Eric Yevak is a Southern-bred, Brooklyn-based visual artist. With a background in music and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), he channels all the aggression associated with these pursuits and captures the moment of purity, which is found so clearly present in his work.

Beautiful Savage spent an afternoon with Yevak in his studio, and discussed the motivations behind his work. He told us about the emotional landscape behind these initially soft, unassuming multi-media pieces, which litter his studio and so successfully arrest the eyes of those who pass them by.

Connect with Eric on his TUMBLR or his INSTAGRAM.

Photos: Lauren Renner

Hillary Sproul: Can you start by just telling me what you do from the ground up?

Eric Yevak: All these images are created digitally, first. I work out hundreds and hundreds of digital designs and I have certain programs that I use that randomize my images. I start off with that. I paint. I upload those images into a computer. I cut them up, reassemble them, and then randomize them. So, I’m going through them and the images are twisting and twisting and twisting and twisting. So, I’m doing that. And then just: change, change, change, change- boom! Until I find an image that hits me hard. It’s this: boom, boom, boom, boom- this! Then I save it out. Then I- then it’s just a matter of getting it from there to the bigger images, there’s printing, I do some collaging. And then from there, I paint, draw. I use sanders to go over it.


So, it’s multi-media, really.

EY: Oh, it’s definitely multi-media. My work itself is rooted in violence. Have you ever been in a fight?

I have.

EY: Me too.


Is that where that stems from? Violence in your own life?

EY: Definitely. I don’t mean that in a judgmental way. Everyone has violence in their lives. Um, I’m a fighter. I train MMA. I teach MMA. But that’s all secondary, that all came later on. So, something, like a lot of this work- to make it a little more understandable- in the midst of a violent encounter, a lot of times there’s a moment where you lose yourself. Where you lose time, you lose your ability, you lose your deadline, it’s gone- you lose it, there’s an otherworldliness, it’s kind of a Zen thing, the same thing happens in sex really, it’s like this moment you’ve lost. It might be an hour, maybe a minute-

It’s a total surrender. You can’t do anything but be present.

EY: Right. And so, this work- because of who I am, how I was raised, the huge amounts of religious training, the huge belief that went with growing up in the South, everything was a struggle- everything has ulterior motives, everything has this kind of- I’m not saying I struggle with that now, I just feel heavy in my sub-conscious. So, this work is all about this moment when opposing forces collide into that perfect balance of force where whether one side loses or one side wins, before the explosion. That instantaneous moment before where everything is perfectly balanced.


It’s like the feeling when things are bubbling up.

EY: It is but it’s like before the bubble explodes. It’s already bubbled up. It’s right here. It’s almost up. But it’s not evil, it’s not good, it’s not pro or white, it’s not- it is just this pure moment. Where a lot of people in our lives… I’m a musician; You’re making music or heavy music or umm, that’s not interesting to me, I’m not trying to get to that- I’m just trying to capture this moment of pure, almost euphoric- I mean, “euphoric” almost has a happiness to it…

Well, I think the goal for achieving euphoria is getting to the place where everything is blank. That’s what people aim for. That sort of perfect balance. “The sage takes the middle path”, right? Finding the middle road? Artists I talk to about whatever they’re doing- whether it be music or film, they’re always trying to marry two halves of something. Which kind of, I guess, is what your work would capture most perfectly- visually. The breaking point right before you find that middle point of total blankness.

EY: It’s when the tension is the greatest. But that tension- that moment is timeless. So, a lot of- you know- if you go out, hearing about meditation or this state of enlightenment that comes through peace. It comes from sitting quietly. And I’ve experienced that, in my opinion, in the midst of intense struggle. I’m sure if I was smarter or more educated, I could get into it. When I was meditating, I’ve gotten to when someone was trying to choke me out, there’s this moment of “I’ve lost myself”. I know that, years ago, I was in a Laundromat with my mom. The clothes spin. So, clothes are spinning. It’s a beautiful, you know. It’s a reddish, taupe-ish, kind of tone. It’s beautiful. It’s soft. But in reality, it’s turmoil. It’s hot, it’s violent, it’s angry, it’s spinning around. It’s this thing but from far away, it’s peaceful. So, that idea has stayed with me for a long time. I was a musician for years. Um, worked in a recording studio for years, played in bands. A lot of this has to do with music. The music I made was very interesting to this sort of style. A lot of reverb. Swirling-


I was going to ask how you would have classified your music.

EY: Yeah, yeah, the whole Mogwai, Bloody Valentine, sort of thing. I grew up in hardcore too. Shoegaze. I also grew up with tons of punk. But indie rock was always my- the bands I mostly was in were guitar, super heavy, super loud but soft, kind of stuff. But yeah, so that mentality of that peaceful, violent, weird juxtaposition- it’s always… Have you ever seen Braveheart?

(laughs) I have actually never seen Braveheart.

EY: Well, there’s this scene where there’s this… Picture this. There’s this scene in all these movies about that period of time when these two armies are clashing and it’s- they run toward each other. It’s horrifying. Horrifying. But right before they clash, there’s this moment of… (takes a deep breath) kind of thing. Or right before they go up over the hill. That’s that moment where everything is serene. You notice the sun and the clouds and it’s just- everything smashes.



Well, there’s a lot of relief in surrender.

EY: But this is before surrender. Surrender is the next moment. When these elements- one actually wins. But this is before one wins. This is before one side’s dominant. This is just “me and him”- if we are fighting. There’s a point where I think I can win. There’s a point where he or she thinks she can win. But this is right when, the moment before.

Is that the last moment of hope?

EY: I think it exists outside of the realm of hope. I think hope is a little more intelligent, a little more understanding. This is a primal thing. Just forces of- the whole point is that you’re not even feeling hope. You’re not even feeling. You’re not thinking. You’re just in this moment.


Yevak is currently working on a show full-format show featuring projection and music. The information for this upcoming event is TBA.