“I guess there is nothing to reach. You just continue doing and hope some of it resonates or impacts another human being be it in a positive or negative way”
AT: Where are you from and how/why did you start engaging with art?
DS: I’m Croatian and grew up in Pula a Mediterranean town on the very south of the Istrian peninsula, a stones throw from Italy and Slovenia. Engaging with art was a natural thing for me since a very early age, it was something that was always nurtured by my parents. My mother still to this day collects paintings and her living room walls are plastered with them. Guess you could say I was lucky.
AT: When did it become serious?
DS: Around 2013 I was finishing my bachelor’s degree at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice and I think that was a period where it got more serious, a shift happened in my work. A focus on certain themes, atmospheres and ideas emerged, stuff that I have carried on to pursue up to this day in one way or another.
AT: Are there any person who has been significant in your breakthrough as an artist?
DS: Breakthrough is a strange word because I feel as if I’m still peeking through a crack on the wall. In all seriousness though, my formative years in Venice had a huge significance and impact on me. Working side by side with fellow painters, learning from others that were and some still are part of Atelier F, the legendary painting class of professor Carlo Di Raco is something that helped me grow immensely. It was a special time. Other than that I feel as though I did everything myself, no one gave me a “push” in the right direction (wink wink). It may sound pompous and arrogant but it’s the truth
AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?
DS: I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with describing my approach to painting. The works start off very spontaneously for the most part, there is no specific pattern or path that I follow, there is no A to B point by point tutorial on how it’s done, no rules. My fondness for the materiality of a painting as an object in itself, the craftsmanship behind it is something I try to emulate through the work. Working predominantly on a small to medium scale enables me to start multiple paintings at once, some start with a preliminary drawing some start with mark making done directly on the surface with oil paint. Once something starts to emerge it’s a simple game of juxtapositions of colours to create an atmosphere. Figures are a catalyst, they gaze back at you or ignore you totally, rarely do they represent a person. I view them as humanoids that are not necessarily terrestrial beings, mental projections.
Loose Grip, 2023, oil on canvas, 27 x 21 cm | Photo by Clelia Cadamuro
AT: What do you aim to reach with your work?
DS: Don’t know, I guess there is nothing to reach. You just continue doing and hope some of it resonates or impacts another human being be it in a positive or negative way. It’s a silly question since everyone will perceive the paintings in his/her own way no matter what I say. Ask me again in 30 years.
AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?
DS: Oil painting on linen, canvas, wood etc.
AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the final outcome beforehand?
DS: The whole process is a mishmash of things, the most important thing for me is to have a mental image of what the painting should look like because it brings me a certain peace. Once the painting process starts elements are introduced in sequences since I almost never draw the image on the surface beforehand. I feel as though this type of procedure gives me more leverage and makes me think of shapes and volumes as loose/liquid forms, shapes become objects and vice versa. That allows me to work in an almost automatist way, especially in bigger formats. On the other hand the small pieces are focused and condensed, zooming in on a specific gesture, action or figure.
AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?
DS: When a balance is reached and there is nothing more that I can add to improve the painting or the overall atmosphere. I’ll put the work aside for a couple of days then look at it again. If I’m still convinced, it’s finished.
Lingering Glow, 2022, oil on linen, 25 x 20 cm | Courtesy CAR DRDE gallery
Contort I, 2022, oil on linen, 25 x 20 cm | Courtesy CAR DRDE gallery | Photo by Francesco Levy
AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from?
DS: In general people over romanticise artists as these big dreamers with tortured souls, hence the use of the word inspiration. I believe in constant work and sometimes I also believe in staying at home and doing nothing for 3 days. What I’m trying to get at is that there is nothing that I can put my finger on and say “this is it, this is the driving force behind my practice”. I’m equally moved by cartoons and fairy tales with witches and ghouls I watched as a kid as I am by John Carpenter’s movie The Thing , for better or worse
AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?
DS: There is a long list of artists that I like. Norbert Schwontkowski, Kai Althoff, Edward Kienholz, Max Ernst, Georgia O’Keeffe, Wilhelm Sasnal, Toyen, Nebojša Despotović, David Byrd, Llyn Foulkes, Leonora Carrington, Gertrude Abercrombie, Peter Doig, Bernhard Martin, Edvard Munch, René Magritte, Francis Bacon, Lee Lozano, Gino De Dominicis, Leon Kossoff, Elaine de Kooning, Enzo Cucchi, Paula Rego and others. Why? All of them have a sincerity in the way they express their vision, which is something I greatly admire.
AT: How important is the role of social media for you?
DS: I use it as a tool, as an online portfolio where people can view my paintings and get in touch with me if they wish. It’s great to see in real time what your peers are up to in their studios and to stay in touch with the ever changing global art scene. A lot of opportunities came my way precisely thanks to social media, which is crazy.
AT: What is your opinion about NFTs and their impact on the art world?
DS: Never quite understood all the hype around NFTs, they are not part of my world at all so as a consequence I have no opinion about them.
Heartbreaker, 2020, oil on linen, 30 x 24 cm | Photo by Stefano Maniero
The Clairvoyant, 2021, oil on canvas in artist frame, 30,6 x 20,7 cm (framed) | Photo by Clelia Cadamuro
AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?
DS: It’s a every man for himself situation. In my opinion the most important part is to surround yourself with people that are genuinely interested in what you are doing and that can support your practice in the long run. Unfortunately today in the age of social media a lot of attention is given to the marketability of a work while putting aside all the research and thought that goes in making it. I would also encourage everyone to step outside the local art system and expand their reach if they have the opportunity, you might be surprised how you are perceived elsewhere.
AT: What do you find to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art? What is the most rewarding part of working as an artist?
DS: The constant uncertainty of it all is a big challenge when pursuing a career in art, but at the same time all those problems seem trivial when your work moves someone in a profound way, or makes them look at things at a different angle.
AT: What do you do besides art?
DS: I cook, play with our cat, travel, go see shows, watch movies, read…the usual stuff
AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?
DS: Right now for me the best option is to take things on a day to day basis. I’m slowly preparing my first US debut solo show that’s opening in the summer of 2023 over at Allen & Eldridge in NYC, all my focus is on that at the moment. Regarding the future I try not to think about it too much as to avoid creating wild expectations, we’ll see how it goes.