Interview with Dorina Mocan
TIME OUT Magazine, Hong Kong
14 April, 2010
In anticipation of her latest solo show at Connoisseur Art Gallery, the Swedish artist tells Patrick Brzeski why no great artist ever grows up.
Born in Transylvania in 1954, Dorina Mocan began drawing and painting as a small child. Since her move to Sweden in 1981, she has become one of her adoptive countryʼs best known artists, regularly exhibiting in solo and group shows throughout Europe. Among her admirers, she counts the King and Queen of Sweden, who once bought one of her paintings as a birthday gift for their daughter, Crown Princess Victoria. A birthday present painting for a princess would seem a fitting description for much of Mocanʼs work. At once warm and innocent, yet suffused with a mythic sense of fantasy, her paintings frequently figure young solitary girls. Ahead of her second exhibition in Hong Kong, we spoke with Mocan by phone from Sweden about her preoccupation with the vicissitudes of childhood wonder.
What is it about childhood that inspires you?
I think there is an aspect of our subconscious that we call “the child within us” and which we all take great pleasure in learning to protect and not lose contact with. For me, as an artist, the child side of me is vitally important. This child spirit corresponds, I think, to the creative impulse in any artist, in all creative individuals.
Would you say that your own experiences as a child inform your work?
Weʼre all marked by the experiences of our childhood, and these experiences often make themselves felt throughout our lives, and so itʼs been for me. I suppose Iʼve chosen to focus on the childhood period because it has a difficult-to-define complexity and delicacy. But itʼs also part of fulfilling a promise I made to myself as a child.
How do you mean?
When I was a small child I remember promising to myself that at some point later in life I would remember and precisely describe this feeling I had of being small, but of facing big issues, excited and happy about what was to come, but most of all, more or less alone and anxious to face my fate. I clearly recall this moment in my childhood, along with its frustrations – this sense that the summer vacation was beautiful but oh-so-endless. Now and then, when I see a child in a special light, I am reminded of this moment, which in turn can lead to a painting.
In the past, youʼve mentioned the special importance of the Swedish island of Gotland on your art practice. Could you tell us a little about this place and why it has been important to you?
Well, nearness to nature, tranquillity and isolation are prerequisites for reflection and creative “truth.” Is there anything more isolated than an island? I go to my island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea now and then, and my artwork bears the traces of these very inspiring trips Iʼve made over the years. As soon as I arrived, I met the coral islandʼs magical landscape. And strangely enough, several of my earlier paintings seem to pre-visage this prospective meeting – as if I was not there by chance, but I had longed and “painted” my way there. And once I got there, interesting things started to happen for me, both privately and professionally.
Do you think your upbringing in Transylvania has been a source of inspiration for the mythical aspect of your work?
Like everything else that belonged to my childhood, myths and legends left their marks during my formative years. But, itʼs difficult for me to pinpoint something in particular. Itʼs more the melancholy feature of old Transylvanian legends and ballads that has followed me through the years.
How would you say your work has changed or developed in recent years?
Moving to new locations, has introduced new elements in my images, a new kind of strength and energy and a greater clarity, I think. The Swedish art critic Rolf Haglund writes in the foreword to my upcoming book that my paintings have become “far more simplified, personally intriguing and even silent.”
Do you agree with that?
Yes, continuing to develop my craft has not been a goal in itself but rather the only way to ʻmaterializeʼ my own thoughts and feelings. I feel that I can now, more than ever before, equate myself with my work.