Home Concepts Magazine Singapore,
by Huang Nickmatul
DORINA MOCAN´s first ever solo exhibition in Singapore is titled ENCHANTED MEETINGS and aptly so. Both the artist and her art are full of passion and charm.
In speaking to Dorina Mocan, the idea of art mirroring life becomes a constant refrain in your mind. Her graceful, poetic artworks may be dense with traditional imagery, but like everything in her life, there is a very modern and very absorbing duality that may not be immediately apparent on first sight. Collectors and critics alike have been beguiled by her artwork and have offered up glowing reviews of her rich layers of colour and evocative, dynamic figures, balanced by sparse landscapes and fine detailing.
Dorina was born in 1954 and had formal art education up to university level in Transylvania, Romania - an unspoiled land still so steeped in myth, folklore and tradition that its name instantly conjures fascination even today - but has lived and worked in Sweden since she moved there in 1981. Today Dorina is one of the most highly regarded artists in the country. Both the King and Queen of Sweden have taken an interest in her exhibitions and have even bought one of her artworks for their daughter Crown Princess Victoria’s birthday!
Though she has only the greatest of admiration for the Swedish monarchy and her adopted country, describing her move there as "absolutely right in terms of work and personal development", she has not forgotten her roots completely. When asked about her name, she wistfully muses on its dual origins - one origin is ancient Greek, meaning 'gift of God' and the other derived from the Romanian word for longing 'dor'.
Dorina herself, who gives lengthy and contemplative answers to comments and questions, is a compelling mix of mature practicality and sensitive romanticism, and manages to convince even the cynical and jaded that there may yet be wonder left in the world if only we were strong enough to protect it.
Q: Your paintings have a dreamy almost child-like quality and a very mythic flavour, yet there is something very provoking and contemporary in each distinctive piece.
A: A very good description. I have the child within me painting these pictures, but with the hand of a grown woman. My life and work experiences are gathered around a core of innocence. That is something easily lost, for the individual as well as for the world around us. Without a sharp and mature imagery, it can be very hazardous to handle such a sensitive and fragile theme.
Q: Have you always painted in this style?
A: I wish that I had been able to do all this earlier but it took a lot of hard work along the road getting from clarity to clarity in order to find a language of my own. It´s a progress that takes time. I feel that I have faithfully followed an idea through all these years, as if I had earlier on understood what my painting was all about. Yearningly I worked my way through, to what it is today.
Q: What is your creative process? Do blank canvases ever give you painter’s block?
A: The creative process varies from day to day but there is always a foundation of keenness, curiosity and inclination. I remember that I seldom felt so alive as when I, in my childhood, was alone with my crayons, experiencing the fascination of being able to control a line of colour with the movement of my hand. A feeling, an early insight of "I draw thus I am" has stayed with me over the years, even growing stronger.
Today I am just as astonished and happy over what happens on the canvas. The creation of a painting always begins with the magic moment when the motive to be suddenly occurs in my imagination, demanding its right to come to reality through my love and care. Always I touch it as though for the first time, without fear but with a great amount of love and trust.
The painting could never be made without this tender relation and contemplation throughout the working process. The completed painting becomes an explanation of love to meetings, imaginative or real, close in time or long gone. A blank canvas is never a threat but always a possibility.
Q: Which part of your process is the most difficult for you? And which part is the most pleasurable?
A: I might come to a phase when I can’t move on in the picture. I have gone too fast and the next step is not yet there to be taken. If I then persist in forcing solutions it can be very painful. Whatever I do turns out wrong and that is very frustrating.
At that point I have to look the other way for a moment, turn to another painting, take a break or just sleep on it. It is always hard to stop, to leave, because of the strong grip that the painting has on me. But when I have succeeded in getting out of that grip, even if I have to wait weeks or even years, one precious day I’m back in front of it, knowing exactly what to do.
That’s a big relief but the real pleasure comes in the end with the last brushstrokes, when everything comes in place and I have a strong feeling that the motif looks back on me fully alive and content. If it’s a portrait, it’s presence can be so strong that I feel an urge to talk to it, or even kiss it. That is absolute pleasure! Hopefully someone else can get that same feeling, in another room at another place in the world.
