Ikaro Cavalcante captures nostalgia and escapism through color ✹
In a Q&A, the Brazil-based artist shares how their experiences in the gaming world transformed their art practice.
Ikaro Cavalcante, known as “occulted” on the internet, grew up in the world of RPGs, playing games in the LAN houses and cyber cafes of Brazil in the 2000s. Ikaro sold their first digital works in 2021 with the support of Mint Fund, a community-owned initiative that helps BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ artists enter the web3 space. Since then, they have continued to exhibit works and support other artists from the Global South.
The below conversation between Ikaro Cavalcante and Gemma cofounder Eileen Isagon Skyers explores Ikaro’s Founding Artist Edition for Gemma, titled “Absorption,” which you can mint now. They also share how their fascination with MMORPG games and immersive landscapes helped them discover their own ability to materialize new worlds.
Eileen Isagon Skyers: I read that you often draw from memories of your childhood and adolescence to inform your digital art practice. How does your past find its way into your work?
Ikaro: I have been experimenting with digital art since I was a teenager, using Photoshop in LAN houses (cyber cafes). In Brazil in the 2000s, people couldn’t afford home computers, so I spent much of my childhood in these cafes. Living in the world of RPGs, I realized slowly that I could create these images and spaces of my own. Everyone talks about the metaverse today like it’s something totally new, but for ten years or so, I was immersed in the digital landscapes of games like Mu Online, Priston Tale, or Diablo.
I was always trying to capture the nostalgia of how I felt when I was gaming, and how it offered an escape from the fragile parts of my childhood. I lived through a lot of situations with my mom, who had a lot of health issues when I was younger. And I was trying to express this somehow—trying to create an aesthetic that could capture these feelings. I felt like it was completely natural for me to represent them on the computer. In the beginning it was more experimental, but now I feel it’s more conceptually driven.
What are some of your key influences?
Games are still a huge source of inspiration for me nowadays. Gaming, graphic design, and my friends in the artistic community here in Brazil. I started tattooing, which helped me understand myself as an artist. It was also through tattooing that I got connected with various scenes in Brazil—like the art scene, queer scene, and performance scene. Even when I was tattooing, I was doing flash pieces that connected with internet culture, and making digital collages.
Can you tell me more about the work you’ve created for Gemma, Absorption? How did it come to fruition?
I feel like I am always working with the same root elements. Normally, I use ZBrush and Blender and then Photoshop for layering and coloring. For this piece, I was studying the corpse flower, which only opens once every year or two. I found that really interesting and wanted to create my own bloom. Visually, I was trying to simulate two-dimensional distortion in a 3D plane, so I experimented with a lot of glass textures. I played with blurring effects and scratch layers to shift the viewer’s perception of reality.
It seems like color has been a consistent through-line in your practice—there are always vibrant reds and purples that are contrasted with metallics and then some illustrative line work. How are you thinking about color?
I have always been drawn to the color red. Ever since I was young, I’ve worked a lot with reds, worn red clothes, and even my red hair is red. The color is really connected with my identity somehow. Lately I have been introducing tones of green and yellow as well, slowly building a whole color scheme. It’s an experimental process, but I am trying to build up layers to create impact. When I feel this sense of impact, that’s when I press the render button.
Can you describe your experience in the web3 space thus far? What are you hoping to see come from it?
The web3 space has shown me that I didn't need to immigrate to find success through my art. Mint Fund actually helped me with gas fees to begin my practice in the space. In early 2021, Ethereum gas fees were around $200 to $300, which was really expensive. When I learned about Mint Fund, I was finally able to afford to mint my work. I was thrilled because I found a community that truly valued my art. I literally didn't even know how to speak English before entering the NFT space. Now, I have learned to express myself and share more about my art in an entirely new language.
“Hidden Gems” are beautiful, rare, or meaningful finds from across the internet. Ikaro Cavalcante suggests you look into:
💧 The Tomb Index by David Rudnick, which details each of the 177 Tombs of the Tomb Series in a 248 page hardcover book, printed in a unique 6 color process.
💧 Patterns by Nicolas Sassoon
Gemma is an emerging community co-inhabited by artists, curators, and contributors with a shared vision for how culture can shape our future. This summer Gemma is releasing weekly open editions from our Founding Artists, which you can mint here. Subscribe and follow us on Instagram and Twitter to be notified about new drops.