Ouija by DZO

The mysterious French artist known as DZO is unparalleled in his ability to conjure up a world with his pen.

His dynamic drawings are incredibly complex. They swirl with archetypal figures, animal totems and symbols that threaten to burst off the page.

While they exude chaotic energy at first glance, deeper study reveals that they explore the history of life on this planet.

Beneath the exquisite glimpses DZO offers into a disordered subconscious is his mission to communicate the sacredness of nature.

With the balance of humans’ relationship to the planet nearly at the breaking point, and the issue of climate change largely overshadowed by the global pandemic, DZO offers an extremely provocative perspective on where we are and what needs to shift.

You are an artiphist, a drawinker, a commercial designer and a parent living in the south of France. How has your daily life changed since the spread of Covid 19?

My life hasn’t really changed. I’m used to working at home and being isolated. The only difference was to live around the clock with my family members. Fortunately, we get along well.

The other precaution concerns travel and the obligation to take care not to bring the virus home. So we have greatly reduced our mobility.

What is life in southern France like right now? Are most people staying home? Are public places closed? Are there shortages?

No shortages. In fact, the south of France is relatively little affected.

People more or less follow the instructions because some of them are confined to small apartments. It’s difficult to stick together in small spaces while remaining respectful of each other for 2 months.

Public places are closed and the police distribute fines. The instructions were not always very clear. Our government is very amateurish and responds to rules dictated by the lobbies.

A New York Times article on April 29 stated that French President Emmanuel Macron and his administration are facing similar criticisms as Trump for failing to respond quickly to the spread of the virus. With the fifth highest death toll in the world, testing and supply shortages, and delayed steps to close down public spaces, Macron’s approval rating has plummeted. This week the Prime Minister announced that schools and many businesses excepting restaurants will begin reopening May 11 with a push for many more people to get tested for Covid 19. “We are on a knife’s edge. I am having to choose between bad decisions,” Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe said before parliament passed the resolution to reopen. What is your perception of how the government in France is handling the pandemic? Is France ready to reopen?

My opinion is that we have a government plagued by lobbies. All the decisions taken refer only to the economic system from the start. No truly humane and empathetic decision was made.

What you do not see but you will understand very well, given what is happening in your country, is that a large part of the media is in the pay of an oligarchy which decides life and death on our elected officials. We have a country so corrupt that every decision taken is questioned or criticized.

This lack of confidence is unmanageable for a government that ultimately makes decisions only to strengthen the power of the most powerful.

France is ready to reopen, but at the expense of a large number of lives, only to relaunch work. This decision is a strong indicator for social movements: the oligarchy can only work by enslaving the people. If we decide not to work anymore, this kind of government collapses. They will do everything to force the people to return to work and to continue to enrich themselves on the backs of the weakest.

Dark Virgin by DZO

France’s test shortage became apparent when a gathering of 2,000 worshippers in Mid-February in an evangelical church in eastern France resulted in a major outbreak that spread far beyond the church. Your work incorporates a lot of religious symbolism, espcially in pieces such as the Dark Virgin. What are your thoughts about the role of organized religion in our world?

Many of my works use heterodox codes. That is to say anti-dogma codes!

I am not against religion but against the hegemony of a single religion. I cannot stand the systems of domination and the obscurantist will to proclaim the superiority of one belief over another.

I believe that faith is a real power available to everyone. But from the moment that this belief is oriented in one way, then faith is perverted.
This is why I like to divert the symbolic codes by reversing them. I try to appropriate them in the same way as most religions do by diverting the deep meaning of symbols.

So, I am not a follower of organized religions. I am for the freedom to think and believe as long as it does not harm anyone.

As a self proclaimed artiphist and a proponent of the noosphere philosophy, the belief that a third stage of evolution based on human cognition and reason is beginning, what is your perception of the pandemic as it affects global thought? Is this period going to help the human population grow mentally, set us back or neither? Can positive things come of this great shared trauma?

I am also a follower of theories of collapse and very involved in several ecological movements. The pandemic will affect everyone mentally. It’s obvious. We are branded with a hot iron even if more violent thunderstorms are preparing.

However, I’m very afraid that people will be totally addicted to the notion of normality. There is a serious culture problem all over the world and too much bad information circulating. It’s a very long subject to talk about!

All I can say is that this pandemic has shown the limits of our system and its fragility. It also revealed the level of corruption of our leaders who don’t care about life while their own lives are at stake.

But as in any event, we evolve little by little. I think that some people will try to change their lifestyle to become less dependent on this system. This is what I deeply desire: sufficient awareness to balance the power of the raptors who rule the world. They can be called pyromaniac firefighters.


What role (if any) does art and the artist have at a time of crisis?

Art is a predisposition to see the world without preconceptions and without limits. Most artists have a critical sense that allows them to see beyond the world of illusions. Their ability to create is another form of power, a counterweight. Only money can pervert this ability to think about the world after.

Has your creative process been affected during this time? Are you making art? If you are making art, what have you been working on?

My creative process was not affected as I apply this creative force to several types of projects. I can express it with drawing and ink, but pictorial art is not the only form of creativity.

For the past year, I have been working on trees through reforestation projects.

Of course, image creation is a pillar of the process but the goal is bigger, more sincere. I work on the environment the same way I would design an illustration.

This period of covid allowed me to be even closer to this project and to refine it to do my part in the fight against climate change.

This project is called arboretoom and applies a Japanese method of planting. One of the goals is to change the way people look at trees and biodiversity.

I believe very strongly in the emergence of a “sylvilisation” (civilization of trees).

Have you been reflecting on or do you intend to reflect on the pandemic in your art? Why or why not?

Not at all. For me the pandemic is just a small, unimportant jolt. She is nothing compared to the world that awaits us if we decide to move forward as before.

This is why I prefer to devote part of my time to creating living spaces rather than just drawing.

However, my art is largely influenced by the organic and plant world. This orientation makes perfect sense.


Masks feature prominently in your work. Granted the masks you are drawing are ceremonial and mystical in nature, rather than utilitarian. With the growing ubiquity of face masks in public spaces, I’m more than usually aware of masks as a symbol of fear of contagion. I must admit I’m a bit jealous of the Plague Doctor masks that were worn by those facing Black Death starting in the seventeenth century which ignite the imagination more than the face masks of today. What do masks represent in your work and have you reconsidered their meaning in light of what they might symbolize to people now?

Nice remark! the masks release. Behind a mask, everything is possible.

They change the way others look at themselves and cultivate the notion of secrecy. They can also trigger the emotions one is looking for from observers.

However, they also hide our true personality. We hide behind a mask to display deep desires without being recognized, expressing discomfort or the desire to be someone else. Behind a mask, everything is easier but everything is just an illusion.

During the pandemic, these masks have a basic, purely technical role. That said, they also reveal other symbolic expressions: shut up, choke, stop communicating with each other, don’t share, don’t smile, be afraid and wear this mask so everyone will remember.

While useful, they are also a powerful tool for separating people and breaking social ties.

When the rupture is acquired, it is easier for any power to direct the spirits in the desired direction.

Often you put pen to paper with no pencil sketch or concrete plan and let the drawing flow where it wants to go. Are you influenced at all by the automatic drawings of the spiritualists in the nineteenth century who were supposed to be guided by spirits or the automatic drawings of the surrealists in the early twentieth century who were guided by their subconscious? What do you like about this process? Do you think your work is revelatory? Has anything that’s come out recently surprised you?

This process is very important to me. I actually discovered that when I draw like this, I get into a kind of light but real trance. These are secondary states found in yoga, meditation, self-hypnosis, shamanic journeys …
And indeed from time to time, these drawings are revealing and express archetypes.

Archetypes being universal symbols constituting our unconscious, it is logical that by letting them appear, they express universal ideas. So I sometimes find in my drawings mythological information that was unknown to me.

I think spiritualism was a fairly similar method of meeting archetypes and visiting our inner selves. And that of others for the most gifted!

Gaia Calling by DZO

Many of your drawings including Gaia Calling and Dryades affirm the sacredness of nature. You’ve also created drawings on animal bone. With travel and commuting largely shut down due to the pandemic, emissions are plummeting world wide. There are images in cities around the world of wild animals exploring urban environments that have emptied. Unfortunately, any gains for the environment now are expected to be temporary. What can we take away from this period to heal the damage we have caused? And do you have hope that people will take environmental issues more seriously in the future?

I expressed it a little further back. Links with Nature and the desire for a human civilization in total harmony with Nature is my only wish. I hope these questions will be at the center of everything, but I doubt it as long as the power is in the hands of finance.

We have to get out of consumption systems and review our notion of comfort.

Nature is sacred, indeed, and it will not fail to remind us of this. The pandemic is one example. Let’s remind ourselves every day of a key idea: Mother Earth will still be there when man is gone. We are not fighting for it but the survival of our species.

Unfortunately, some self-centered individuals act only for themselves at the expense of others.

Are there any supplies or tools that you rely on or would like to have but are currently struggling to get?

No, no problem about that. In any case, I am not ordering anything right now. Moving a delivery man for unnecessary purchases is out of the question. I do with what I have.

Goat Skull by DZO

Did you have any planned showcases that have been postponed or cancelled? Or were there any art shows that you were looking forward to attending?

I’m not looking to exhibit. I must admit that even social networks are starting to annoy me. Finally, I let fate decide and I sometimes seize a few opportunities if these are innovative or stimulating.

Have you been able to continue commercial graphic design work during this time? Has your financial situation been affected by the spread of Covid-19?

I continued to do graphic design during this period but I have a lot of clients in the cultural community who are severely impacted.

Indeed, my financial situation is more complicated but I started to adapt to this world of collapse a few years ago. So I have fewer needs and therefore, I am less fragile than others.

Surprisingly, the secret of the universe, the less I search, the more I find!

What can we do to support your work at this time?

I am very grateful for the people who love my work. It is important to me that they understand that everything I do converges towards my environmental commitment.

Right now, the environment is taking over because the stakes are much higher.

I count on you to continue to appreciate the work done and to decipher it.
An intense period of drawing will surely return in due time!

Huge thanks to DZO for doing this interview.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think about DZO’s assertion that this pandemic is a blip and the bigger storm is coming…

To see more of DZO’s work, visit his website or his Behance page and follow him on Instagram.

Prints are available through Mae Gallery and through his website here.