We were lucky enough to sit down with Vesa for a chat, where he shared his experience of becoming a world-famous crypto artist, and it’s been quite a journey. Vesa has been involved in creative arts since he was 18, during which time he was part of a band, set up his own production company, and then transitioned into art, and now NFT and cryptoart.
When we asked what motivates him, Vesa said that “Motivation is maybe not the right word. It’s a need. The very first moment I remember creating something is when I turned my pots and pans into a drum kit when I was five years old, and wooden food spatulas worked as the drumsticks. I don’t know how to think of it in any other way than I was born with this kind of need, or desire, or impulse to do it, and then it’s just an accumulation of a variety of different tools and ideas.”
Vesa has an incredible view of the world, and it was an honour to get such an intimate insight into what makes him tick. Read on to hear more from the man himself…
What led you to pursue the creative arts?
“I would say that there’s some sort of sense making mechanism inside of me that felt like so many things about our world were so off. From our institutions, from being in school, that felt weird, seeing how money works, how different kinds of cultural things work, whatever it may be. None of it seemed to make sense. It’s been a whole search for meaning, as well as to make sense of this whole ‘life’ thing. That’s what I try to pour into my art, trying to go to the wisdom of the east, to Christian teachings, and also the holistic thinkers. Trying to figure out social dynamics. I suppose I also started out as a fairly traumatised kid. There’s lots of things that went on, that in some lenses weren’t exactly optimal. So I had plenty of demons and chips on my shoulder and those kinds of things. So that’s been the search, how to fix myself and how to be of use to this planet.”
And what prompted you to transition into art after filmmaking and music?
“The thing about art is that it has so much potential. Art in general is such an incredible tool to have profound experience, but for the majority outside of its bubble, I’d say art has been reduced to a joke. It’s pretentious people pretending to be cool, and selling stuff for $150k. For the insiders they still think there’s something to it, but they’ve almost sold the whole thing down the line in the last 50 years, to make thousands and thousands of years of tradition, and something that is profoundly important for humanity, into a money laundering joke. I suppose that’s very crudely put, and I know there’s a lot of exceptions, but what I’m trying to do is to return something of profound value into this whole thing. By going all the way back to the cave painting era, ancient Egypt, the bodypainting stuff, the ritualistic stuff. Trying to discover the awe that you don’t even have to explain, but if you want to, you can, because you put in the work on multiple levels to create the substance, so through art you potentially explore some of the most beautiful things you will discover in life.”
Your pieces are so multi-layered. Where does your creativity come from?
“I’d say it all starts with ideas. I try to filter through the ideas of so many different people that I’ve listened to. I often listen to eight hours a day of different podcasts or brilliant minds, which has been such a wonderful way of discovering new thinkers and minds in various different fields. I really listen to anything and everything, because that’s how you’ll find some very special people. I feel like on some level, listening to diverse ideas helps me peel off more layers of myself in order to be better at what I do and be of more value to people.”
Do you ever struggle to come up with ideas for your work?
“No, not really. It’s an interesting dilemma that I noticed some years ago. Some people say they have a writer’s block and they’re unable to express themselves and get inspired. But as a human if you can connect to your surroundings, then you are constantly inspired. There’s nothing that’s not inspiring if you’re just connected to the world. So the problem with people who feel like they’re not creative is that they have a trauma or mental block that prevents them from identifying themselves and connecting to this world we’re in.”
What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from the people who inspire you?
“The writer and philosopher Alan Watts basically said that some people like rigor and structure and they like the feeling of the material world, while other people are more mystic and prefer the immaterial world. And all of us are leaning one way or another, because the other one doesn’t make much sense to us, nor is it something that we’re inclined to research, as much as the one that is our comfort zone. One of the most important things I’ve done for myself as a human being, as well as for the art that I express, is I try and experience things in balance because both of those points of view need to be respected and they are the entirety of life. You need to have the immaterial and the material to come together so that the world is accurately represented, to some degree. Then you can take as much liberty as you want, you can go full Frank Zappa and play with it like it’s your oyster. But it’s that understanding of what the world is, that ultimately liberates you to express yourself to your fullest degree.”
How long does it take you to create a piece of art?
“It really depends. My piece Truth or Dare: The Currency of Ganesh, took me around a month, and people are often surprised by that. They think it should take longer. And interestingly, I went to the barber recently and we had a great discussion about value. She’d commissioned a big graffiti piece on her wall and she was arguing that the artwork price should be based on the time that the artist would use to implement it on that wall. And I said that with art, it doesn’t work the same as you’d pay a plumber. It’s not the hours consumed when you do the artwork, it’s mostly to do with the fact that it’s taken me 20 years in order to be able to do this in a month.”