One of my most important dreams or wishes was always about my art, to be a good painter. As a child I early discovered the power of the artwork, to reach and move people. My dream was to be a part of that and yes, it is absolutely wonderful when that happens. This is a great happiness in a hard work.
Q: You once spoke of a person’s secret garden - a garden hidden in the innermost depths of a person. Can you explain a bit more about what that is?
A: The secret garden is your sanctuary within yourself, your private source of strength and safety, your place of handling the world away from the world, your place of imagination and contemplation, your place of hiding and resting. It contains so many possibilities. And at the same time it is still a place that you can never fully control.
It is my belief that our physical reality is, however important, just one part of a complete person. I also think that what we call reality often is a reflection of our inner persona which is just as real and often just as important. I don't believe in one-dimensional aspects; when looking at yourself, your dreams, your wishes, feelings and everyday life, you can easily find that they all correspond. For good or bad, it’s all part of you.
Q: You said also that a painter cannot hide any secrets because their pictures reveal their inner garden. Does this mean that you feel the best paintings are inspired from within?
A: The most important material you have at your disposal as an artist is always yourself. Your skills and experiences, but first and foremost, the creative possibility that comes out of the fact that you can always connect to that inner part of yourself which I choose to call my secret garden. Without that your work would only be a superficial proof of skill.
Most often the picture is an extension of something previously experienced but it could also emanate from some kind of intuitive feeling. Later on you might find that this fiction that went from a whim of a moment to painting suddenly appears in real life. In rare cases a picture could be carrying a prophecy, the link between a magic moment of premonition and upcoming real events. This is one of the best paintings, yes, but even more than a painting. Now and then I contemplate, wondering if one of them once again will tell me about what is to come, something I can not know, but perhaps you the viewer can.
Q: Why do you choose to reveal so much of yourself through your paintings?
A: I know of no better way. I think that the most personal often is the most universal. How can there be a recognition and nearness between us if I don’t dare to open up to you? Paintings without a solid foundation within myself might just as well be made by someone else. My works must be fully mine.
Q: Do you then feel more vulnerable when people look at and analyse your work?
A: No, not really. When my work is completed I gladly stand by it. The fact that people take interest in my work is always a joy. It means to me that my paintings have caught their interest as was meant to be.
Q: You’ve only just begun exploring the Asian market. Why have you decided to do so now after having concentrated on mainly European exhibitions for so long?
A: As for me, the decision was in fact made a long time ago when I was a twenty year old art student in my old homeland Romania. At one time my philosophy teacher gave us an almost impossible task after a very brief acquaintance with Western and Eastern philosophers. We were supposed to make a written statement about our feelings after having scrutinized ourselves. The big question was if one´s heart belonged in the West or in the East. If the road suddenly split up, which direction would I feel was the right way for me to go? My choice was easy: it was the way to the East and I remember my youthful belief and the feeling of my cheeks turning warm while I was writing down my answer.
And now I have arrived, although my journey went north to start with, to Sweden.
Being an artist you sometimes have to take your works on a longer journey. That is the best way to meet the world and to find out where your works of art stand, in relation to different cultures. Do they own a common truth, are they a part of a universal human longing? If so, they will connect in the most far away places and with distant souls. The last years I experienced that art lovers belong to the same big and wonderful family all around the world. The response to my art has been very strong both in Europe and Asia and I am so proud and overwhelmed by that.
The love and appreciation for my works from my audience gives me a direct confirmation that my work has touched people and that makes me happy.
Q: Has there been anything in your Asian experience that you feel may influence your inner garden, and your works?
A: New experiences always have some impact on you and your work. Still, this is most often a process that takes time. My works here are born out of earlier inspiration and experience. But just the fact that I have been working for a completely new audience has been very inspiring for me, and who knows what will happen or what I will be struck by at our next meeting. Now and then I get struck by meeting with art, contemporary or ancient. I have visited crowded exhibition halls with tears running down my cheeks. I considered it natural and was most surprised by those who did not react like me. It was so big and powerful.
Up until now I have spent very little time in Asia but I appreciate the love for the craft that is present in the works of so many Asian artists but also the variety of expressions which is so obvious in Asian art today. Asian art has such an important role in the global stage of art.
The interview was made in connection with Dorina Mocans solo exhibition "Enchanted Meetings" at Connoisseur Art Gallery Singapore in Raffles Hotel Arcade Nov 30 - Dec 15 2007.