Setken is an Australian Kemetic artist creating devotional and occult works in tribute to the Netjeru – The Old Gods of Ancient Egypt.
His works are occult, pop, traditional yet experimental; and vibrate with a shamanic intensity. With Setken using his art to commune directly with his Gods.
Indeed art plays a pivotal role in Setken’s life and religious practice. With his works stemming from and additional to his meditations, rituals and dreams.
Wanting to get to know him better, we sent Setken some questions to answer over email.
Take a dive into his world below…
Name + D.O.B?
City, State and Country you currently call home?
Naarm / Melbourne, Victoria/ the Kulin nation, Australia.
City, State and Country you’re from?
Adelaide, Kaurna /South Australia, Australia.
Please describe some memories – such as art, music, friendships, adventures, study, romance, politics, work, crime, religion… Anything really – from the stages of your life noted below:
* Your childhood:
An earliest memory is my little finger on my right hand being jammed in a gate and deforming it, evidence of which is still visible to this day. I recall the excruciating pain but little else.
I had been playing on the gate with my sisters.
The deformed finger looked a little bit like a bum, and rather cruelly earned me the nickname “bumfinger” as I grew up.
* Your teenage years:
I was an uneasy teenager. My true antinomian self was trying to emerge amidst the mantle of wanting to please everyone and be a “good boy”.
The former won and I started dying my hair (usually black) and wearing weird clothes.
I still love unusual clothes to this day and will wear – if sophisticated enough – edgy gear. I don’t dress like a typical Aussie bloke and this started back then.
* Your 20s:
I graduated from Drama School and it had gifted me more than a framework and a stage for my thespian yearnings: it immersed me in a community of people united in pursuing our passions but otherwise clearly diverse.
Here I was part of the “alternative” cluster, the different that did not quit fit in. Whilst this was celebrated for the most part, it also was the beginning of seeing how “different” – regardless of whether it is artistic and creative different or not – is still “the outer”.
I had become extremely interested in Soul Anatomy and read as much as I could that theosophy and the emerging New Age literature could afford. One of my drama school colleagues alerted me to the Egyptian’s fascination with the Ka and the Ba, and this eventually lead me to Antonin Artaud and the Theatre Of Cruelty.
Artaud’s ideas were too sophisticated for my still developing intellect and artistic talent to embrace, but our very cool and erudite lecturer of drama (David Kendall) considered him an important part of modern theatre history and encouraged me to look at it more.
A few years after graduating from drama school I was cast in a notorious stage play in Adelaide called Swimmers. It was a government and AIDS Council funded play, and the Liberal party gave us nationwide publicity by going on TV to bleat about this “dirty play promoting homosexuality” with taxpayer funds.
The season consequently sold out.
It was also famous as the poster image of me and another actor underwater in an embrace was shot in ex-premier Don Dunstan’s swimming pool. We both wore Speedos but they were airbrushed out when the poster was finalized.
I had played Dan in Sexual Perversity In Chicago for a theatre in Brisbane and that was about it.
I got cast in a few supernumerary roles for the SA Opera Company, and it was here after being required to go onstage shirtless that the foray into fitness and bodybuilding began.
* Your 30s:
My acting career did not take off any further. A part as a rapist on the then new Australia’s Most Wanted was, sadly, a highlight and the only chance I got to be on TV.
I was cast in a Fernwood Fitness commercial later on.
I did my training as a Fitness leader and eventually became an aerobics instructor and personal trainer.
I did some fitness and bodybuilding competitions and became obsessed with how my body looked.
I worked as a model for dodgy swimwear and underwear catalogues.
Interestingly, I auditioned for a role in a short film in Melbourne called Jane 6. I got the part but was unable to take it as I had won the Mr. Fitness comp I was in and had to go to Baden, Austria, to compete in the worlds. The strict shooting schedule could not be altered.
The role was a thug assassin and I had to be submerged in a tank partially clothed before emerging to find one of the Jane’s and kill her.
