David Mascha’s practice relies upon experimentation, flexibility, and predominantly digital sorcery. Born and based in Vienna, Austria, he has regularly sought out the openness of international brands in order to fully expand his style. His “Mascha magic” is conceptual, detail-oriented, and complex—it slides instinctually from hand to screen, and he embraces spontaneous invention. Landscape photography provides a degree of remove and clarity from his pixelated practice. Although Vienna is a small pool for such an ambitious artist, his digital affinities have propelled him toward the stratospheres of giants including Adobe as a part of their recent Creative Cloud campaign. He travelled to Berlin with the Complex News team to make his mark on the abandoned 100-year-old Bärenquell brewery that has become a destination for graffiti writers from around the globe.
I spoke with Mascha to consider the nooks and crannies of his practice, his favorite spots to see art in Vienna, his most difficult projects. Get to know him and his process below.
You were very much inspired by graffiti which led to sketching, painting, and eventually digital platforms. At this point in your career, what's the most alluring element of working with digital programs?
What I always liked about digital software is that it's so easy to go a step back. It's faster and easier to change things and incorporate new ideas, so that's something always attracted me. You have more freedom.
Where did your photography come from and how does it factor in to the rest of your practice?
My first big freelance job was at the end of 2009 for IBM, and that was the first time I realized I could make a living from being a freelancer and doing illustrations. I still wanted to have something to be creative without my workstation at home, so the camera was the perfect tool for me. I still take it everywhere I go. I love to go out hiking and be in the mountains, and nature in general. I was interested in how people do long exposures and work with grey filters.
I'm also very intrigued by your work with DEPTHCORE collective. What did you learn from working with so many other digital innovators and professionals?
I think it was 2004 when I joined DEPTHCORE. Before that I was really active on DeviantArt and there was this little community of people doing abstract illustrations and these crazy 3D renderings. Back then it was a huge push to just create whatever I wanted freely. Before that I didn't know anyone in Vienna that was doing the stuff I did. I wouldn't be where I am today without DEPTHCORE—it has always been a huge inspiration for me and an important source of information. It was this private community where we could exchange ideas and work on new styles, people would give you feedback, and you could ask people about commissions or jobs.
What artistic prompt has been the most challenging for you?
My website is the most challenging part! I haven't updated it for a while and I've just been working on it for so long. It's always hard to channel your artworks and put the pieces out that you don't like so much and make them look good and present them in the right way. Other than that the project I just did in Berlin was really crazy and challenging for me. I've never been in front of a camera or had a team of people around me telling me what to do, so that was a whole new experience for me. I only knew a few days before I left that I would go to Berlin, and it was really intense because I had to complete the artwork for the video in less than three days.
What was the prompt for the Berlin piece?
I created a series of machines and I thought it would be interesting to make a mixture of machine and architectural parts of the brewery—it would be an abstract version of the brewery. They took me to the brewery and I took photos of the building and all types of stuff I saw that I thought was interesting—like pipes and machine parts and the whole place in general. I used that for inspiration and combined it with some of the machine elements that I'd already created for my other illustrations.
What city hosts your favorite graffiti?
My top choice is Berlin—Berlin for me is like the capital of graffiti in Germany, or I would even say in Europe. When you go to Berlin you can see graffiti everywhere: there are throw-ups in the street, and crazy roof tops and those huge murals on walls and big buildings. In general I really like graffiti in abandoned places. I like the mixture of an old factory—wall with lots of texture and pipes in it—and a painted piece that’s a huge contrast. You have these dirty, empty brick walls and then you see a beautiful, colorful piece in the middle of it. It almost looks like Photoshop.
Is there anything in Vienna—be it performance, or another artist or gallery—that you think is particularly exemplary of the climate in Vienna right now? Is there anything that stands as a good beacon of the best parts of the scene?
There is a good graffiti and street art venue in Vienna called Inoperable Gallery. Another friend of mine he has a little gallery/art store—they're selling prints, mostly illustrations and typography works. I would say that's one of the only stores in Vienna that sells art prints from contemporary artists like me. But that's still a thing that's not really popular in Vienna yet—it's called AO Artstore.
Are there any museums that are particularly inspiring to you?
I like the MAK—Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art. They have a good mixture of famous artists and a bit of graphic design. They had a huge installation of Anish Kapoor’s crazy wax sculptures a few years ago—a catapult shot wax into a corner every ten or fifteen minutes and it created this wild wax splash. There are a few other good galleries: Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary also has some very nice exhibitions; the MuseumsQuartier, has the Leopold Museum with the more traditional artworks and big names; and the MUMOK is more contemporary.
What influences your style?
From the past, I would say graffiti influenced me because I was working with colors and color combinations, but also with letters. I always liked stylizing, taking letters and abstracting them, and old types. The things I've done in the past that are more like calligraphy are a bit like tagging. Behance is a huge source of inspiration because there are so many people on it. In the beginning I was also inspired by Joshua Davis and Mike Cina. They were doing abstract pieces without any concept or meaning with an aesthetic approach to create new experimental things. I'm also inspired by nature, but it's hard to see how that influences my work. The inspiration is really when I get my head empty and go out into these unrestricted places. To me, nature is the best design—look at mountain ranges or textures on the sand in sand dunes or plants and animals, how complex they are. That's something that humans only try to reproduce. For me, going into nature is always important to calm down and put away all the digital things.