In Conversation With Dana James | Episode 31

April 20, 2024
© Dana James. Image: courtesy of the artist and Bode
© Dana James. Image: courtesy of the artist and Bode
Just to begin, could you tell us, how does your day in the studio start like? What helps you to get in the mood before standing in front of the canvas?
My day starts with my two greyhounds.  Being outside with them is the perfect way to clear my head of other responsibilities before entering the studio. 
You integrate different elements in your works, like raw pigment, encaustic, and wax. How have you discovered this way of your creative expression?
I think it’s really important to have a “vocabulary” of materials to defer to while building a piece. This allows me to keep contrasting certain materials as I put them on: Thick, thin, light, dark, translucent, opaque, perfect, off kilter. This is how my brain often divides things. If you don’t have a good handle on materiality, this is very hard to achieve. I keep experimenting with new and different materials in order to grow this vocabulary. 
© Dana James. Image: courtesy of the artist and Bode
Speaking about the title of your recent solo show in Berlin – “Hushed Neon”. Can we say that this is a metaphor for some global processes and phenomena taking place in the world?
These juxtapositions do not relate to a specific phenomena in the world, but rather touch on the idea that everything can be two things at once. I love looking at landscapes that incorporate a certain balance of nature and the man-made. This idea is also embodied in the concept and title for “Hushed Neon”. I wanted to evoke lush nature obscuring neon signs or traffic lights. I was interested in how to go about creating work that was both quiet and loud. I was able to use pigment as though it was smoke, a dusty apparition descending on something powerfully bright. 
Some of your works are somewhat landscape oriented. In the "Lullaby" one can almost distinguish some elements of a night – moon light, stars in the black sky. Do you think of yourself as an abstract painter, or is your art not really abstract?
I often do not think of my work as abstract in my own head, but prefer that it does not fall into one category. I enjoy that in letting the materials take the front seat, the work can cross over when it wants to. I like to let the pieces be autonomous in this way.  
© Dana James, Lullaby, 2023, Oil, encaustic, pigment, collage on canvas, 76.2 × 76.2 cm. Image: Bode
And as for "The Impossibility Of". Could you please tell us, what does this title refer to?
“The Impossibility Of” refers to the fairytale quality in the work. The meeting between our world and another one, and that small moment of magic that takes place when the two crossover. 
If not in art, where do you generally find inspiration sources while creating new works?
Books! Specifically, phrases that make me feel certain things I could only put into paint and not words. 
© "Hushed Neon", Bode, Berlin, 2024. Image: Bode.
How do you see your practice evolving in the future? Would you like to explore any other medium? What would it be?
I am interested in adding sculptural elements by creating shaped canvases that are inspired by shapes that exist within the paintings. 
© Dana James. Image: courtesy of the artist and Bode
Interview conducted by Valentina Plotnikova