I am haunted by this, because I have a feeling that if I had of done that film I would have kickstarted my acting career – Finally (plus I got to be in a sci fi film and partially nude, combining some favorite things).
In an alternative timeline, I am an actor that got his break by doing that film.
I have never been able to track that film down, although I know it was definitely made.
* Your 40s:
I had moved to Hong Kong and was teaching fitness and stripping on the side. I have way too many g-strings in storage left over from this caper. I say that, but still wear them occasionally.
Don’t tell anyone.
Back in Australia I resurrected my fitness career and became state then Australian trainer for an international fitness brand.
At one of their conclaves – this time held in Italy – I was granted a free flight somewhere, so I chose Cairo. Another lifelong ambition was realized as I went nuts in the Cairo Museum and beheld, for the first time, the frightening majesty of the Giza pyramids.
I chose those words carefully.
Nothing can describe the feeling of awe and something of a dread, actually, that those buildings inspire.
I had been reading about the pyramids all of my life, watched countless documentaries – but nothing prepared me for standing at the base of Akhet Khufu – what we call the Great Pyramid and what the Egyptians at one point of their history named The Horizon of Khufu.
Here, a stirring in my souls occurred and not long after I plunged headfirst into Kemeticism.
Every time I go to write an answer for this I keep thinking of Divine in Pink Flamingos giving her famous interview at the end of the film , “Filth is my politics, eat shit . . “ etc.
That isn’t my motto but damned if I can get that out of my head.
When and why did you first become interested in art and everything creative?
… and any pivotal creative moments / influences?
I was incredibly imaginative as a kid and would voice my matchbox cars (they had personalities) and dolls.
I remember visitors to my parents thinking there was something wrong with me (Who is he talking to?).
Early manifestations of craft were in writing – I wrote a book called the Adventures of Professor Soot. Years later when I became Setken (who is named after the great god Set of the Egyptian pantheon) I found out Suti is another name of His (pronounced Soot-ee).
I had a great interest in acting in primary school and was a hit in the staged pantomimes or whatever we did, and wanted to do ballet.
I was forbidden to do ballet.
It wasn’t until I got to year 10 and studied art history that my interest in art developed and I began painting.
If you had to explain your art and creative endeavors to some recently crash-landed aliens…
What would you tell them?
I paint the Netjeru – what we think of as the Ancient Egyptian gods – in a modern context.
Please describe your usual process for creating your art: From initial idea, to creation and eventual completion?
- Ideas usually comes in dream or meditation most likely, sometimes in ritual
- I write down key elements to the painting and / or sketch in a very crude shorthand the basic idea of what I have conceived
- I will make notes if particular colors are conceived
- After working out how large the piece will be, I prepare the canvas or board with gesso and then grid it – I use the same grid system that the Ancient Egyptians used for EVERY piece
- If necessary, I spend time researching elements of my conception via the web or most likely in my (large) collection of Egyptology and Ancient Egyptian art books
- I paint with usually 2 or 3 canvases / boards on the go; I “feel” which ones need attention and go with that intuition
- Everything is usually blacklined first, although recent works have seen me reducing this style a little
- I’ll apply the background layer first, or if gilding is involved do those parts at this stage: I have recently begun including gilding again in my work
- I varnish completed works and apply the devices at the back so the piece can be hung
- I listen to audiobooks and music when I paint; very occasionally, especially in the small hours and usually when finishing a piece I will do so in complete silence
Who are some of your favourite artists, musicians and writers?
…and what is it about their works that so inspire and move you?
- Kenton Miller aka Kentoonist
Kenton and I are long time companions and when we first met he was rather famous as the cartoonist for well known gay magazine Outrage; he would always be at his lightbox doing a new strip of his Bent At the Knees strip or cartoons for other publications.
His love of cartoons and comics turned me on to that genre, and he introduced me to many wonderful writers, artists and films that my rather sheltered upbringing had missed.
There is a simplicity to his work that I admire and his penchant for blacklining has directly influenced my paintings.
