7 Questions for Artist Skygolpe on Weaving Technologies From NFTs to A.I. Into His Provocative Practice

The NFT pioneer reflects on expanding his practice and finding common ground between digital and traditional mediums.

Skygolpe. Courtesy of the artist.

For those familiar with the NFT art space, Skygolpe is more than likely already on your radar. A leading figure within the digital art ecosystem, Skygolpe has become recognized for his unique creative vision and boundary-pushing projects. Ever experimenting, the artist debuted a pioneering series, “Paint on Pixel,” at Christie’s New York in 2021, marking an important moment in his career—highlighting his ability to deftly move between and synthesize elements from the physical and digital genres of art—as well as offering within a mainstream context a new way of understanding hybrid approaches to art and art-making.

“Paint on Pixel” has proven an unwavering source of inspiration—a follow-up series was unveiled in 2022, and, according to the artist, another yet to come. Alongside international exhibitions of his work and a growing following, Skyglope has proven an artist to watch, with a practice that has the ability to reach far beyond the NFT spaces he began his career in.

Recently, we reached out to Skyglope to learn more about how he got his start, and what direction he sees his work going in next.

Skygolpe, Solar Cage, Inner Radius, NFT (2021). Courtesy of the artist.

You’ve established yourself as one of the top 100 digital artists working today. Can you talk a bit about your background, and what first drove you towards digital art?

I never went to an art academy, but philosophy has always fascinated me. Relocating to London when I was 18 was a pivotal experience in shaping me as an artist. My early creative works are best characterized as a form of conceptual street art. I had the good fortune of being in London during the heyday of street art, collaborating with exceptional talents like Stik, Nathan Bowen, and others.

After spending several years immersed in the street scene, it became clear to me that I needed to delve into studio work. From that point on, I’ve engaged in a variety of artistic mediums, such as photography, painting, installations, and digital art.

I first became interested in digital art through NFTs, which came onto my radar towards the end of 2019. I was exploring the Ethereum blockchain, as it was the first to allow smart contracts, and I stumbled upon SuperRare. I was immediately drawn to the evolution of digital art, seeing it as a reflection of the current state of our society and species. We are now in a hybrid dimension where concepts such as digital identity are gaining considerable importance every day.

Installation view of Skygolpe “Paint on Pixel” series (2023). Courtesy of the artist.

You’ve recently begun transitioning from the digital NFT space toward traditional physical art modes. What inspired this evolution in your practice?

The shift from digital to physical media should not be viewed as a divergence but rather as an evolutionary trajectory that remains consistent with the core principles underlying my artistic endeavor. My oeuvre has persistently been an intellectual engagement with existential themes, a complex tapestry woven with paradoxes and contradictions that probe the very essence of being. In this context, the “Paint on Pixel” series represents not a departure but a continuum, a calculated interface between the digital and the tangible worlds.

In crafting my NFT art pieces, the employment of physical processes to create textures and components of the final artwork has been a consistent methodology. This approach serves to highlight that the move towards canvas-based art is not a radical alteration but a logical extension of my existing practice.

Your first physical art collection, “Paint on Pixel,” debuted at Christie’s in New York in 2021, followed by “Paint on Pixel II” during Art Basel last year. On a personal level, what do these collections mean to you? And do you plan to create another iteration?

The “Paint on Pixel” collection is a milestone in my personal and artistic journey. These works are a unified synthesis, melding digital and physical dimensions to challenge and reshape the viewer’s perception. The most significant achievement for me has been the realization that, for the first time in history, I’ve established the importance of an NFT certificate for a physical work of art in a relevant context such as Christie’s New York. I believe there is incredible potential in the digital ecosystem for all artists who work in the physical realm.

Regarding future endeavors, I intend to persist in the development of the “Paint on Pixel” series. My aspiration is to curate exhibitions that possess the capability for international exposure, thereby widening the reach of this seminal collection. This step aims not merely to extend the geographic scope but also to deepen the intellectual and cultural dialogue surrounding the intersection of digital and physical.

Skygolpe, Fly requiem (2023). Courtesy of the artist.

Can you tell us about your exhibition at the Nighttimestory? What does this represent in the development of your practice?

The Nighttimestory exhibition, titled “PCS: Post Concrete Semiotics,” is a deliberate foray into the surface and aesthetics of technology. It represents a focus of my work on sculpture and the readymade, extending my fascination with human identity into the realm of technological interaction. The project urges viewers to contemplate the omnipresence of digitality in their lives, marking a synthesis of my exploration in both the physical and digital worlds.

In terms of development, this exhibition blurs the conventional lines between the virtual and the tangible, extending the philosophical queries I’ve long held about the malleability of human perception and identity into the context of our technologically mediated lives.

The show is an assemblage of readymade works, encapsulating a form of technological brutalism that epitomizes symbols in perpetual flux. This aligns with my earlier investigations into how our external realities—whether digital or analog—can influence and reshape our internal worlds, even at a biological level. It’s a dialogue between the real and the virtual, the exterior and the interior, the fixed and the fluid.

Your exhibition at Fondazione Manzoni explored the realms of artificial intelligence—which has become a hot button topic. What specifically interests you about the possibilities of A.I. in your work?

A.I. presents a frontier of endless possibilities and complexities that deeply fascinate me. In my exhibition at Fondazione Manzoni, I exhibited some photographs obtained by mixing sculptural elements and photographs of objects and installations.

A.I. allows me to create forms that don’t exist in reality but are conceivable through computational processes. It’s like a digital reincarnation of the readymade, yet completely borne from algorithms.

What excites me is the paradox that A.I. brings into the space—it’s a tool that can both emulate human creativity and extend it into realms we can’t even imagine. By blending A.I. with unconventional materials like discarded plastics, I aim to challenge our perceptions and provoke questions.

Skygolpe, Data Monument (2022). Courtesy of the artist.

What do you think the role of art is in society and the world at large today?

In today’s world, art serves as a vital conduit for questioning, exploring, and redefining the fabric of our existence through contradiction. I often say that art is the only thing that can maintain its meaning by contradicting itself.

It is more than merely an aesthetic endeavor; it serves as a form of social and cultural dialogue. In this era of swift technological advancement, where the boundaries between the virtual and the real are becoming increasingly indistinct, art possesses the ability to make us pause, think, and most importantly, question our certainties.

Can you tell us about what you are currently working on, or hope to work on next? Are there any new ideas or inspirations that you are presently preoccupied with?

At present, I am deeply engaged in the act of painting, delving into a tactile relationship with the art form. The physical interaction with a canvas offers a raw, visceral experience that remains elusive in the digital domain. This approach can be considered a return to fundamentals, albeit interpreted through the prism of my digital art background.

Additionally, I am preparing for the forthcoming installment of my “Paint on Pixel” series and other works, scheduled to premiere at the Foundry Gallery in Dubai with large-format works. This collection seeks to fuse my origins in digital art with the conventional components of painting, thereby facilitating a conversation between these two ostensibly incongruent artistic landscapes.

Skygolpe, af36e050-f981-4fc3-a92c-7a015acbb426 (2023). Courtesy of the artist.

Learn more about Skygolpe here.

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