporary artist I follow on Instagram: Christian Rex Van Minnen. Even his name is surreal, and his artwork is from another dimension altogether.
Q 4 || Besides going under your real name, you also sign your work as “Blakfish”—Is this a persona, or just a cool social media handle?
I love that question! It means octopus in Swedish, and when I came up with it, was just my tag. Basically, I put the word octopus in Google translate and tried out a bunch of languages until I saw “Bläckfisk,” which slowly morphed into blakfish.
I’m reading this book “Steppenwolf” by Hermann Hesse which is about people who dont fit into societies because of their two selves, which they call the Steppenwolves (man and wolf in one body). The book mentions that artists are usually Steppenwolves. I really related to the idea that there are two of me: a man that is thinking and good, and a darker, more primal side. We can call him “Blakfish.”
Q 5 || As a new artist breaking into the Miami scene, how do you see it growing or changing?
Honestly, it sucks to say, but I don’t keep up with the Miami art scene so much. I know Miami has always been pretty good about keeping culture a big part of the city and giving artists a boost. It’s really coming into its own and making a name for itself as an art hub.
Q 6 || You sometimes paint live on Facebook; how does it feel to have an audience for your work as it’s being created?
I love having an audience watching me paint! I want to eventually do live painting at shows or venues. However, I often fear that it gets kind of boring. Painting is a slow process and it’s not particularly entertaining to watch, but I get mostly positive feedback when ever I do it, so it is what it is. I love that people tune in at all.
Q 7 || What are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m working on a few commissions and a personal piece on an idea by Terrance Mckenna called “The Stoned Ape Theory.” I also have a series that will connect the story of Icarus and Don Quixote, but thats going to take some time.
Q 8 || Do you see yourself working with mediums other than the canvas anytime soon?
Yes! I am working with two very funny and smart friends of mine, Jesus Mago and Leon Velazquez, on a comedy podcast called Simply Bacon. Hopefully we can start moving into doing skits and cartoons and really make it grow. I also do some digital work and want to get into murals.
Q 9 || What are your plans for the future?
In the grand scheme, my plans are to turn out as much work as I possibly can and eventually get to a place where I can live off of my art. I also want to continue school and get a PhD To become an art professor somewhere if that first dream doesn’t come true.