INTERVIEW: A Conversation With Lithuanian Artist, Dee Sinke
Dee Sinke is a Lithuanian artist living in London. Her illustrations are vivid imagination laced with intricate detail and tinged with a slight darkness. Having only started drawing whilst at university, I talk to Dee about her creative career so far
Rumes: Hello Dee. I suppose we should start with what were your earliest memories of an interest in art? Not just of drawing.
Dee: Well when I was younger I was never into art that much. Where I’m from near Vilnius, there was a music school and an art school. Most kids went there to do things like extra-curricular activities; but I never got to do that because my dad is a tennis coach; so me and my brothers were always involved in sports more. I was always interested in music more than creating something so I learnt to play the guitar; it was always more hobbies than wanting to create art. My mum would always take us out to the theatre, ballet; we’d go to museums, art galleries and stuff like that; so we were always exposed to those kinds of things. At school we had art classes and I never really liked it. Our art teacher was not really good and would give us the same drawings we did a year ago to do; we weren’t really encouraged to be creative. I only started drawing in my second year of university; then I saw what I was doing and was like, woah, that’s not bad; and I got obsessed with drawing
Rumes: When you started drawing what inspired your drawings, or what were your own interpretations of them?
Dee: The way I started out was doodles on the sides of my notebook. Then I’d get ideas and the drawings would get bigger and more complicated. At first I’d experiment with shapes and I’d just splash watercolour on paper and really like what I could create from that; using just my imagination alone. Then years later my brother pointed out what I was doing was called Automatism or Automatic Drawing: when your sub-consciousness takes over; your sub-consciousness representing itself on paper transforming into artwork somehow. Then I learnt how to change that and know what I wanted it to be and know what my drawings were saying and making it into that. It was a gradual involvement in a way.
Rumes: At the time were there any artists that you were particularly interested in?
Dee: When I was at university, I’d look for street art and look at other artists work and get ideas for my own drawings. I’d look at other illustrations that are both similar and different from my own and I learn from them and it awakens my imagination. One of my favourite artists is Yayoi Kusama. She is a mad genius, quite literally, and I really like Wes Anderson who has an amazing sense of visual beauty that I find inspiring.
Rumes: Since university how do you think your work has developed in terms of style and content?
Dee: I usually have a clear message. Whenever I felt like drawing something I used to just start drawing and see what comes out on paper. But now I know what I want to draw or the message I want to create. I want to have a certain message or an idea and its usually an idea; usually the things that give me inspirations are the words of a song or things that I see; and also just a conversation I hear. All the things you see and experience they all come into one creative process too. They remain in the back of your head. They say you are the sum of everything you’ve seen and read, places that you’ve been to and people you’ve met; it’s all so interconnected. I can imagine the image and what it would look like and I need to get it out of my head and into a drawing; and if I don’t it’s stuck in my head and bugs me.
Rumes: You have done collaborations with artists of other forms. How have you found incorporating the two?
Dee: With collaborations like with you and your stories and then working with poetry and trying to interpret it is something I’m very conscious of; that it’s someone else’s work and just my interpretation of it. I found it really challenging because you are working with someone who has an idea of what their work is in their head and then creating that same thing different in image in your head. I remember this one time I was working with a poet called Lisandro Tavares also known as Poetika and what I thought the poem dealt with was trust between people in a relationship but he later said that it was in fact something political. So yeah, it’s interesting different interpretations really.
Rumes: The thing with collaborating is everything is interpreted differently and keeping true to yo
ur personality and work can sometimes conflict
Dee: But I don’t think that as a bad thing because in that last collaboration we decided not to discuss what we were doing and see what the result was because it’s interesting to see how other people’s brains work in the end. It’s a different take on the same thing really because his work is very politically and my work isn’t really like that, mine is really personal so it was a challenging experience. I had to think about it solely on images that portrays what he was saying; but it was challenging in a good way.
Rumes: That’s a really interesting point. Every artist has an idea or concept of what their work is and its integral to them as artists; but at the same time challenging yourself to connect with another persons’ work is important because that is the point of art whether between two collaborators or an audience faced with art
Dee: I actually really like that. I like when you go to see art and you have an idea what it’s about and then read you the information about it and its completely different. Sometimes I have people come and ask me "Oh, so what does this drawing say?" and I ask "What do you think it says?" "What do you think it’s about?" Because it’s usually very different; my work isn’t always very direct; so when people have that different interpretation I like to think it’s a connection with my work because they have thought a lot about it.
