Interview with TYLER RAUMAN


One of the very first EN MASSE participants, and truly a consistent ground breaker over the years, Tyler Rauman is at once a visual artist, musician, weaver of psychedelic spaghetti and isometric robot engineer. With ever-present humour and a warm generous attitude with others, he kicks out coolness across multiple media, with an eye hungry for rich colours and an impatience with turf already trod. 



Where are you from and where are you now?

I grew up in Thunder Bay, a cold and isolated city in Northwestern Ontario that should probably actually be a part of Manitoba. I’ve been living in Montreal for over a decade, and this is home now.

What do you do? How do you describe your visual art practice?

Boy, that is a huge question, and I’m not sure I can nail it down, really. I’m vaguely into some idea of juxtaposition. Like using bright, vibrant, positive colours, and floral patterns, to portray something more vulgar, like a vomiting monster. Or the opposite, an absurdly happy looking robot with aggressive flames shooting out of its head… I think I’m trying to create some sort of wildly alien narratives that are bigger than just what you see. I want people who see my stuff and think, “In what strange world can this exist?” I want to make myself think about that too, and build just a little part of that world. I guess I hope I get people’s imaginations flowing. I like to think I’m a really rational guy, so art is this place where I get to be totally irrational.

Geometry and strange false perspectives are cool. I really like drawing and painting robots and monsters. Whimsical things. But I’ve also been playing with less cartoony imagery lately, trying my hand at portraiture and stuff.

I guess I should say that my stuff falls in-between illustration and fine art, high and “low-brow” art, in a way that I don’t try to do deliberately, but that is what I’ve been told.


Your art practice has involved music as well as visual arts, no? What do you do, musically?

I’ve been making electronic music since I was 17, with computers, hardware synthesizers, drum machines. Not really in any “rave music” genre, more in the tradition of Gary Numan or whatever. I sing and play live as Super Fossil Power. Hopefully I’ll put out some recordings soon. Music is a compulsion for me. I start to get a little mental if I don’t do it for more than a couple days.

When did your practice as an artist begin?

I’ve been making art since I can remember, pretty much. I never went to school for it, but I just keep making things. My older brother and a cousin of mine were the ones who I saw making cool drawings, and I wanted to be able to do it too. I think it maybe gives me a slightly unusual view on the arts, because I have never really deliberately studied the traditional approaches or philosophies. I have my own irrational, compulsive, and neurotic rules that are a mishmash of random ideas I’ve heard over the years and mostly total nonsense.


Why do you feel compelled to create art?

“Compelled” is the word. The easy thing to is to say that it is just an inherent part of me, and it really is, but I sometimes wonder how much of it is finding something that I can really fully control in this completely screwed-up world. Which is a bummer, right? My life probably would have been a lot easier if I had just got into the sciences or something else that I really love, but when I think about the infinite number of things I have yet to make, and how they’ll just keep getting better, I can’t really stop. So many people balk at the idea of being immortal, but man, I have so many things I want to do that there is no way I can cram them into one, or even a dozen, lifetimes.


What work do you feel is most definitive of your practice?

Whatever is most recent. Weak answer, I know. Maybe in 20 years I’ll be able to look back and pick something, but right now I’m always trying to push forward into new territory. I’m working on several fantasy landscapes with weird cuboid monsters and stuff in them, and I’m very, very, excited about them.

What improvement, alteration or innovation would you most like to see in the arts?

Right now I think that there is a little too much priority on art as a commodity to be bought and sold. Of course I’m not opposed (at all) to selling and buying art, or doing contract and commissioned pieces (please?), but when a name becomes more important than the work, it makes me feel a little ill. It is hard to judge when that is the case, because art is a subjective thing and all, but I like when I can feel the sincerity and care put into a piece. I mean, ostensibly we as artists are supposed to be making “true” expressions of ourselves, or interpretations of our world, right? Not just doodles that look nice… Though that is completely okay too sometimes. I don’t know. That is what is bugging me lately, but I don’t begrudge any artist who is making money in whatever way they can.


Where do you feel the value lies in artistic collaboration?

Art is a culture-wide conversation we are all having, and when you get artists together to make things, it is like they are sharing their vocabulary, and sometimes even inventing new words, expanding the possibilities of our shared language of art… Maybe that is too abstract. The really amazing thing to me about collaborations is that you are taking these two singular creators, and when you put them together, the result is something that neither could have come up with on their own. It is almost like you are creating a totally new human being, a Frankenstein’s Monster with body parts from different people, and then it goes off and makes some art… Like… Bread is good on its own, so is cheese, tomato sauce, pepperoni, but if we never put them together we wouldn’t have pizza. Okay, you get it.


What is next for you?

The past year has been pretty great in that I feel I am doing the best work of my life. I’ve really felt comfortable letting loose and showing my “chops”, some technical skill, a bit more, and then kinda finding that place of compromise where I can still be playful and weird. So, once I get some more work done I just need to find somewhere that wants to show it. Other than that, releasing music would be fun, new prints would be a good idea, and just keeping open minded about whatever opportunities come my way. Oh, and I want to get really good at chess.


You can scope out Rauman’s recent work on his Instagram feed (@tyler_k_rauman), and his Facebook page. “Oh and Twitter @Tyler_K_Rauman,” he adds, “which is mostly me being a nerd.”