In conversation with Buenos Aires-based Argentine artist Daniel Dratewka.
Daniel started his career with a scholarship with renowned Argentine painter Carlos Gorriarena, with whom he worked with for two years. Daniel now works from his own atelier in the ‘Caballito’ (which means ‘tiny horse’) neighbourhood.
Can you talk about your journey into or interest the arts?
As a little boy, I used to create my own toys, I could make the setup of a complete scene just by using the objects I had at hand, I was fascinated by the sole idea of creating worlds and characters. I was very much impressed with movies such as David Bowie’s Labyrinth or ‘The Dark Crystal‘.
When I turned 16, I started to study painting and sculpture and this just unveiled the fire in me. I studied the works of true masters, such as Picasso, Matisse, Egon Schiele and went wild with Francis Bacon. The scholarship I was given at 20 was a turning point: I got to work ‘hand in hand’ with Carlos Gorriarena and I’ve been working on my own paintings and sculptures ever since.
Nowadays, this is what pushes me every day. Art means everything for me. Despite my work with professional video for brands and clients across Argentina, what I feel most deeply inside of me is this urge to think art, execute art and travel distances with art. That is my personal definition of being alive.
Do you use a sketchbook? I’m interested in what a sketchbook means to you and your work?, or how people develop their ideas.
My eyes are my main source of ideas. Usually, I take pictures and work on them. I just use them to sketch into the canvas and then work from there onwards, with spaces, shapes, perspectives and colors, many times without knowing where this will lead to.
When it comes to sculptures, I do sketch more, but I am really fond on ‘getting things done’, to feeling the sculpture in my own hands. I consider myself a privileged eyewitness of the moment when shapes bursts out in my own hands.
You work across multiple media, including build forms and models, is this a creative reform for you?
Being a professional photographer, I try to merge all this visual tools – pictures, videos, scenery – into my work. I believe this is a key aspect to all artists: know what is going on with the world and technology. The use of social media, for instance, can help spread the work more widely and faster.
Your work imagines new forms and possibilities, can you talk about where this comes from?
I like to observe details that surround me in every aspect. It can be the tip of a person’s nose. The way a lady walks. The expression on my own dog’s face. I like to think my figures are the result of an imaginary odyssey to my own history. My last name Dratewka is related with a Polish fairy tale. In this legend, Dratewka portrays a man that can speak with animals after facing and killing a scary dragon that harassed the villagers. It all comes from that old legend, and the multiple situations that pour from it.
Can you talk about your process of working. How do you work, how often, is there a particular pattern?
Usually, I start a work and cannot stop, like taking away a bundle from off me. I can work 20 hours per day, if I feel the urge of expression. I picture life as action and getting things done. Then I let the work have a rest (which I take myself) and then come back, maybe two or three weeks later, and see what happens, what exactly the works awakens in me. Does it say something? Is that a whisper, a call, a plea? A harange, maybe? A poem to be read?
Truth is, only one out of 15 works can fully satisfy me.
As far as sculpture is concerned, I do what I like to call the ‘Frankenstein process’: I split my works in several parts, then compose them again into a new figure. I love the result of this mutilation chaos, and it takes quite a lot of temper to break a piece of work into several pieces and then start over, but sometimes that is what life is all about, putting your own self together into the best work of art you can be.
Do you find the process of creating work relaxing or therapeutic? I’ve become increasingly interested in the relationship of the sketchbook and the work to the artist.
I’m about to turn 40. I wouldn’t say it´s relaxing or therapeutic, it is just meant to be. I have no choice, this is who I am, this is what I do. I just need to get it out, it burns inside of me, and it’s wonderful to feel it. This is the engine that keeps me going. Having a certain gift and not doing the best out of it can come back with health issues. Not me. I was born for this and I will give my life to this.