Interview, Navina Khatib -
Psychedelic Colours Over The Horizon
Navina! Do you have a psychedelic vision of life?
My vision of life is free, colorful, peaceful and open-minded. I wouldn’t say that it is psychedelic as for me this term is associated with a certain time, style, music and also chemical supplements. My vision of life is never to oppress creativity, to be honest about your own creativity, cherish your creativity, never give up on your creativity, no matter what they say. My vision of life is a genuine and constant discussion with creativity in order to maintain and preserve it until the end.
A person with awareness or someone in meditation is bound to have a psychedelic vision, yet some supplement with chemicals for glimpses. Where does your vision come from, was it influenced by an event or a spiritual longing?
I think the root of my imagination and creativity lies in my childhood, growing up in the laidback German countryside in the 80s. We had no TV or other distractions back then, so the only media we were exposed to were vinyl records and tapes, and, of course, books. As a child, I loved listening to fairytales. I think one of my favorites was “Tino und die Nachtigall” (Tino and the Nightingale) by Will Quadflieg, a fairytale about a boy who catches birds - until one day he catches a nightingale that takes him on a trip around the world and changes his life forever. “Die Unendliche Geschichte” (The NeverEnding Story) by Michael Ende had a deep impact on my life, too. I recently remembered that it was the first movie that I ever saw, on a friend’s video recorder.
All of my favorite fairytale recordings had a beautiful soundtrack, so the discovery of music has influenced my imagination ever since. When I create I love to listen to music, especially ambient music. The mood totally reflects my vision of life and my imagination. I still love music that expands space and time, full of lush pads and reverb. So maybe my vision of life comes from audiovisual patterns.
A large amount of your work consists of landscapes, dreamscapes, psychedelic colors all over the horizon. Showcasing poetry, hidden treasures in these moments. Now again, is that because of a spiritual longing or something else entirely?
Longing is definitely a central topic in my photos. I started photography at age 11 and along with music and film, it was my first love. It gave me the opportunity to totally lose myself – time appears to stand still when taking a photograph – to imagine foreign places and dream of traveling. I always wanted to see the world. In German, there is a word called “Fernweh” that literally means the longing for distance. In addition to photography, I also do films. Fittingly, my first attempt in filmmaking was a short with the title “Longing”.
I love distant and foreign places, but for my art, I feel a simple landscape is not enough. I view things differently, I see more in them. I see more colors and more horizons. I would say that with the abstraction of every landscape, I am referring to the conflict between the perception of our inner and outer world. My aim is the dissolution of concrete reality in order to solve this conflict and even more – to dissolve it.
Are these scapes invented through imagination? What are your feelings towards imagination and its importance in shaping human consciousness?
Imagination is everything to me. It’s free. It’s raw, It’s real and honest. You will find exactly the distance you long for with your imagination. Imagination is life and the engine for creativity. Imagination is protecting ourselves from the pressure and harshness of the reality of life. It’s like a shell that unfolds its beauty inside.
Have you had a more elaborate experience of your consciousness, something that moved you into the unknown? Could you please share that with us?
It’s mostly places that moved me and expanded my consciousness. When I was 20 I lived in California (San Francisco and Santa Barbara) for one year. I traveled a lot along the West Coast during that time – the nature just blew me away. The color and the wilderness of the Pacific Ocean has influenced me ever since. Later, I lived in Mexico City for a year, quite a chaotic place where you could easily lose yourself in all the buzz. When I was younger I really liked the idea of losing myself. I guess on the one hand to experience my limits, and on the other hand to pull me out again.
I have always loved the unknown, so a few years later I went back to Peru to work in an orphanage, which became the content of my first documentary.
An extended trip through South America in 2011 brought me most of the photos you can see in my gallery.
A lot of my pictures were shot in Uyuni, a huge salt desert in the Altiplano of Bolivia – the most breathtaking place I have seen so far. Experiencing it has definitely expanded my horizon. Imagine blue, pink, red lakes with pink flamingos on top of it. However, even the most breathtaking nature is still a reality. I figured out that in my imagination this is not enough. By the abstraction of these landscapes, I want to take away even the last glimpses of reality. You could say nature is my muse and inspiration; the abstraction of it makes it complete.
..and does that contribute to why you chose this medium, of being a visual artist?
I can express myself best in visual arts. When it comes to film I show reality. My first feature film “Casa Luz – House Of Light” was about the children of an orphanage in the Andes of Peru. My second film, which is still in the pipeline, will be about personal destinies in modern society. For me film is the medium to document reality, photography to document imagination.
Now, can you please bring us closer to your process? Do you usually sketch first, or use photoshop to create later? What’s it like?
Almost all photos were shot in places that are already magical, such as the Altiplano of Bolivia or the foggy woods on La Gomera Island. I exaggerate the psychedelic nature of these places by giving them my vision and imagination via post-processing.
Coming back to the colors, with such an extraordinary palette - how do you think that affects the mood of the photograph itself and also the experience of the viewer?
I started creating it as a kind of therapy - you could even call it a color therapy - for myself. In Berlin where I live, we hardly have light and colors especially in the winter days, so most people get depressed. From the fields of art therapy I know about the impact colors have especially on children. I love the power of colors, the influence they have on our moods and minds.
How do you keep the perspective straight on where you wish to lead the viewers of your imagery? Does that actually shape your experience while creating as well? Do you feel it makes you want to be more grounded before you start creating?
I can tell you what the colors evoke in myself, but I can’t and I don’t want to control how other people might perceive them. I am always happy when somebody writes me a lovely message or elaborates on my work, for example saying it is like a kind of meditation for them. This makes me more than happy, for it means that the colors might have the same kind of impact on them as they have on me. However, I don’t want to lead the viewers. I don’t want to be explanatory. I don’t want to give answers. People should see in my pictures whatever they want to see in them.
With that, can you tell us about your favorite poem that you have read since you started creating?
The magic of poems caught me at a very young age, the play with language, metaphors, myths, and images.
I love the poem “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. It is really dark, but it sparks so much the imagination. I love how the language is put together. Poe was a master and it really moves me to think that it took him 10 years to finish this poem. In a world where every single second is money and everything is calculated, spending 10 years on a single poem seems unimaginable.
Lastly, What would you suggest or share with other visual artists?
Artists should free themselves from expectations and should love what they do so that this love shines through their work. They should trust their intuition.
Creativity comes from creation; life is creation, creation through love.
Interview with Navina Khatib