Interview with Rainer Ciar
featuring work by Rainer Ciar and Marleena Oudomvilay
12-22 October, 2022
Rainer Ciar @rainerciar
Marleena Oudomvilay @marleena_o
Carina Cunha @theislandseaillustrates
Q. I think to simply start off, an introduction to yourself as an artist and what this exhibition is about for you :)
Hi readers! My name is Rainer Ciar and I make things related to nostalgia, fantasy, and gender. I’ve done a bit of everything now – writing, drawing, digital art, sculpture, reading... whatever I think is interesting and works best for the ideas I want to explore.
Dimension Door has been a proof of concept to me- that I can actually put together an exhibition, and that I want to keep pursuing ideas related to fiction and games. Centred around the idea of ruins, I wanted to draw from my memories playing Dungeons and Dragons, bringing into it the detritus of real life to make these artworks- and breaking down the misplaced idea that there’s a clear separation between ‘real life’ and imaginative play.
Q. In your artist’s statement, I noticed that you mentioned that you enjoyed exploring digital cultures and gaming experiences. Was there a particular memory/ies that has driven you to begin exploring these themes in your art?
Computer memories are some of my earliest recollections – I have a really bad memory so it’s funny that the things that have stuck have been browsing gaming wikis and old websites. There’s a pervasive loneliness to browsing on a computer that I’m interested in- the way people momentarily connect, and the way those residues of interaction are left behind online for other people to find. Since I play with friends from around the world (and I’m a real homebody), most of my DnD experiences are online as well. Rather than paper character sheets and rolling physical dice, our records of play are left temporarily in servers and screenshots. We’re all playing together, alone in our homes.
I’ve been especially interested in magic items after playing an artificer (a class that’s all about constructing and making things) and reading through the start of Vibrant Matter by Jane Bennet. Thinking about how magic can live and be imbued into objects, and the relationship between characters and their weapons was the main drive behind half of the works in the show. I like how beautiful these items can look, and how all these objects all have the implication of violence.
Q. More specifically, playing Dungeons and Dragons was the inspiration for this project. What encouraged you to explore these feelings at this moment in time?
While we’ve seen people working in the loose field of medieval-aesthetic/fantasy/gaming art, we felt like the canon could always be expanded. It’s a little scary contributing to a relatively small field, but you have to start somewhere; I think during my time doing my Bachelors I wasn’t sure if what I was making was “right” because there wasn’t that established history to draw from. That thinking has turned more towards a desire to be that vanguard and help push these ideas further.
Additionally, I just thought that the Offsite Exhibitions would be a good way to show work in a space that didn’t feel like a typical gallery. There’s something very sanitary about those kinds of spaces- it works for a lot of artwork, but it’s easy for those institutional lenses to be placed over the artwork. I think the unusual site offered really helps to let the artwork find a home in the space, if that makes sense :’)
Q. “I think during my time doing my Bachelors I wasn’t sure if what I was making was “right” because there wasn’t that established history to draw from.” - “I think that’s so fair - having the freedom in your bachelors to create without constraint but never being sure if something feels “right”. Is there any advice you can give to others who may be feeling the same way when they’re working on their creative projects in terms of knowing if it feels “right”?
In my experience, I find that my concepts and ideas work best when they’re coming from personal places and aren’t developed from compromises. In the past, I’ve felt like other people have moved my driving ideas in different directions that are more interesting to them- but because my heart wasn’t in it, it showed in the final work. I think now I’ve come to value sincerity above just about everything else- it’s why I want to make artwork. Remembering why you make work and finding that nebulous ‘core’ that makes the idea yours are the guides I use to help make the work “right” to me.
Q. How did this exhibition become a collaboration with Marleena? Was it a shared vision from the beginning or was it two ideas that somehow merged together into one project?
I’ve been friends with Marleena for a long time- we bonded over DnD actually after becoming friends in a 1st year drawing class! We always talked about doing something collaborative but we never made any concrete plans, so I thought “why not?” and asked her to join me for this idea. She’s been making zines and drawing comics for a while now and taking inspiration from one of our games, so it felt right to include her. It’s also just a lot less stressful doing an exhibition with a reliable friend :)
I personally think her work is a good complement to mine- where I typically think about things in a harsher way to her more bubbly and cute looks. As I’m thinking about violence and magic weapons, Marleena is making zines about her characters and adventures, and people are able to connect with the artwork in different ways. Being able to see people walk around and enjoy my sculptures, and then stop to read zines was the best way of seeing those different kinds of engagement.
Q. “We’re both very fond of DnD despite the issues we’ve had with it (which is natural, because nothing’s perfect), so we approach the topic from a place of love.” - I get what you mean. Do you think you’ll explore more of the complexities of DnD in future projects, or will you want to expand these ideas into other games into the future?
I definitely want to come back to DnD and tabletop gaming for future work- we really only just scratched the surface in Dimension Door! For now though, I think I want to continue exploring this aesthetic field in different forms. Medieval fantasy and science fiction are big interests of mine, in media like anime, video games, comics, and books (I originally wanted to just be an illustrator for those kinds of things before I started making conceptual art!).
There’s a lot of ideas that these genres intersect with that I’m interested, things like gender roles and fictional characters, conflict and violence, and how people and communities interact with media. The fun of being an early career artist is that I have time to explore and experiment.
Q. The exhibition has been described to explore “sentimentality and self-reflection”. During your creative process, did exploring these themes provide a challenge for you when making, or did it give you an opportunity to push yourself further in your art?
“Sentimentality and self-reflection” are really our methodologies when it comes to making work. Deep introspection has been a part of my artmaking for a long time- I like being thorough in my conceptualising and I like exploring dense topics, but bringing in those personal affections helps take off that critical edge and make the work more enjoyable for me to make.
We’re both very fond of DnD despite the issues we’ve had with it (which is natural, because nothing’s perfect), so we approach the topic from a place of love. In thinking about escapism it’s either to make work that either feels very naive, or become overly cynical. I think both approaches have their place, but I like to have the two coexisting (as difficult as that can be sometimes).
Q. “I think both approaches have their place, but I like to have the two coexisting (as difficult as that can be sometimes).” - very fair - do you think making this into a collaborative project has allowed for you both to achieve that balance? Or has it changed your approaches on how you apply introspection in your creative process?
The balancing comes from a back-and-forth motion of ideas, remembering and being reminded of why I love making as I work through the ideas and dialogues of the art I’m making. And being able to bounce ideas off another person is always good to clarify things in your own head. In looking inward for so long, the ideas can become incomprehensible to other people- it’s like trying to explain a dream to someone, it makes complete sense in your head but as soon as you try to articulate it the sentences fall apart. Sincerity is (usually) easier to explain, it’s all the conceptual/analytical stuff that weaves through it that makes the explanation feel like trying to untie a big knot- but the complexity is the compelling part for me!
Working with another person and looking inwards and consulting yourself help that big mess of an idea unfold in different dimensions- they tie and untie that knot in different ways.
Q. What sense or a feeling would you like audiences to think about after seeing Dimension Door? Can you put that afterthought into a sentence?
I think I’d want my audience to take away inspiration from it- for their dreams, or their own fantasy games and escapism. It’s been wonderful hearing people pull their own meanings from the work, but it’s just as nice hearing people enjoy the forms and appearance of the works ^_^