In the so-called Schanigarten of the traditional Viennese café “Sperl”, Sasha welcomes me with a radiant smile and immediately gives me the feeling that we have known each other for ages. After the interview, we will continue to sit and chat “off the record” about his love for pasta, the Belgrade party scene, and his first week in New York, which includes a spontaneous club night with Mickey Rourke - simply because you love to listen to this person. When Sasha sets his mind on something, there is nothing that can dissuade him. Whether it’s the idea of becoming a top basketball player at the age of 14, taking a break from training to do a “casting” to get one of his first modeling jobs at Dolce & Gabbana, or the art that has been with him for so long and to which he now dedicates his time. His new exhibition “The Eternal Return of the Muse” focuses on the muse that accompanies and drives him every day.
Who or what is behind the muse for you?
I find it inspiring to surrender to the muse, to inspiration, in times like this, when many things standstill and there is also a certain fear. I have had the luck to live many lives. This is for me the muse that drives me and leads me on the right path.
What kind of life have you lived so far?
Playing basketball in the Italian first division was a big dream that gave me a lot of self-confidence. During a tournament break, my agent had the idea to do some model casting - one of my first jobs was right away for Dolce & Gabbana. The funniest thing was actually that I had nothing to do with the fashion world at all, I had no idea who Dolce & Gabbana was and I said to Domenico Dolce: “Listen, I’m a basketball player, it’s only off-season now”. But life wanted something else. I stayed in the fashion world for a few years. (laughs!) You said that basketball was your absolute dream.
Was there also something in the fashion world that you were determined to achieve?
Yes, for example, the campaign for Donna Karan’s perfume. That was an incredible experience. Back then, the whole of Times Square was closed for the photoshoot. We were being photographed in the middle of it in a taxi and everything stood still so that we could do our shoot. Those are the moments when the Viennese would say the famous sentence “Zwick’s mi, I man I tram” (meaning: “Please pinch me, I can’t believe it’s true”).
Was there a decisive experience for you, which is why you started to dedicate yourself to your collages?
I have really loved the fashion world for a long time and I am very happy and grateful that all this happened. But after so many years constantly on the plane, always in different places, I felt the need to calm down and process everything I experienced. Art is the perfect tool for this. That is why it was the next logical step for me. I didn’t only make collages on canvas, but also digital and video collages and experimental art projects.
What interests you about collages as an art form?
I love collages because you use something that already exists. It is like recycling on a spiritual level. I believe that everything is actually a collage: our thoughts are a collage mix of what we have experienced and of our imagination. Transformation plays a big role. I try to transform information like propaganda or advertising into art. But I do not only create collages. I work fast and everywhere and have just finished a work that reminds me of my own life. It is called “Cut loose and break free”. I wanted to free the muse from a certain space and let her live somewhere else. It’s more conceptual art, but I think we were born in a frame and if you want to change something, the first step is always to get away from that frame.
On your Instagram profile, you write: “Becoming is more amusing than being”...
You have to fall in love with the process. The process is so interesting and it makes you happy. When you fulfill your dream, you are there, but the way to get there is much more interesting. That is why “becoming is more amusing than being”. It has also a lot to do with the way I deal with art - taking old things and making new things out of them.
How does an artist deal with the situation when, for example, galleries have closed due to Corona and everything comes to a standstill?
Certain obstacles demand our creativity. A standstill or lockdown outside does not mean a lockdown inside – on the contrary, it is necessary to open-up, to question things and act... I have assembled a team that focuses on online sales through my website (sashakneze-vic.com). We also had the opportunity to create a “Virtual Gallery”, which means that people participate “live” in a virtual setting and with one click see and buy the original works and Fine Art Prints or just get inspired and learn more about the artist.
Are you currently working on an exhibition?
I am preparing an exhibition for the “Parallel” with Martin Ho and the Ho Gallery which will be shown in Vienna from 22-27 September. We are also planning a big event together in one of his top locations at the end of November/December.
What does success mean to you?
Success is when you find yourself and go your own way... And love - love is very important! Love means that you are with the people you love. That gives you a basis. And also, when you do something that you love. When you then combine these things, you are already on a pretty good path. I love to make art.
What do you want to accomplish with your art and what is your vision?
I want to inspire people to find their own truth. And show them that it is never too late or too early to reinvent themselves. Now is the time! My vision is to keep the inner child alive, who is curious to experiment and has a lot of fun in life, and to share this energy as often as possible in the world.
Click to watch the online version of exhibition.
Photos: Mato Johannik
Styling: Mike York, Perfect Props Artists
Production: Christoph Steiner
Location: F6 – The open factory.