Do you think that it’s time and experience that makes a great artist?
“That absolutely makes a big difference. But I do also think that talent also has a role to play, (and I’ll leave it up to others to decide where it lies on my behalf). And while I fully support equality and making sure that everyone has a similar place to start in life, I think that’s a great thing, but I think there’s something going on in the esoteric realm of humanity too. There’s no explanation as to why a young child can play flawlessly the symphonies of Mozart. For example I’ve seen a kid that’s 7 years old who plays perfectly, and even if I dedicated my whole life to playing the piano I still wouldn’t play anywhere near as good as that 7 year old. So I think there’s something intangible about art; you can’t only judge it with these material things or time based things, because there’s also a grasp of what an artist understands about the universe, and then to let it come through them and manifest as beautifully as nature puts it through.”
What does your art mean to you personally?
“It’s such a brilliant question but a really difficult one to answer, because it’s taken everything. It’s a complete choice of ‘all in’ 20 years ago where there’s no looking back and plenty of lows to go with any of the highs. Now it’s starting to be stable, it’s starting to be more like an adult life. Money’s being made, my lady’s pregnant. Things are working out and it’s beautiful and brilliant. But the price to be here now is a 20 year journey that was far, far different than I ever would have expected.”
Can you tell us one of your proudest moments as an artist?
“One of them is the project I did in collaboration with Veena Malik. [You can check out the piece at the bottom of this post] It’s such an important piece, so I’d like to go behind the scenes a little bit with what happened with this. Veena Malik is a Bollywood actress who was an A-Lister at the time. She was at odds with her home country of Pakistan. She’d kissed someone on Indian Big Brother and there was a big hoopla, and she had to leave the country because there was an assassination attempt on her life due to some interviews she did. She was quite a mess when she arrived in Finland to be body painted. What we did was six pieces that commented on religion and spirituality and we wanted to try and find a shared foundation with them all, basically trying to figure out whether they had more similarities than separations. And while they all have separations it was actually easy to find similarities between all. Essentially the big picture of this is that it’s a snapshot from the moon of the earth. What you have there is this incredible lady as a Christ figure, and she gives her permission to the six-point star, which is the Judaic symbol, and the form at the centre of it is called the Flower of Life and it’s found in these ancient temples all across the world, but it’s also a nod towards Islam and their way of honouring the eternal. The piece also includes the Hindu tradition because it’s circular, plus Veena’s an actress, and in Hinduism there’s a saying that “time doesn’t exist and life is a drama you need to ascend.” So four religions are in harmony and giving something to the whole. But it’s also incorporating the goddess traditions and matriarchal traditions, so Veena’s there representing the goddess as well. You could say that the matriarchal and patriarchal point of view are both represented in this one image, and that they can, if they want to, work harmoniously together and they should. And actually, as I thought about this, it might be the first time in art history where these themes have been put into one image like this, and it’s something so important to me that I actually put it into my studio floor.”
And lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
“When I was in the traditional art world, it was incredibly narrow the path you could walk in some senses. Even in crypto now, people want to stifle different opinions out of the realm, and while I agree with many of the things that are being said, the beautiful thing about NFTs and cryptoart, is that it finally lets creativity loose in such a way that you don’t have to go along with any political agenda. You don’t have to suppress yourself if you want to express whatever you want to express. You don’t have to be subordinate to any corporate agenda. You don’t have to do anything but be your authentic self, and be inspired by what you’re inspired by, and go to these marketplaces and see if your ideas have legs. And this is the true revolution of the crypto space, that it liberates pent up creativity. Essentially, if you’re any kind of an artist, you don’t now have to appease any boss other than those who might purchase your art, and even then you don’t have to appease anyone, you can just put it out there. And this is a situation unlike we’ve ever had in the history of the world, and I think it will truly liberate us to start to explore what we are capable of on many different levels. But at this point still, it requires a bit of courage for you to stand as who you are, and be fine with the fact that some don’t choose you if you are your authentic self. The freedom is coupled with a bit of bravery and responsibility, but if you do use it, I think the world will open up to you.”
Thank you so much to VESA for sharing his experience and wisdom with us. If you’d like to hear more about his artwork, be sure to join us on 23rd May at 2pm BST on our Twitch channel where he’ll be doing a live Q&A and exhibition, before unveiling his amazing new artwork.