In Conversation with Jay Toor.
Jay Toor is a Vancouver based Canadian digital artist renowned for his work in the digital art scene. A self-described instrument of entropy’ he transforms abstract notions into surrealist art with a penchant for the figurative.
His works are reminiscent of a dream-like state where weighted questions are visualized as spectral forms and landscapes. Often accompanied by a description, the added feature of narration provides an element of poeticism to the composition, bringing a profoundness to his projects and work.
When conversing with Toor, the descriptions of his beginnings are typical yet humble as he talks about his interests in automobiles as a teenager in art school. “I started messing around with Photoshop on the computer. At that time, I was just editing photos of cars. I wanted to be a car designer, but I never considered that I would be making serious digital art on the computer. I was involved in fine arts classes so the serious art stuff was either sketching or oil paints.”
This appreciation towards technology to manipulate colours, techniques and lines allowed this passion to develop and has always been more than just simple art classes or a hobby to him. Alongside studying car design at University, there was an avid interest in philosophy and spoken word which is evidently influential in his work.
It was only later in his professional career that the intrigue into the digital was propelled by the introduction of Bitcoin in the mainstream. As a perpetually curious eighteen-year-old, the world of cryptocurrencies provided a whole new world of possibilities that could change the whole structure of finance and bring new concepts to our understanding of the digital.
“I think the most important thing behind this idea is that it is decentralizing everything, so really it’s a more democratic system isn’t it. I wanted to build projects around static coding and I also needed skills for design and branding and all that.
I was going to launch this project when the Mt Gox scandal happened – Bitcoin was stolen and the whole market crashed. The people who were going to back up the project all left so it never became a reality. I learned web design from there and started working as a designer but in my free time I would make digital art for myself.”
One of the main assets to art becoming more digital is that it is no longer restrained by physical or geographical boundaries. Digital artists can manipulate this online space to be as open as they want with their own parameters. Jay Toor describes his experience of Vancouver as a “bustling contemporary art scene” despite not necessarily immediately involved as he was still a programmer and designer at the time.
He mentions spoken word galleries and art galleries but it was only when he started travelling to Toronto, Alberta and Montreal that he was truly captivated where music, murals and performance also made up a substantial part of the local art scene.
Toor eventually finished his career in web design in 2018, backpacking since then to travel and make art. It was only last year that he began publishing his work.
By understanding that art can take on many different forms, Toor is a multidisciplinary artist using language and animation to enhance his concepts. Taking inspiration in the abstraction of language, the descriptions often connected with his projects are similar to that of spoken word rather than poetry. It creates a disassociation from the personal attachments of the artist allowing the viewer to have broader interpretations.
“Most of my work is like a question. I don’t know what they will get out of it, because it’s really hard for me to think from the perspective of the audience.” Instead, Toor describes the process of his art with that of childlike wonder. His art pieces are moments of the inquisition in his mind that he visualizes and proposes to the audience – What, how, why?
“What I often think about when I’m making something and when I publish it or show it to someone, it’s like I’m a five-year-old going ‘look what I found’. Most of my work is abstract or surreal and it’s as if I’m showing you what I found around the corners of my mind – this is something new, something weird and I don’t completely understand it.”
In his Ghost and the Machine project, Toor looks at the relationship between the mind (soul/self) and the body. This depiction of the body solely focuses on it as an empty form, void of anything intimately personal hence the lack of features and is a prevalent theme in how he portrays the subject in his work. When talking about one of his newest pieces yet to be published he reiterates the importance of portraying it simply as a ‘pure form’.
“Hair and clothing give us personality and therefore it becomes not just a body but now there is a mind, a soul. This is just pure form, just the machine. I question where does it [the mind/soul] actually come from? Does it all come from the sensory data of what we experience? Or is there something else? I don’t have the answer to these things but it’s a really good question.”
Only in demonstrating an almost eerie disconnection between the ‘body’ and the ‘soul’ can Toor symbolize questions of consciousness and identity in his art. With a laugh, he mentions how the phrases ‘ghost’ and ‘machine’ admittedly comes from his favourite film and manga ‘Ghost in the Shell’.
Nevertheless, much like the film, Jay Toor’s work is constantly exploratory in nature offering themes of posthumanism in an increasingly digital age. Highly relevant to his work as an up-and-coming digital artist the potential behind the technology is enormous and Toor shares his excitement with the role of cryptocurrency in building a new horizon in the art world.
To see more of Jay's art visit his website jaytoor.online .
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