Rumes: That is what art is about; because they do say if you don’t have a response to art then it isn’t art; it’s just something hanging in a gallery or words being said really, and as a visual artist you want your audience to have a visual response and an emotional one
Dee: Everyone finds something different that they relate to like to their experiences in life, an image will mean one thing to you while meaning something completely different to another person or just seeing images in different ways.
Rumes: You remember we went to the Photographer’s Gallery the other day and we saw the photographs by that artist and I had an idea of what her work meant and then listening to her talk about her work was something completely different; and it’s not that my idea of what her work meant was right, it was just my interpretation of it; even though it was completely different to what she was on about. But then I was thinking my interpretation was right because it’s my right as the person experiencing it and my relationship with it while I was there in the gallery. I think when you create work you are leaving it in the mercy of those seeing it. You create the work but the sense of owning the work changes because while you are there the work belongs to you the viewer
Dee: But that’s how you should interact with art
Rumes: Your works evolved, where you started with drawing now it’s moving to collage and mixed media, how did that develop?
Dee: Well I have no formal training so when I find form difficult I like to use photographs to help the work. With most of my drawings I don’t even want them to look very true to life. Some people draw so perfectly true to life while I actually like it to look more surreal really.
Rumes: What about this new idea of art now where artists back then you know had one training and one trade and worked and lived with that and now with the internet and other means artists are making photography, street art, computer generated art how do you think your work is within the state of that? Do you have interest in other fields?
Dee: There a book called Art Slash Fear; about artists doing something they have done for a really long time then suddenly doing something completely different. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t stick to what they are good at but instead what works for them. if I was likely to do something completely different then I’d like to experiment with more techniques using different types of materials.
Rumes: Your work right now is small and you have to think about things like timescale and materials, how do you feel about doing bigger work. Not that bigger means better what do you feel about the economy of doing larger scale work?
Dee: I’ve actually being thinking about that, it would be challenging given that my work is really detailed so it would take a lot of time but it’s something to think about definitely
Rumes: Also we’re in a world where time is a precious commodity and you can’t dedicate the same time to art like they did 20, 30 years ago where art was prolific but in a good way; we just don’t live like that anymore; so how do you find that challenge and does it affect your ability to be creative?
Dee: For me drawing is something I just need to do, it’s strange because sometimes I don’t want to draw for months and months then suddenly I need to draw and I don’t even know the motivation when that suddenly happens.
Rumes: I completely understand the need I suppose but when you’re not drawing do you not feel the longing like love to do it? That strange romanticism to do it?
Dee: It’s not the only reason for doing it. The writer Chuck Palahniuk said ‘we all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will’, so even if it’s my grandchildren who see my work makes them happy and find it interesting then I’ll be happy.
Rumes: We are living in a time when there is a massive surge in young artists because of the available means of social media; do you think art is being diluted or this is a massive surge of creativity?
Dee: In a way, it pushes art forward. It also means more competition as an artist and to be a successful artist it’s harder now than ever because there are more artists than ever before.
Rumes: I remember when I was younger and I wanted to be a writer you had to follow a particular path in order to be one but now there are a so many ways of getting your work out there without those means by blogs and internet publishing etc
Dee: I suppose it was more special being an artist back then when they thought art was like some god given gift but now everyone’s an artist, everyone’s a musician but everyone has the right to create. It’s like this graffiti on a wall in Vilnius back in Lithuania that says, ‘Everyone is an artist, but only artists know that’. I really like that.
Rumes: I remember watching a lecture by a South Korean writer who said everyone’s an artist they just don’t know it, that there’s a fear about creativity. About when you’re a child everything is art and there is that fearlessness but when you get older you are faced with paying the rent and buying food or getting washing powder etc and being responsible.
Dee: It’s true though. But when I started drawing it just happened and it was a form of expression, expressing yourself and images that just comes out and needs to and it’s just strange. But in a good way.
Rumes: Do you think having the ability to create something a gift?
Dee: Some people can’t draw for shit or they can draw but it’s not creative. Anyone can draw something but I suppose unless someone has a connection with it it’s not really. You need to find something people can really relate to personally and emotionally.
Rumes: What kind of art do you respond to?
Dee: All sorts of things in different ways, movies that make you think, about how you feel about things. When it comes to drawings, when I go to galleries I pay more attention to technique. What I really hate is digital art because it seems so soulless but when I see paintings I look at the strokes and see how they painted it and the more imperfect the work is the more I like it because, like someone said it’s like seeing the hand of the maker. And that makes a more intimate connection to art rather than some digital arrangement of lines.
Rumes: And do you consider your art to be intimate and responsive?
Dee: My work is me; it’s personal so it is intimate. And I hope people respond to it.