His work will surely take your breath away. Incredible conceptual artist and illustrator, Peter Mohrbacher builds a world of angels focusing on the surreal and the sublime.
After having worked for many years as an artist in the gaming industry, he is now an independent artist and art mentor. His project, Angelarium, is a world of divine creatures. It started in 2004 as a series of 12 angel portraits. According to Peter Mohrbacher, Angelarium is “a space where we can use metaphor to describe our shared experiences“. The first major release for Angelarium is an art book called ‘The Book of Emanations” that chronicles Enoch’s exploration of the Tree of Life. The Book of Emanations, released on March, was based on an apocryphal Old Testament chapter called “The Book of Enoch.” It is about the journey of Enoch, the only person who has visited heaven before dying. The chronicle of his ascent will be contrasted against the fall of the Grigori, a band of angels that descend to Earth and are ultimately destroyed by their own hubris.
Peter Mohrbacher was interviewed for Learning Mind and talked about his relationship with his art. Enjoy!
Tell us a little about yourself. How did your relationship with illustration begin?
I started drawing seriously when I was 16. I just woke up one morning with the strong urge to make art and it hasn’t ever gone away. It led me to an art school that focused on teaching me to make video games, but the sorts of work that I’m best known for have simply been an exploration of what comes naturally to me.
As you have stated, your true passion is building worlds. How do you interpret this need of yours? Where does it come from?
Even though I’ve been building ideas for worlds as a natural part of my day-to-day for most of my life, I’ve only recently started to unpack the reasons why I like it. It’s always been an escape for me. Wandering away into my imagination has been a method of coping with my difficulty interfacing with the world around me. I’ve always had a hard time socializing and the ability to connect with people through the ideas I put into my art is the most comfortable way for me to interact with them.
In your world both good and evil exist. How is it different from the real world?
I’m not a big fan of good and evil. I’m hoping that once more narrative for my Angelarium project opens up, people will see my view on this more clearly. The figures I illustrate represent concepts that aren’t necessarily positive or negative. Especially in the Sephiroth, they all exist on a continuum that allows for opposing forces like severity/empathy, acceptance/resistance and spirituality/physicality without labeling them as good or bad. People are the same way in my view.
You have described Angelarium as a “metaphor to describe our shared experiences”. In what way is it connected to your life?
When I design these figures, I try to draw on symbols that reflect my own experiences. I want my emotional connection to a concept like “rain” to be as honest as possible because when someone sees an illustration of Matariel, Angel of Rain, they can see those emotions and relate to them. Drawing my feelings on a sheet of paper and then posting them on the internet is a very indirect way to connect with other people, but it’s been one of the most positive experiences in my life.
Depictions of angels have been a classical theme for artists during the ages. Your approach is surrealistic. In your opinion, what is the reason this theme has such a major impact on artists? What kind of impact did it have on you?
I think that people are hard-wired to understand the concept of angels. We’ve always looked to the sky to reflect our experiences in the form of deities. To separate the many facets of ourselves into distinct, external characters, we can tell stories about the conflicts inside ourselves. The process of unpacking these identities and laying them out on paper makes the world feel like an easier place to understand.
Angelarium is a reference to the first phase, the “first chapter” of your creative work as an illustrator. What’s next, after 2015?
I’ve got no plans to do anything else besides Angelarium for a long time. With an almost infinite number of ideas to represent and stories to tell, I could spend the rest of my life making it. Returning to working on it hasn’t felt as much like a return to my beginning as much as it feels like a return to my center. As I continue to change over my life, I’m sure there will be other ideas that will become central enough to me to take priority. But until that happens, I’m going to keep painting angels.
Here are some of Peter Mohrbacher’s works: