Reflections on Euphoria: Seana Gavin - ELEPHANT

We ask artists about their experiences with euphoria, finding out what it looks, feels, sounds and tastes like, and how they evoke it in their work. The fifth in a series of six.

The artist in her Studio, 2019. Photography by William Marsden

Seana Gavin overlays images drawn from vintage photographic material to create otherworldly scenes and dreamlike environments.

I relate euphoria to moments when I have felt a connection with the universe and the people on this planet. There were moments at the beginning of my rave and free party background, when it was new and exciting, when I was on a dance floor and had that feeling of energy, tuning in to the music and really losing myself, letting go and losing self-awareness. There was a sense of everyone being a part of something and being connected.

“Euphoria is a warm, glowing feeling, it’s some kind of energy that connects you with everyone”

I can remember a particular night when I was at a free teknival in the Czech Republic. It was around 1996, and it was the beginning of a summer of travel across Europe. It was very exciting at the time and felt like a real adventure. On the Saturday night I remember being outside: it was a warm summer evening, I was by the sound system, and the music was playing. I felt that this was exactly what I’d been waiting for, this was what I wanted to live for. It was an extreme high feeling. When I left that scene in 2003, there was definitely a thought of, “Can I ever feel that again?”

Seana Gavin, Liberty Sunset, 2017

Since then the moments where I have felt those kinds of sensations in my daily existence have been when I’m connecting to nature. I’ve always been interested in astronomy, and it might come from watching a solar eclipse or a super moon, or seeing a giant rainbow appear in front of me. Those are the moments that I feel this connection to something higher than myself, and it gives a sense of purpose and meaning, and motivation to live.

“Encountering euphoria in a party or rave setting is all about being with other people, but with nature it’s more personal and introverted”

I once visited a good friend in Norway and on the flight back I was looking out the window at the front of the plane. As we approached the UK, I felt as though I turned into a bird and had this bird’s-eye view of the world. I was totally absorbed by it, and as I looked out this double rainbow appeared and encircled the plane. I was overwhelmed at the beauty of it. I think I actually had tears in my eyes because it was such a moving moment.

Seana Gavin, Entrance to Paradise, 2011

Euphoria is a warm, glowing feeling, it’s some kind of energy that connects you with everyone around you. I started meditating when I was about 18, and when I was in these very deep states I would have a similar feeling, this energy rushing through my body. It’s the experience of losing your identity for a moment. For me, encountering euphoria in a party or rave setting is all about being with other people, but with nature it’s more personal and introverted.

In my collage work, some of the environments and landscapes I create have a sense of utopia to them. For a long time, I produced a Heaven and Hell series, and Heaven gave the sense of walking into the Garden of Eden, this exaggerated paradise. I like viewers of my work to feel like they’re physically entering a space, and I definitely intend for them to have possibly euphoric feelings when they’re looking at my work. But sometimes my pieces have a darker side, which could be a leftover from my experimentation with psychedelics in my youth. These moments can subconsciously influence my work. I think in life you can’t appreciate the highs without the lows, it’s important to have both.

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