Self-taught artist’s choice to anonymity: “I live my art”

Exclusive interview | Oum Kultuv (Artist and Photographer)

Artist Oum Kultuv's art is driven by anonymity. In a world that orbits towards self-exposure, the self-taught artist chooses to go by a stage name and keep her real name to herself. By eliminating her identity, she aims to immerse herself completely into her artwork and create a unique stand-alone expression free of categorial restraints.

In this interview, Oum Kultuv speaks about her choice to work anonymously, her experimental approach to art, and a life-changing encounter with the members of the Tenrikyo religion in Japan.

Oum Kultuv 

Why Oum decides to make herself anonymous 

“I was born to immigrants from Iraq and it was difficult for my parents. I grew up with my grandmother together with my uncles and aunts. At the age of 3, my aunt brought me my first color kit. It made me feel like a magician, this was the only thing I had control over, that I could do whatever I wanted.”

From then on, Oum was constantly painting and exploring her artistic potential in a lot of art forms.

Despite her many talents, Oum does not create art for fame. She keeps her identity obscure by staying away from social media and doesn’t use her real name in public. She chooses to remain anonymous so that her audience appreciates only the art and not the name that comes with it.

“I care very much about my privacy, I have no desire to walk down the street and be recognized. I do have a desire for my things to be published, but not to be exposed, I just want to create. Artists usually have their own style. I jump from one thing to another and I live my art.”

Breaking boundaries through experimentation

For Oum Kultuv, her art is a way of constantly breaking her boundaries and creating something new.

As a result, Oum Kultuv constantly experiments with new material and techniques. She builds her projects by hand, which often consists of thousands of small pieces of material. Since everything is made by hand, each piece can take several weeks and sometimes even several months to complete.

To Oum Kultuv, any substance can become something if you give it enough love and energy. She believes that anything you invest in will flourish and will distribute back.

“I think what excites me is coming up with a new technique that solves a problem for me. How to create something from garbage, from nothing.”

Happy masks \Corona protection. My muse session number 3 – 2020. Oum Kultuv Production: photography, Photoshop, face makeup, jewelry design.  Model: Kelly Kelly

One of Oum’s favorite works is “the Mask Project” 2013. Intrigued by the masks of different cultures, she started to create a series of virtual masks for special artists. She transforms the artist character through her vision, after having an interview about the story of the artist's life she built the makeover, through scanning textures, paintings, and materials.

Back to her interest in masks, she displays focused on the uses of masks. Oum began working on this new project before the outbreak of the pandemic In Israel.

Happy masks project – February 2020. One piece mask

“When I started working on this project, the virus was still a rumor and it hadn’t evolved to the point where everyone was wearing masks yet. It was Purim, and my model friend Kelly and I dressed up as a virus and a nurse with a syringe and that's how we went to Tel Aviv. And somehow it evolved into a series about masks.”

Kelly is Oum’s muse. “I am photographing her, painting her face, I made the textiles and masks and did the styling. I’m feeling that I am photographing a beautiful bird in nature while filming her. I can change her character, countless times, each session brings a different style.”

Face mask painting- My muse session number 2 -2019. Model: Kelly Kelly

Japan inspiration: Hokusai, Tenrikyo wisdom, and the jumping project

Oum cites Japan as one of her inspirations. She is deeply fascinated with the Japanese spirit of craftsmanship and reinvention.

“An artist that I love is Hokusai, and the famous image of the waves. He has an interesting story. He wanted to live many years so that he could be better and learn well and he reinvented himself at the age of 80 after his house and works had been burned In a fire. And according to the stories, he and his daughter fled with only a paintbrush In their hands. In Japan, there are a lot of masters, whether in goldsmithing, ceramics, any kind of creation there is. If I had won the lottery I would have gone to learn from masters in Japan. Learning different techniques is something that interests me a lot.”

Although she did not win the lottery, in 2013, Oum was able to travel to Japan using funds from selling works In her studio and Any objects she could sell includes sacrifice a collection of vinyl records she had been collecting for many years.

״I traveled alone for a year. I was traveling without a smartphone, only with my laptop and I would search the internet at Starbucks to check things out. every day I went outside to take photos and explore my neighbourhood and surroundings.״

“Jump Project by oum kultuv” 2013

One of her most enriching experiences was an encounter with members of the Tenrikyo religion. She discovered the Tenrikyo after falling in love with their temple and soon began living with the adherents and learning their outlook on life.

״I saw and photographed their whole being, it was crazy. Their idea is to drain all the negative energy and replace it with good energy. I can relate to it because I believe that my art gives certain energies that inspire and delight.״

In Japan, Oum worked on various projects, including the ״jumping project״ where she would approach similarly dressed groups of people or people in an interesting situation, ask them to jump and photograph them.

“Jump Project by oum kultuv ” 2013

Oum Kultuv's next dream

Oum is planning to return to Japan, once COVID-19 travel regulations are lifted.

״I would like to do an exhibition at a museum in Japan. I went once to an exhibition of Tim Burton and I told myself I wanted an exhibition just like that. It showed pictures he painted back in high school. In the end, there is a souvenir shop with cups and keychains with his creations. I also want to do more design, fashion design is a field that is very interesting to me.

I go out every day to work with my masks and people get really excited about them. I like to present my projects live and see the reactions of the people. There's something about interacting with my audience that I really like.

The interaction of people with me and my art teaches me a lot. Their response to what I create helps me examine myself as a better artist, it makes me more open.״

The Mask Project

Oum Kultuv