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The cyber pastel artist creating visions of the future

We talk to Pastelae about her cyber aesthetic, how we see ourselves in objects and how she tells love stories in her work

“Pastel original artworks with dream layers and soft pink internet feelings,” is how Swedish artist Pastelae describes her oeuvre of work. Don’t worry, she delivers: the four aliens in go-go boots and masochistic yoga poses spinning on a bejeweled version of the contraption from Event Horizon, the two-headed ram skull pentagram that rotates to the dulcet tones of a possessed Siri, the greased-up bodybuilder troll with a “bubble butt” and “ice cream abs” — it’s all pastel, every last one. “Some find the excessive pastel colours harmonious and others find them creepy,” she says. “My head is like an egg filled with ideas – if I get presented with the opportunity to create I just crack it open and make a mess of it all.”

Pastelae – real name Josefin Jonsson – has been amusing, titillating, and terrorizing Instagram with her pastel 3D sculpts and GIFs since around 2014, when she got her hands on a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. “When I discovered 3D sculpting apps, I fell in love,” she says, citing Cinema 4D, Daz, Zbrush, and Marvelous Designer as her go-to software. “Everything changed and I had a whole new world to play in, and since then I have spent every day making 3D art and watching tutorials and getting new tools and exploring the 3D community. I feel like a newborn 3D baby, every project is a lesson learned.”

But her digital artistry can be traced back to her childhood in ‘90s Norrbotten, Sweden, land of early digital natives, where she was nurtured on PCs, gaming culture, pirating, and memes. “I started making digital art probably as a little kid messing around in Paint on Windows 95 any chance I could get, or maybe it was clicking out monochrome pixels on mom’s Macintosh Plus,” she says. The first digital camera she used, in 8th grade, had a 3 1/2-inch floppy disk that could save approximately five selfies. “It was amazing.”

We caught up with Pastelae to talk the zeitgeist’s obsession with cyber pastel art, cyberpunk in 2016, the fetishization of obsolete technology, and what the future will look like.


What themes do you intend to explore with your art?

Pastelae: I like to explore gender and emotion. A lot of my work is feminine and sensual, but soft masculinity is also a neat subject. I would like to address race issues as I feel strongly about the things going on in the world right now, but I probably don't have many valid comments from my sheltered Swedish bubble for now. Love is a good theme.

The world you've created is so gorgeous and seductive I want to live there. Would that be recommended? Is it hospitable?

Pastelae: Oh definitely. I rarely portray sinister creatures — even if they look freaky, they are always cool cats. Soon we will have the possibility, I believe, when mind and machine merge and we can immerse ourselves in virtual worlds and connect in a higher space, when post-human solutions gives us endless creative possibilities to alter the way we look and look upon both reality and the space we choose to dwell in mentally, as a digital astral plane connecting the collective dream cloud of thought. Then I shall invite you all inside a living representation of my world, where everything is Pastelae.

Why do you think the zeitgeist is so enamoured with this pastel cyber aesthetic right now?

Pastelae: Well, we have the Pantone pastel predictions traced to Asian fashion crossing paths with a future-retro Y2K nostalgia trip, and I guess they harmonize in the stream of this refound interest in technological innovation like 3D-printing, 3D-scanning and VR, with it being available to more people now. I think it will stick around for a while.

Are there narratives behind your artworks? Could you share one?

Pastelae: I recently posted a video called "Bend Over Backwards For Love”. It's a back-bent figure rotating around itself, displaying a version of falling in love where you have little bubbles around the figure’s head. That's the chemistry of your mind affecting you. Her third eye is open, that means you are aware that you are under the influence of a powerful state of mind beyond self-control. Then we have that impossible make-up and a shackle on her neck telling us about how enslaving the chemistry of love is, while she keeps falling over protecting her fragile bubbles of trust and loyalty, while gagging her feminine needs in a sexist society. It may sound like a dark version of love, but love is not always an easy thing to experience.

Cyberpunk used to be gritty and neon. Why do you think it's become so smooth and pearlescent?

Pastelae: I used to read a lot of William Gibson in my teens, and it was a great contrast from the shiny blobject space aesthetics of the late '90s. I felt like it represented well how the modern standards slowly creep out to the fringes of society, even now when we have all the shiny tech we could ever want at our fingertips there is still a big part of the world where they poop in holes and use old flip phones.

To me, the cyberpunk theme is where high tech meets the outsiders of society, and it will always be gritty. Maybe we are raising our standard for what that grittiness could be, like a Motorola Razr, too new to be rare and too old to be useful. I think millennials look at recently obsolete things as symbols of themselves, as the pearlescent silver side of a CD, beautiful and worthless. It's not yet fetishized as the artifacts of the 8-bit era, like the iconic floppy disk or ever popular cassette tape, the CD is still too common and present. Like freshly cut flowers, they are slowly dying and the young sensitive aestheticians of today are watching it happen. We are quick to declare new subcultures premature deaths as we watch every modern thing around us change just as we come to love them; to declare things dead to us could be a form of self-liberation from Samsara. 

Is this what the future will look like?

Pastelae: I strongly believe that the future will be fantastic. The woke won't just go back to sleep. Everything will slowly get better, and then everything will rapidly get better. Maybe the millennials will be the last generation to actually die.