Kenton owns my most famous painting too, so he’s got damn good taste.
- Tom Pease aka Zchivargo Jones
I met Tom at my one and only exhibition in 2018 and we have kept in touch since. I love his capture of the male body both in his art and 3D modelling (in dolls).
Tom has inspired me to want to investigate digital art myself.
Paul is exceptionally talented and his detailed works have bowled me over. He gifted me with a painting he did of Anpu (Anubis) and it is one of my finest possessions.
We have shared crafternoons together at my studio and watching him work is something else.
I met Paul in the art store he worked in and he was so helpful and supportive of me as a noob that we clicked and have remained friends ever since.
I knew Angela as a little girl in Brisbane and reconnected with her again a few years ago after having a dream about her and her mother. I tracked both of them down and found they lived in Melbourne (Angela had been here some time, her mother had only recently at that time moved here).
I do not normally like still life as a subject but Angela renders hers in such a way that I find mesmerizing. Her use of colour and line – often sometimes at odd with “real life” has influenced my work too.
I have always been fascinated by Munch’s paintings and plan to go to the newly constructed and opened Munch Museet is Oslo one day.
I would like to be able to convey emotion in my paintings the way he does in his.
I have only recently discovered this artist from Bangkok who has a most distinctive style and has created some incredible work.
He paints both digitally and traditionally, and sometimes you need to really look to see the distinction between the 2 genres.
I love the way he renders bodies and gods and yes, he is one of the artists I have commissioned for the Patreon project I mentioned earlier.
I had only just started painting again in 2012, the first time since leaving high school, when I came across Ptahmassu online.
He is more correctly termed an iconographer and creates exquisite cult images of the gods.
When we met in 2016 I was flabbergasted to learn how tiny the pieces are that he creates. His skill with fine, fine detail and working in precious metals and pigments is truly inspiring and, in my opinion, second to none.
We have developed a great friendship over the years and support each other’s endeavors in our work for and with the Netjeru.
I find this group most inspiring.
Their sound and film clips have influenced me a lot over the years.
I was obsessed with this band as a late teen, especially Peter Murphy (fun fact: on occasional visits to Melbourne from Adelaide I would often get mistaken for / told I looked like Peter Murphy, Michael Hutchence and Dave Gahan; I was not so thrilled with the INXS affiliation as I thought them too commercial for my punk goth sensibilities).
I loved their sound and the lyrics were weird and sublime.
I was semi goth but didn’t really connect to the darkness that is Bauhaus until much later.
An underrated band that spawned musical geniuses, their sound is still current today I feel.
I am waiting for Dale Bozzio’s autobiography. Almost no one realizes she was the Gaga before Lady Gaga.
Despite working for their record company EMI at the height of their popularity, I only switched onto the group later in their career.
Some of their reformed era albums are their best, and they have an aesthetic I appreciate.
I prefer early Manics to later Manics, but that said their 2017 album Resistance Is Futile was superb.
They write great songs and one of their albums is in my all time top 10.
Their guitarist went missing after their 3rd album and I firmly believe he is still alive.
The first band I liked seriously as a burgeoning teen.
This marked my real interest in music and the industry as a thing.
Who can fault the hat-trick of albums Parallel Lines, Eat to the Beat and Automamerican?
Blondie are truly an art band but I don’t think many see them as that. Their latest from 2017, Pollinator, is brilliant.
Debbie Harry’s recent autobiography is exquisite.
Another underrated band remembered for their big hit (Unbelievable) which I think is one of their least enjoyable songs.
Also signed to EMI, I liked their debut but really got turned on to them with their follow up, Stigma, which is one of my all time fave albums.
I was crazy about Alice as a teen but dropped off as I got older. I have come to appreciate him again as in fact Billion Dollar Babies is an all time classic.
I have listened to his most recent audiobook bio which talks about his early years when Alice Cooper was a band. For some reason, this era of Cooperism intrigues me and I loved hearing about the making of those early records and all the things the lads got up to.
