Artist Interviews 2022

Sivan Karim  
By Julia Siedenburg

Sivan Karim’s beautiful artworks of women have pulled me in immediately by coming across them. The Berlin-based artist crafts his powerful mostly back-and-white pieces with Chinese ink and surprisingly we do not miss the colors very much. In the few he added some drops of color, it is carefully placed and underlines the portraits nicely without taking the attention from the main subject. Grateful that Silvan agreed to talk to us I am happy to share with you some more insights on his motivation and inspiration behind his Do not be surprised if you start thinking about where you could place one in your home…because I have definitely already done the same. While deciding, why not read the interview below, dear reader? I promise you will enjoy it!

Your gorgeous pieces are a mix between day-to-day moments and more abstract scenes with dark-haired female leads always at the center of it. The differences between the women are besides their surroundings, slight alterations in hairstyle, length, and facial features. Are these based on people that are familiar to you or based on imagination? Where do you get your inspiration from?

Some of the female leads are in fact inspired by some of my close friends. Other times when I have an idea, I try to find a model on the internet that comes close to the picture in my head. The inspirations come from everyday life experiences, dreams or nature. I love contrasts and see things in a very graphic way.

Recurring themes in your work are the women surrounded by groups of animal species from packs of wolves to flocks of flamingos. The women here seem to have similar energy and physical features, that could be interpreted as a wild free nature and emotional as well as intellectual connection to those animals. Tell us your motivation behind that series.

The series started with the illustration 'Wolf Pack’. I wanted to draw a woman graciously and fearlessly leading a pack of wolves. In our modern society women still have to fight for equal payments and being taken seriously in a man’s world. I’ve worked with many women in the past to know that they can work and achieve as much as men. Most of the illustrations have hidden meanings and I love people’s interpretations of them.

Your pieces portraying couples show the good and bad, the beginnings that start with a kiss and the endings.

Illustrations that have a sad or more emotional theme are definitely different during the process. I usually listen to classical music or songs that have a certain vibe to get myself in the mood.

Your pieces are monochrome artworks made with Chinese ink. How did you choose your materials and techniques that you are using now?

The very first time I tried ink was probably 10 years ago and I was just doing a small sketch, but I loved the contrast to the white paper. When I started to go to university, we tried out different techniques, but I found myself always coming back to ink. At some point, I found drawings by Charles Dana Gibson and how he also drew women’s hair more realistically and kept the rest quite simple. I thought the similarity was cool, so I tried out different ink and pens and kept practising.

Tell us a bit about your upbringing and your childhood.

My parents worked a lot when I was child. My mom worked part time so she could be home when my brother and I got back from school. I have a very close relationship to my mother, she’s such a strong woman, she worked a lot, did the household and raised us in a very loving way. I don’t think that my parents had any issues with me doing art, but of course like other parents they wanted me to do something with a secure income and do art as a hobby.

How did you find your way to making art?

After earning my Bachelor of Arts degree, I wanted to work for an agency as a designer, however after many job applications, I either got rejected or didn’t hear anything back from them. At that point I saw some artists on Instagram doing well and having freelance jobs with brands. I wasn’t really into social media, but I wanted to give it a go and started to show my illustrations. I reached out to some magazines and art accounts for help, I simply hoped they would like my work and share one or two. It took 2-3 months and some bigger accounts actually did share my work and that was basically how it started. I received a lot of positive feedback and I was motivated to continue to post my art. Ever since I’ve been working with many brands and illustrated book covers, wine bottles, logos, clothes etc.

You are based in Berlin. Would you say your surroundings and location influence your creations?

I’m sure I was inspired in some way, but usually I find inspiration in different cities and countries, too. But I’ve loved the fact that Berlin has many museums and art galleries in general, it’s great to find inspirations for sure.

Your rather newer pieces have colorful backgrounds. Some of your first pieces on your Instagram page are also very colorful. Why did you decide to go away from the colors at first and now slowly come back to them? Are you thinking of using more colors for your future pieces?

I’m glad you’ve noticed that, as I really do come back to colors, but I try to keep the contrast in my work and also combine the black and white aspects. The early works on Instagram were basically during the time when I was still in university and as mentioned we tried out different techniques like aquarelle- or acrylic paintings, so I showed some of those works. My ink illustrations were very popular and of course I was happy to continue to work on different series using ink. But yes, you’ll see more colorful illustrations in the future.

Your work was showcased in Infringe magazine specifically to discuss the importance of female hair showcased in your work. How did that collaboration come about?

I remember they reached out to me via email and asked if I was interested to be part of their next issue. I sent a few of my illustrations and they chose some that suited well for the issue. I was glad they chose the series with women with long hair, I drew their hair with different structures. It was very cool to see my art in the magazine and also in the bookstore. It felt surreal.

What is next for you? Are any shows planned for the future?

There are a few projects coming up and I’m also planning a show in South Korea. Also I’m constantly looking for a nice space to have a new exhibition in Berlin, but so far it’s either too small or too big. But I’m sure I’ll find the right space eventually.

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