The following article was published in N-SPHERE September 2012 issue.


Name: Jon Macnair

Location: Portland, Oregon, USA

Occupation: Artist/Illustrator

Definition of personal sphere: My work is a conglomeration of different influences and inspirations that have accumulated in my brain since I was a little kid. It’s hard to define all those exactly, or rather, it would take a long time. All those things have been filtered through my eyes and the way in which I view the world. The end result is my artwork. I don’t expect people to fully understand my art, what it means or why I do it. If I knew the answers to those questions, I probably wouldn’t be creating things in the first place. Making art is what I love to do, and I don’t like to over analyze it. I try to avoid measuring success in monetary terms or fame, but more so whether people can connect with the work and get something from it, whatever that may be.

Artwork in 4 words: Narrative, mythic, ominous, otherworldly

What is inspirational for you: Nature, myths, imaginary creatures, ancient civilizations, Renaissance art, surrealism

Currently favourite artists: Harry Clarke, Alfred Kubin, John Vassos

Tools of trade: Pen, ink, brush, paper, watercolors, pencil

Current obsessions: Russian fairy tales, Bela Bartok, terrariums

Personal temptation: Bookstores


Artwork: Jon Macnair. 2008. No Bad Deed Goes Unpunished. Courtesy of the artist.

Full article here.



The following article was published in N-SPHERE September 2012 issue.


I have seen Letters from a dead man (1986) by Russian director Konstantin Lopushanski after a brief review exchange of messages what some call »posthumanism« and I may say it was an inspired choice.

Konstantin Lopushanski‘s full length debut is a post-apocalyptic tale revolving around a small group of »temporary survivors« living in a museum bunker (interesting location and I will get back to you on that). Of course, dozens of films revolving around apocalypse have been made, some of which I have seen, some of which I have not and many of which I don’t intend to, but none of them caught my attention as this one did.

First of all, unlike other films I have seen, revolving around the same topic, Letters from a dead man is strikingly realistic. Many of them claim and even seem, but there is always something »prefabricated« about them (either the annoyingly pompous soundtrack, some unnecessary love-stories or an even more annoying over-dramatization). Lopushanski has made a deliberately depressive and…oppressive motion picture that takes away all the »little joys« and yet, prevents you from walking away (unless of course, this kind of films are not your taste. Somehow, it is quite predictable, because, as I said before, everything in this film is extremely believable, starting with the characters. There are no prophets here, no misunderstood geniuses, no strange beauties, but ordinary people put face to face with an extreme situation. And this is  what makes the film effective.

This is not to say that Letters from a dead man (or any other  Lopushanski film) lacks its poetry or its spiritual dimension, but whereas in Tarkovskys case, for example, such notions are coined simply to describe his films’ approach, here the poetic tone is far more discreet. I chose Tarkovsky for two obvious reasons: it is impossible not to see similarities between the works of the two directors and also Lopushanski assisted on the filming of Stalker.

In both Lopushanski and Tarkovsky‘s films spirituality goes hand in hand with religion and actually one can say that they form a single organism and I feel it would be the right moment to make several distinctions here. People often misunderstood and misused religion so when one would hear that a certain director’s movies are »deeply religious«, one would most likely tend to get the wrong impression.

Throughout history, some religions were used as socio-political weapons: some people were told what to or (more precisely) not to embrace and some others were busy making those lists. And moving further with this, some people believed that those giving orders had the voice of »god« inside them, others felt/knew/stated that this was all a charade. Given this particular equation, some people will consider their religion to be their god’s hand at work, others will believe that it is just another word for keeping people in line, making them easier to manipulate. (ironically, you don’t have to create a story to do this, not now at least, and I’m sure that then there were also simpler ways. There is always the nice lady telling you what to buy and so forth). What is missing from the sentences above? Amusingly enough, religion. Cause neither of cases deals with religion actually, but with some decisions being made by a group of people. I believe that the only viable starting point is history and not the one you were taught as a young lad, not history as a series of notable events with time-stamp markers. But history as a »museum« if you may. One that is timeless and encapsulates our »spirit«. In this case, religion is not longer this bureaucratic or political, not at all, in this case we have stories and symbols that best describe a group of people. In my opinion, religion was never about what was should or should not do, was never about one being blindly obedient to an a priori entity. People made it about that. I hardly believe that an entity beyond my powers of comprehension would need my obedience, as I hardly believe that a demiurge would sit and coach his own creation.

And this »timelessness« is what I have seen long ago in Tarkovsky‘s works (well, most of them) and what I am seeing in Lopushanski as well. Were it more »precise« than this, it would have been mechanical and meaningless.

I have mentioned early in the article that Letters from a dead man revolves around a group of people who survived after a nuclear meltdown (at least this is what it seems) and  living in a museum bunker. The location is not random and Lopushanski will use it again in his next feature film, Visitor of a museum which deals pretty much with the same topic. The museum in both cases acts as a portal, it is exactly the kind of »museum« I was talking about earlier.

There is another key element in the film: the children. They seem frail, but they display tremendous inner strength, in spite of having witnessed such atrocities. I wrote »key element« because for me. Letters from a dead man is not as pessimistic as it seems and even if nearly everything in the film seems to point towards imminent demise, the children carry out the hope that humanity will not end with this catastrophe. They are portrayed in a quiet manner, many things about them we hint and feel rather than see. There is also a strange, innate coldness about them somehow suggesting the idea of not being born(of course not to be taken literally, but rather by not being used to wallow in greed, vanity, cheap ideas and so forth). The same idea can be seen in Lopushanski‘s latest effort the 2006 adaptation of the Strugatsky brothers’ novel The Ugly Swans, but in this case everything is far more visible.

Returning to Letters…, the film is also a horrific future-mirror of a less-horrific present-world, a world currently ruled by greed, by excuses for greed, shallow punch lines and many other »beauties«. Actually, what is frightening about this film is that a catastrophe like the one there CAN actually HAPPEN.

All in all, Lopushanski is a worthwhile director, especially for those who admire Tarkovsky‘s work and are able to see the differences between the two, not only the similarities. I, for one, am eager to see the rest of his movies, because – so far – for me, they worked. Hopefully, they will work for you,  as well.

by Shade

photo | The Ugly Swans. 2006. Movie still

Full article here.