I ought to have a list as long here as the others, but the fact is I usually read non-fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy William Burroughs, Norman Mailer and others, but the only fiction author I will go to no matter what is…
Whitley will be remembered as a prophet one day, and should be celebrated now as much as, say, Stephen King. His diversion into non-fiction diverted that path however, but his fiction is exquisite nonetheless.
The Hunger is the ultimate vampire novel, and the stories he weaves in Cat Magic, The Wolfen, and the Night Church should not be neglected by lovers of horror.
If people wanted to work with you or buy some of your wares – How should they get in touch and where should they visit?
My website contains all of my finished paintings: www.setken.com
My Linktree contains all the platforms you can get me on: https://linktr.ee/setken
I have a Patreon page and here I share stuff not seen elsewhere. I have begun creating studies of works that will inform a larger future work and these are now only previewed on Patreon.
I am about to conclude a 7 essay series called the Genesis of Setken there that features material elaborating on my early years. I also hired 7 artists to do a portrait piece based on a scene from my Praying Mantis Of Ancient Egypt documentary, and some of those discoveries have become my fave artists and are included above.
I love collaborating and have a few projects on the side that could work with the right film makers, producers, animators and musicians. My only criteria is that they LOVE my paintings and feel like they want to do something with me that can take that medium to the next level.
I have not ruled out acting either, and would love to do a sci fi film with bisexual themes. Or horror, very gothic horror. With kink.
Any upcoming projects you would like to mention?
I have some really cool paintings in the works.
(Some art by Setken.)
Odds and Ends
If you could live in any place, during any historical era – Where and when would that be?
…and why would you choose that time and place?
Just one? Damn!
Likely in what we classify as Egypt’s 19th Dynasty reign of Seti 1st.
Egypt had already reached empire stage by this time, but an upheaval period toward the end of the 18th dynasty occurred that threatened this. One of the best known things we have from that upheaval period are the treasures of King Tutankhamen, whose father was the iconoclast Akhenaton.
Akhenaton had instigated change to the strict artistic styles of the kingdom that Seti 1st put to breathtaking use in his temples, tomb and monumental building projects.
This period was the beginning of Egypt’s biggest empirical expansion under the famous Ramesses 2nd who is Seti’s son.
What role did toys play in your childhood?
Later I got given Big Jim and loved him as much too.
Who was your 1st crush?
…and why were you so infatuated with them?
This is difficult to articulate as my sexuality was stunted and did not emerge gracefully or naturally.
I had a friend in Year 8 called Scott who in retrospect had a short-lived crush on me and then I became curious about him.
I had no understanding of sex at all, just that it was forbidden and homosexuality was even more forbidden, not that I thought about my attraction / affection toward him in that context at all.
I am not sure why Scott infatuated me but he was many things I was not: confident, strong, good looking and not afraid of anything.
Does sex change everything?
Yes, it does.
What are the top 3 items you own?
Editor: Illustrations of Setken’s 3 favourite items, below – his cockring, a favourite statue and his magical underwear.
Please describe your last dream in detail…
I am undertaking a process right now where dreams are playing a major part in my development and initiation as . . . I know not what.
I have begun relistening to Seth Speaks by Jane Roberts. I first read these books in my late teens and found them intensely fascinating.
I got the audio a couple of years ago (I listen to audiobooks as I paint as noted) and in doing so again recently have found myself immersed in those stages of sleep where remembering dreams and interpreting them is even more difficult owing to the highly abstract nature of it those dimensions.
However, here is one from a couple of nights ago that I can relate, and it may end up as a short film, a painting, an animation, or something else…
I was charged with retrieving the mummies of Seti 1st and Ramesses 2nd from a building that was no longer appropriate to house them in.
It was something akin to a Roman temple.
I had to relocate them to a final resting place, and I think that destination was their original tombs in the Valley Of The Kings.
Of everything you have done, what would you most like to be remembered for?
The ones I have made, the ones I am making and the ones I have yet to make.