Depicting Violence in the Digital Age: an Interview with Agnikaii

A quick scroll through your favorite social media app can produce videos of state-sanctioned killings, hateful tweets from politicians, tips for disarming an active shooter -- we have become accustomed to violence, broadcasted into our homes and onto our mobile devices. It is now more readily available than ever before.

Such vile reality produces artists like Malik Nelson, also known as Agnikaii,  emerging from the bloodied landscape. His work reflects this digital display of brutality back at us; the collision of living subject matter with gruesome affliction unearths a vision of death and distortion that is both egregious and yet, all too familiar. Malik assaults the senses, utilizing the surgical nature of digital media to form a new-age horror that is equal parts detached and visceral.

We took a second to talk with Malik about these elements and how they meld to form the atmosphere surrounding his haunting works: 

SC: Has it been helpful to create digitally? Does it detract from the work in any way? 

A: “Actually the opposite! Digital work is such a savior for me in both time and sanity. One thing I've learned about being a newer artist is understanding you're simultaneously making mistakes and getting better at covering them. That being said, it's an absolute headache when using permanent/messy mediums like pencil or paint just to get ideas down. Digitally, it's like, ‘ah whatever command Z and pull that line again.’ So when I come to canvas or ink and paper it’s ‘cause I already have it mapped out on my iPad. What a time to be an artist, you know?”

SC: What do you want people to experience when they see your work? 

A: "Nostalgia, ultimately. Most of my inspiration, for style at least, comes from cartoons growing up, specifically Samurai Jack and Avatar. The clean, hard-edge style with cartoon blood is such a pleasing look to me. It's that anime from the 90's typa’ vibe. That feeling when you stayed up late to catch beautifully violent acts airing on Toonami."

SC: What advice would you give to a younger Agnikaii?

A: "Invest in yourself first! Do not get sucked into what everyone likes at the time especially if it's to make money... Trust yourself no matter what ability you're at and make those ideas that you're not applauded for... Don't take the business side too seriously in the beginning to the point you draw the same things for other people constantly without exploring the unknown."

-- Jay Mercado

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