Born in Budapest, raised in Paris, currently residing in Berlin, Foldes Dora makes art that transcends time and place. I came across Dora’s work on Instagram and was immediately hooked. Having received no formal art education, her paintings of female figures are loose and full of life. Her work exudes a sort of playfulness that is so refreshing and captivating. To top it all off, she’s into sustainability! I was lucky enough to ask her some questions about her art and thoughts on sustainability. Read all of her lovely responses below.
How did you discover painting and when did you decide you would devote your time to it?
As many of us did, I discovered painting during early childhood, in kindergarten I guess. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, painting was always a source of joy for me, but I don’t think I was especially talented or outstanding at it. I enjoyed going to museums, copying famous artworks, or just doodling, and trying out different techniques. I often used to offer paintings or drawings to my loved ones as birthday presents for example. But other than that, I think I was more preoccupied with singing or acting. Painting was just another creative activity I enjoyed. Only later, during my Bachelor studies in Special Education did I have the chance to learn about and participate in visual art therapy. I think this was one of the crucial moments (I was not aware of yet at that time) that made me desire to make art. I kept on making paintings after graduating, then a few years later I decided to devote most of my time to it.
You are not formally trained, what has your learning process been like?
I have no formal art education whatsoever. During my Bachelor and Master studies, I took Art therapy and Art history courses. That is all. I have never learned anything about techniques or drawing basics, I still can’t draw well. And of course this is something that is obvious once you take a look at my work. But I had ideas, and I made everything to be able to realize those ideas. I learned things from books and “how to” videos. I asked many questions from other artists and I always ask art supply store employees for technicalities. They are very helpful, I encourage everyone to talk to them. I also do a lot of research. I could spend days and weeks watching and reading all I can about some inspirational artists. But most importantly, I experiment. I try, and see how it works, how it does not. You always learn the most while doing it. You do it, you fail, you hate it, then you retry and keep on going. And you just hope that one day you’ll be able to make something that you finally really like. Today I can feel the freedom of my lack of formal education. The fact that I didn’t learn what I can/must and must not do, makes me feel like I can do anything I want. And that is truly liberating.
What makes the ‘person’, and women in particular, interesting to you? Have you explored non-figurative work?
Until something like half a year ago, I only did figurative works, but I always felt intrigued to make abstract art. After a while, besides the person, most precisely the female face (which I find to be an inspiring subject matter), the abstract background became a more and more important part of my work. Nonetheless, there was a gap between the art I produced and the art I was fascinated by. I think it takes a lot of courage to make abstract and minimalist art, and still be able to communicate with it. But it feels closer to my inner world, and the resulting paintings bring me closer to a satisfaction with my work.
Your series ‘This Is Us’, was an exploration of selfies, what are your thoughts surrounding social media and the way it is used by young people?
I had the idea to create this series in 2012 and finished it by 2013. This was a period when selfies started to take over all social media feeds. I was also one of the early selfie enthusiasts. Besides enjoying taking these pictures of myself, I really enjoyed watching and analyzing the whole trend. My vision was simply to preserve this image of our generation in the form of oil paintings. There was no judgement. It was more a series contemplating the female beauty ideal that we create through these selfie shots. To preserve on canvas how we see ourselves through the mirror of our phones. How we want to be seen when we click the ‘share’ button.
How important is sustainability in your personal life and artistic process? What challenges have you come across?
Sustainability became very important both in my personal life and artistic process. Regarding an eco-friendly lifestyle, I am trying to help myself by asking the question: if everyone would act the same as me would we live in a better world? And this is usually a good guide. I am not saying that I live a perfectly sustainable, eco-friendly life, but I am trying to do as much as I can. Last year for example, I almost completely eliminated plastic from my home, but doing the same thing in the studio seemed to be a big challenge. A lot of the artist supplies, paints, brushes, etc., come in plastic or contain chemicals. Therefore, I realized the only way to get rid of this problem is to make my own paints and to use natural, plastic-free materials. Today I mix my own oil paint from natural pigments, using walnut oil. My use of materials and the preparation of my paints became an important part of my artistic process.
What advice would you give to younger people pursuing passions that might not be traditional or financially secure in the beginning?
I see painting as a rather traditional type of passion. I am in a special situation, meaning I completed a very different type of studies. Painting started more as a hobby, but later I let it take on a bigger role in my life. I worked a lot on reaching out to people, on social media channels mostly. You maybe would not think so, but this type of “self-marketing” takes a lot of energy and effort, but it can work. I got commissioned and sold many of my paintings thanks to my internet presence. However, this is one part of the job that you do not always feel like doing, we all have less exhibitionist periods in our life. So, allow yourself to calm down as well if you need it. Nonetheless, I am not a full time artist, and I have a part-time job that provides me with fixed income. It’s an important safety net not only financially, but psychologically as well. There are people who simply need different professions/jobs to feel whole. Do not be afraid of trying to find the right balance.
What do you want your legacy to be, what do you want to leave behind?
I think one of the messages I want to leave behind is: don’t think it’s too late to become who you want to be in this life. Just start working on becoming that person today. It might be a never ending work, and you may have to work really hard, but you’ll feel better and be on the road leading to that person.
To see more of Dora’s work or to contact her:
Facebook: Foldes Dora