Artist Interviews 2023
By Laura Siebold
Dolaana Davaá works from her room in Milan, Italy. The Tuvinian artist creates custom-made handmade frames, corsets, exquisite masks, and paintings. Her frames and masks are one-of-a-kind, and the corresponding paintings depict distorted human beings, often from bygone eras, liquified in art. The artist honors her heritage, reimagining popular nostalgic images of her upbringing in Russia by painting them on a candy shaped self-sculpted object.
In her interview, the artist tells us about the inspiration for her work and her subjects, and her artistic education.
You create custom paintings and frames that often show distorted faces. The fluidity of your work reminds me a little of Salvador Dalí. Where do you get your inspiration from?
I can imagine that a lot of people see Dali’s reference in my work. But Dalí wasn’t my inspiration.
Everything around me can be a source of inspiration. For example, the inspiration for the first liquid painting, my interpretation of the Madonna Litta by Leonardo da Vinci, was a picture from Naoki Urasawa’s manga ‘Monster’. In this picture one of the main characters said “ shoot me”, pointing his finger at his forehead. This image had [a] really powerful impact on me. My first painting is blood from the headshot. Sometimes, I want to take my academic art knowledge and throw it out my head. The final concept of the work took his form from the elaboration of this image.
The idea of liquidity came to me a year before that Da Vinci painting, and I wasn't doing a painting but a corset/bustier because I also like to take inspiration from the world of Fashion, and I really like the idea of wearing art on the body.
You were born in Russia, but reside in Milan, Italy. How is the art scene in Italy different from the art scene in Russia?
I can't say much about the Russian art scene because I left Russia many years ago. I can talk about the education. For example, art education in Russia is more academic than in Italy, but despite the strict classical artistic approach, the art scene seems to me about the same in both countries - there are many different and talented contemporary artists in Russia and in Italy, working in various styles, revealing contemporary agendas in different ways.
How do you choose the subjects you want to feature in your art?
My art is always about my feelings. It’s a way to self-communicate with my inner me and we can say that sometimes it’s the subjects that choose me first. This process is chaotic and unconscious, it’s like doing therapy. But I start from main themes under which the concept is originally conceived – like Oriental world and history of Arts.
What do you like about the process of painting on canvas versus creating a custom frame and painting?
Action of drawing or painting volumetric form on flat surface and actually sculpting forms is different and requires different brainwork.
I have [a] slightly irritating method of painting that takes lots of energy. I ”sew” the form, I hatch it with brush and after hours doing these micro-movements, I feel really tired. So, creating frames is like a breath of fresh air. I like changing my routine, it helps me to not burn out.
Besides your custom paintings and frames, you also make masks. When did you first start creating them and how is the demand for them?
When I started making masks, they were spectrally different from what I had created before. Therefore, it was an important moment because I realized that I am not limited in anything and I can express myself in a completely different visual language which led me to create unusual frames.
What is your favorite place to work from?
I think that it’s really important to work in a peaceful atmosphere, where nobody disturbs you, and this place is my tiny room. But in the future, I want to rent a studio because my work becomes always bigger, more complex and I have less space every time.
Do you feel that Milan and its people influence your work? How would you describe your style?
I live a very isolated life, I’m always at home working. I don’t think that the city where I live influences me or my work… my inspirations come from Oriental cultural tradition, history of art, my imagination… today, internet brings home whatever we need, whatever we want. I can find lots of visual inspiration from the net that I rework. Milan only provides me a room, a table to work at, and some materials ;)
My style… I never thought about it before. I do too many different things which are very difficult to name with one word or one style. Many people think that my works are surrealistic, but I can’t say that. It’s only because [of] my artistic education, but it does not define my style.
In fact, it’s the main reason of my work that has its roots in my artistic academic education: after having studied in art institutions for about 14 years, I needed to re-think my formal and former education in a critical way. My work is mainly and strictly connected with the loss of my artistic value: on [the] one hand, I don’t want to be associated anymore with my classic education, on the other hand, it’s all I have, all I am. It’s scary to get away from this, it’s painful and uncertain. But I feel that I need to go on, and the only way to make something new,i’s to destroy the old accumulated over the years, to physically and visually destroy it.
Have you ever exhibited your art in a gallery? Where would you like to see your art displayed?
Unfortunately, I have not had such an opportunity yet. Everything can change, and I dream about a personal exhibition. Yes, I think the ideal place would be a gallery.
Your charcoal paintings on your Instagram account are very beautiful. Where did you learn the different drawing and painting techniques?
I graduated from an art lyceum, and I studied one year at an art institute in Moscow. So, I learned practically everything in these institutions, except sculptural techniques that I studied by myself. I also completed my Bachelor and Master at the Brera Academy in Milan. To sum up all the time, I spent 14 years of my life just studying. It’s too much. During this long time, I stopped loving painting. And after finishing so many useless years of study in the Italian academy, I finally started doing what I really like.
Is there an artist you really admire and would like to meet? What fascinates you about their work?
I recently read the autobiography of Marina Abramović: she lived and lives a very rich life, doing a variety of incredible performances. After reading her story, I began to take a different look at performance as art. I guess I like freedom, spontaneity, and courage in her work. Marina is my exact opposite and that's what attracts me to her. But I'm not ready to meet her, I still have a lot of work to do to somehow get closer to this level.