Wizards, frog princes and anthropomorphic flowers will infiltrate all corners of the Classic City this weekend by way of 17-year-old artist and performer Jeremy Kiran Fernandes’ fantastical cover illustration for the new Flagpole Guide to Athens.
Born into a family of creative individuals, Fernandes began showing an inclination towards the arts not long after learning to walk and talk. His father, John Fernandes, is a member of the Elephant 6 Collective who runs the label Cloud Recordings, has worked at Wuxtry Records for nearly 20 years and has performed with an astounding number of bands not limited to The Olivia Tremor Control, Circulatory System, Lavender Holyfield and The New Sound of Numbers. Kiran Fernandes’ mother, Laura Glenn, is an original founder of the Orange Twin Conservation Community, as well as a writer, dancer and licensed massage therapist who owns the bodywork and movement studio Somaspace.
From an early age, Fernandes has shared his psychedelic illustrations through craft markets, album covers and concert flyers. In 2016, he was selected as one of four high-school students to assist David Hale in the creation of the downtown mural “Birdsong,” which was commissioned by AthFest Educates to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the AthFest Music and Arts Festival. This spring, he completed a 4-by-8-foot painting for Art Decko, a public art project installed in the College Avenue parking deck—a detail of which appears on this week’s cover of Flagpole.
Flagpole: How did you first become interested in the arts? What are a few of your earliest memories of making artwork?
Kiran Fernandes: I’ve been interested in the arts since I was very small. My parents said they would always find me drawing, and my dad has a memory from when I was 3 years old that he came home from work to find my drawings covering the entire kitchen floor. I have many memories of selling drawings at fairs and drawing people as monsters, or as I called it, “monsterization.”
FP: What roles have your parents, other family members or close family friends played in helping you develop as an artist and musician over the years?
KF: My parents have had a huge impact in their incredible support of my work throughout my life. My dad has shared my work a lot throughout my life so that now I find I have more opportunities and connections, and my mother has been vital in grounding me and reminding me that what I output does not define me, and has given me a lot of honest advice. My childhood was filled with so many creative people that would talk to me as another person, rather than just a child—who are often not given a voice until they grow older.
Playing music has been quite a recent development in the past three to four years. It started when my dad bought a loop pedal and I started messing with it, making weird sounds with my voice and clanging marimbas and things into the loops along with it. I’d often hear my dad in the other room encouraging me as I explored and played with sound. It’s interesting, because I started very experimental and am becoming less so, which I find many musicians go the other way around.
FP: How would you describe your creative process? Do you start out with a clear plan in mind, or do you let your subconscious guide you through?
KF: It really depends. Sometimes a whole image or song will pop into my head and I will try to realize it as close as I can, but other times I start with a line with no idea and try to ride the flow.
FP: Who or what would you consider to be some of the most significant influences on your aesthetic, recurring imagery or overall style?
KF: I am fascinated by dreams and the mind’s natural tendency to compose images in my mind’s eye. I think my style comes from a very active ability to see faces and forms in things. When I was a young kid, this led to me being quite scared of the dark, because a wrinkled towel could become the most grotesque demon, but I find as I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to channel that fear into curiosity. My biggest influences include Jim Henson, David Lynch, TaiyÅ Matsumoto, Jan Švankmejer and Eleanor Davis, while my biggest musical influences are Terry Riley, Neutral Milk Hotel, Broadcast and John Fahey.
FP: What have been your most challenging or impactful projects so far?
KF: The most challenging was definitely the Art Decko panel, as I had never painted before and had never done anything near that size, and although I now know things I would do differently, I’m very proud of myself for putting myself out of my comfort zone.
FP: You are currently in England. What have you been doing there? Any fun highlights from this summer?
KF: I was staying with my aunt at her farm for about a month, with many lovely meditations in the woods and swims in the sea. I then visited a community called Tinkers Bubble that lives without fossil fuels and lives off the land, which was amazing! Then I went to a festival called Buddhafield, which was also incredible! So many amazing people and beautiful ceremonies. I am now currently in a pub in Dartmoor about to start my trek across the countryside.
FP: Do you have any plans in the works for when you return to Athens?
KF: I have too many plans, honestly! I plan on co-writing a play called The Ear That Was Sold to a Fish with my friend Javier Romero, continue to make music, and I also have [a] vision for a film down the line. I currently only play solo, but often have people join me onstage.
FP: Now that you are finished with high school, do you hope to continue with a formal education? Would you like to pursue art as a professional career?
KF: I think I might go to college for film at some point, as I have discovered that is a huge passion I have—to make these films I have in my head—but I have no experience with film. I would like to continue as an artist, but I am wary at the moment to take on more commissions, as I think I would like to focus more on my own ideas for now.
FP: How do you think Athens as a community could be more supportive of artists, particularly young or beginning artists?
KF: Athens is strange, because all of the music scene is dependent on one thing: alcohol. This is frustrating for many reasons, one of them being I love going to shows, but am sometimes not allowed in because of my age. I understand the laws in place, but I do find it irritating that local music has been only funded [by] drinking culture. It would be amazing if more shows could be in venues more welcome to a younger crowd, with less influence on drinking.
Pick up a copy of this year’s Flagpole Guide to Athens starting Friday, Aug. 3 at one of 350 locations around town.
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