Interview with Dulk for “Ephemeral Treasures” showing at Spoke Art

Dulk’s ‘Ephemeral Treasures‘ is a special exhibition taking place in NYC, curated by Thinkspace and co-hosted with our good friends at Spoke Art.

This will be DULK’s debut NYC solo exhibition showcasing new works on canvas. The debut of a new one of a kind sculpture alongside the debut of a new line of jewelry inspired by his work.

Our interview with Dulk explores a memorable moment from a recent safari adventure, how 2020 changed his life, and the stories he is most looking forward to sharing.

What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work? Could you share with us a bit of your process for approaching the sculpture and jewelry line that will be debuting for Ephemeral Treasures?

Well, as with all of my paintings, my inspiration behind any of them is based on my trips all around the world where I go to observe the animals in their natural habitat. I love getting inspired in nature because those feelings are transmitted to the paintings once I’m back at the studio. This time I would like to go a little bit further and create a sort of window into the threatened habitats where the animals live.

I love to make sculptures of most of my paintings’ characters, and in every solo show, I try to have at least one hand made. In this exhibition, I would like to pay tribute to an extinct animal that passed away 3 years ago. It’s a very special sculpture because it’s a unique piece and it has a very special meaning to me. On my latest trip to Kenya I had the opportunity to visit the tomb of Sudan, at Olpejeta conservancy, he was the last male of northern white rhino and the feelings there were indescribable.

About the jewelry line, it’s been more than a year since I’ve been talking about it with my friend Gabriel Suarez who is the creative director of Suarez, a renowned Spanish jewelry brand. They already produced some jewelry collection with other artist like Okuda or James Jean and he asked me to launch my own jewelry line, I accepted immediately because it’s something special that old masters like Dali or Pablo Picasso did in the past.

It is a unique collaboration, in which the work of an author is turned into a piece of jewelry after a process of elaborate preciousness, in collaboration with the artist to achieve custom-made art. The jewels make up the exhibition as part of the whole. There will be 2 unique pieces available, one of a kind each, one ring and a pair of earrings, and I can say that I’m really happy with the result. The concept of converting the animals into jewels is something that I always strive for with my artworks and now with these pieces it’s more evident.

Do you have any pre-studio rituals that help you tap into a creative flow? Do you have a structure for how you approach your time in the studio?

Not especially, I used to arrive at the studio early in the morning, prepare some coffee and put some music in the speaker, then I can start painting. This is what I used to do every day at the studio before anything else.

About how to approach the time in the studio it depends on the season in the year, or if I have other projects at the same time. If I have other things to do at the studio apart from painting I used to do everything in the morning, then, in the afternoon, when everything is done I can chill and paint quietly without any disturbance around me like phone calls or other stuff.

What piece in this latest body of work was really challenging and pushed you as an artist?

All of them showed me something and pushed me as an artist. Any painting is a challenge because I always try to paint different animals that I never painted before or different landscapes, but I have to mention one I would say “Bird Concert: Songs of extinct birds”. This painting is the biggest I did for this show and it has so many birds and characters, so many colors and details so I would say this one.

In the research you’ve done for reference material or inspiration, have you come across a crazy fact about an animal or plant that has blown your mind or stuck with you?

One of the most special moments I remember is during my inspiration trip to Kenya last year. We had been looking for black rhinos at Olpejeta Conservacy, the biggest reserve of black rhino population in Africa, during 3 days and we couldn’t find them. The last day we were there, because we had to continue our journey to the south, at the last moment of the day at twilight time we found a couple of them hidden in the bushes. It was a magical moment after looking for them so hard, and we finally found them in the most special moment.

Your work is incredibly colorful, and you have a real command of color. How do you keep track of the color combinations and storing mixed paints, so they don’t dry out between sessions at the canvas?

I prepare each color at the time that I’m going to use it. I don’t use or store mixed paints between sessions. The acrylic paint dries faster than oil so I finish each part with the mixed colors I prepared when I start it. I like to schedule each part of the painting I’m going to paint so I can mix only the colors that I’m going to use.

Outside of the pandemic, 2020 was pretty significant for you on a personal level; as you’ve shared, you underwent a serious surgery and are now a father to a sweet little baby. Could you share a little bit about how you feel your perspective on life has shifted based on these events?

2020 has been a plenty year, both personal and at work. On the personal side, I had this serious surgery as you mentioned in April and I spent a week in the hospital during the worst part of the pandemic and my wife was pregnant so I couldn’t see her during this. I had really bad moments there but after this my mind changed completely. When I was out, I felt so blessed because everything went well but at the same time powerful and full of energy to face everything that came ahead. After this, everything shifted 180º and things started to go well. I started painting the NYC show, I won the Falla contest to design the main Falla in Valencia for 2021 and I could paint a mural after the surgery so I was 100% recovered. Also, this summer, my son was born and everything went so well, he changed my life forever. Being a father means so much for me and it’s something indescribable.

Who are some of your creative influences? They do not have to be fellow artists, but anyone who inspires you creatively.

Undoubtedly the artist who inspired me from my beginnings was Hieronymus Bosch, a wonderful creator of strange and comical images singularly outlandish. Also, some artists of surrealism like Salvador Dalí or Rene Magritte.

Also, there are other people who inspire me with their photography work like Paul Nicklen or Ami Vitale between many other nature photographers. I love wildlife photography and these photographers with their incredible job share with the world amazing habitats and landscapes to inspire the people to protect the treasures of nature.

Your compositions capture complex storybook-like narratives within the imagery that lets the imagination run wild. Have you ever thought about writing a book or creating a folk tale around these animal figures?

Yes, I thought about it many times but right now I’m totally focused in an artistic way. Anyway, I know it’s something I’ll do in due time.

Follow up, do you have a favorite fairytale or folk story? Something you might look forward to sharing with your own child?

Actually, I don’t have any fairytale or folk story favorites. I like the fables of Jean de la Fontaine so much. One thing that I see while my son grows up, he is now 6 months, it’s that he observes so much of my paintings and shows so much interest in them. I don’t know if it is for the colors or because of the characters but it’s very satisfying for me. One thing that I would love in the future it’s telling him the stories behind my paintings. The imaginary stories that I create while I sketch each painting is something unique that I hope he will love as much I do.

What is one of the most memorable meals you’ve had while traveling? It could be memorable because of the food or the company you were with while enjoying said meal?

I had many memorable meals in my trips around the world but if I have to mention one I think any meal I did in Taiwan when I was there for Pow Wow Taiwan. It was my first time in Asia, and I was so curious about the food there. Any meal I did there was a surprising discovery, starting with the dumplings, followed by a typical Taiwanese tavern and ending with the fish ramen. Also, the company was so great in each place where we went to eat, and the local people introduced me to all the typical food from there. One of the most amazing food experiences I ever had.

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