Amalia Dulhan | Interview
Romanian artist Amalia Dulhan introduces us to her extraordinary universe in an exclusive interview for The re:art.
On your website, you say that you try to convince yourself that the purpose of life is the one imposed by society and that you have to follow certain rules. Well, this did not convince you, we can see it in your art and you’ve said it yourself. What is your purpose then?
I wrote that short description such a long time ago and time has proven that my intuition was not wrong. I struggled with being an outsider or a spectator of normality for some time and finally realised my life is not meant to conform to what one might consider a formally driven and reasonable life path. My life unrolls in a way that lacks well established landmarks. I was afraid of that for a while, now I embrace it. The unknown is full of beauty and excitement.
We recently saw your works at Art Yourself Gallery, including your participation in the 11172014 project. How long have you been collaborating with the gallery, what opportunities determined you to join the project and what are the works that best define you from those exhibited here?
I have been collaborating with Art Yourself for some time now, I had my first solo exhibition there last year called „Melancholia” and I have also participated in a number of group exhibitions. I love the space of that gallery, probably because my works fit best in a maze-like house that is still filled with the memories of previous lives lived there rather than the coldness of a commercial space.
11172014 is a cool project that keeps me interested and engaged in a creative rhythm that is somewhat different from my own; the theme of each exhibition is challenging and gives me the chance to explore new paths, techniques and approaches I wouldn’t have otherwise tried. So far, mid-project, my most representative work is my first work, a self-portrait, but I am fond of each work I’ve created, they look like pieces of a puzzle and I’m curious as to what they will reveal in the end about myself and my artistic progress.
We noticed that you prefer depicting feminine figures. Is this a choice of self-representation or are you rather interested in representing women in general and if so, why is this? Is it an alternative to how and where current society places women today?
My work depicts women because that’s the only honest perspective I have on life, I would be speculating if I tried another point of view so even if I will occasionally create a portrait of a friend or a lover they would be representations that I hold inside about them.
If that makes my art egocentric in a way, I don’t mind, people used to think that the Earth stood in the center of the Universe so I think it’s in the human spirit to start from within even if what we’re trying to understand is outside of ourselves. The last part of the question puzzles me – how and where does society place women today? I think some of the women are still on a pedestal, some stepped down and are looking at them and some are trying to destroy it with pick axes and TNT. It’s all good. Freedom comes in which ever form suits us best.
There are some recurring themes and symbols in your art. The heart, the butterflies, the tiger, you also often replace the faces of your characters with symbols or animal figures. Can you tell us more about what these symbols and motifs represent? For example, is the tiger a symbol of certain strong points you want to achieve or rather a self-restrained fear?
The tiger is of course a symbolic representation of the Self, solitary and curious, powerful but mortal, beautiful and surreal. It’s not a real tiger, the pattern on its fur is made of black tears. I watched a lot of nature documentaries (and so David Attenborough landed on my list of wish-I-could-have-a-coffee-with people) and I am inclined since childhood towards a connection with nature and living creatures.
Water me, 2014
I guess I’ve never outgrew animistic beliefs and I am still very comfortable with them so I use that as inspiration for my works. I think decoding the meaning behind the symbols in my work is part of experiencing my works themselves, something each person should do using their own intellectual and emotional resources. I will only admit that they encompass ideas and feelings like: fragility, limerence, fear, sadness, futility and identity.
Sweet limerence, 2013
Your art is very personal, very emotional, expressing a variety of feelings and human states. How do you think the public reacts to this and have there been some interesting interpretations until now? Do you intend the viewer to identify with the characters?
The public reacts beautifully – they get uncomfortable and it’s something what I’m aiming for. Beauty that hides sadness and decay, this is my vision of Life. The world is not perfect and art shouldn’t lie and say it is. The viewer shouldn’t identify with the subject of the work, instead they should experience it as a form of visual poetry and find meaning in it, as I said before, on their own. They are not riddles about myself although they derive exclusively from my personal life experience.
Your paintings are sometimes melancholic, your characters rarely smile. What makes you happy?
Love makes me happy, walking in the streets and being surprised by some quarreling sparrows, a reflection in a puddle, a beautifully torn poster that resembles abstract art, the way a child really, really looks at you without any preconceived notions while being dragged along by his parents in a park, time spent with my friends, the purring of my cats, the sunlight, sleeping near the sea in a tent, a beautiful work in a museum that makes me cry, the genuine affection of my younger brother David, seeing other people happy.
Blue like you, 2013
Is there anything you would like to do, but haven’t got the chance yet?
I would like to travel more, wherever, and be more opened with people and experiencing that connection with them more often.
I paint over my memories, detail. 2014
All images © Amalia Dulhan & Art Yourself Gallery