Inspired by horror manga, the futuristic animations and illustrations of California-based artist, Daylen Seu, have a similarly nightmarish aesthetic. Motifs of clawed fingers and bared teeth on often-fragmented bodies sit alongside other reoccurring elements of chains and dark backdrops. Characters crawl, contort and tear apart in their warped and strange surroundings.
It’s a style, however, that Daylen says partly comes from her “cheesy” taste. “Friends often recommend things to me thinking that I’ll like it, and they’re usually right,” she jokes. Horror manga being one of those things, she explains that her fascination with it stems from the “interesting, but so over the top and dramatic, visualisations of mindsets and emotions,” that the genre is known for. “I see why people view my style as dark, but that’s really all I’m doing – I’m just being dramatic.”
Modest as she may be about her practice, Daylen’s striking aesthetic recently caught the attention of acclaimed composer and producer, Daniel Lopatin AKA Oneohtrix Point Never. Tasked with making a music video for The Station, a track from his album Age Of on which he collaborated with James Blake, Daylen created a beautifully gothic animation that perfectly accompanies Lopatin’s obscured, downbeat vocals.
“It was my first time making a music video so I put a lot of pressure on myself, although Daniel was pretty relaxed and trusting. I had a lot of freedom with the video; it only had to match to the album’s concept of four epochs, mine being the ‘Age of Bondage’,” Daylen says of the experience. “The story and design concepts were entirely up to me, and I quickly went into production with not much space for changes to be made. Knowing what I know now, I would have gone about the process completely differently, but I learned a lot, both in terms of technical skills and communication.”
Elsewhere in her practice, Daylen’s concepts are closely linked with her own life: “My ideas are mainly based on things I’ve wanted to say or do but have been too scared to,” she says. “I’m tapping into repressed anger.” Though clearly a great source of artistic inspiration, she tells us that she is steadily removing this element from her creative process through “just being a more communicative person in real life”.
It’s not only her own experiences that inform her work, however. As exemplified in her short film Gawi, in which she attempts to depict the stages of sleep paralysis, Daylen draws anecdotal influence from others: “I like to lead my audience through dream-like states by exploring specific moments like hallucinations," she says. "With Gawi, people who suffer from sleep paralysis have told me that they felt it captured the experience perfectly.”
This notion of capturing and communicating a moment in time is evident in most of Daylen’s art and, when she feels the need to flesh out a specific scene, is the reason why many of her illustrations become animations. “When I’m illustrating, I try to insinuate a whole story with a single image and hope that the audience will pick up on the visual direction that I’m trying to set up,” she explains. “But when I’m animating, it’s because I have an idea that’s worth investing a lot of time into and will greatly benefit from movement, sound, music etc.”
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