Artist Lola Dupré Discusses Change, Technology, and the Financial Pressures of Creative Work
May 19, 2020
Colossal managing editor Grace Ebert spoke with artist Lola Dupré via email. This conversation has been edited for clarity.
Grace: First of all, how are you today? How have you been handling this odd time, and how has it affected your creative work?
Lola: We are in a lucky place. We live in the countryside. We were already growing vegetables before this started. Now I see even less of human civilization. I am still working the same as before but have definitely noticed less illustration work and less sales of originals and prints over the last few months. (It) seems like there are some dark days to come, end of this year and 2021… I am trying to stay positive, reminding myself some things are outside of my control, finding time to meditate every day and care for myself. I have always been happy in my own company, so I feel very lucky right now. I feel more concerned for friends and family more caught up in the world.
Grace: I’d love for you to take us back to when your fascination with the Dada aesthetic began. Did you find you were interested in it before you realized what exactly it was or that it had a name? Are there certain elements that drew you in initially?
Lola: I think when I was growing up my parents had an eclectic collection of art prints decorating our house, Hanna Hoch and George Grosz I remember, but also a juxtaposition of Bosch, Bruegel, Picasso, Botticelli, Raphael, Remedios Varo, Dali, Klimt, Miro, Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, Otto Dix and others. I loved all the different pictures, and in my youth, I did not distinguish them as being from different times in art history.
I think I was always drawn to shocking imagery. I remember first seeing the work of Grosz and just coming back to it again and again. It was accessible but also so exotic and foreign. I mixed some old Vogue pictures into my fuzzy felt collection and was thrilled! I used to paint, and surrealism was a big inspiration, but I always made collage in my sketchbooks. My parents also had a collection of art books. I remember looking into these when I also had Asterix… so I was pretty young I think.
Grace: You’ve said that you prefer the tangible aspects of cutting paper with scissors and physically repositioning them, which seems to represent a desire for slowness in my mind. Does that pre-digital approach reflect other aspects of your life, too? What is your relationship with technology and social media?
Lola: I prefer the tangible aspects of paper and scissors because it is all I have ever really known. I use GIMP to crop and make some color corrections to my collage. That is all. I have never tried to make a digital collage. Sometimes I am drawn to trying. It makes a lot more sense in many ways. I have always thought the picture was more important than the medium, and I think maybe you have more options and more freedom in the digital world. The big change for me personally would be not having a final, original, paper work.
Social media is great for sharing work. It is great for giving a small business a space right beside a big business. With technology, in some ways I am backward, I have no smartphone, for example.
But I am fascinated by big data and algorithms, AI, deep learning, decentralized databases, human to computer interfaces… I am in love with contemplating new technologies and their potential to change our world. There is a lot of fear about the future. Maybe it is connected to the common fear of being old and alone. I find comfort in our digital future, our technological destiny.
Grace: Tell us about how nature influences your work. Is it in style, form, something else?
Lola: (It’s) hard to answer this. I spend a lot of time walking in nature. Not thinking about anything in particular but I suppose thinking about everything. I find it very relaxing and also simply good for my back, which can get sore after sitting collaging for hours. I look for a broad definition of nature, are we also part of nature? And then everything we make and do also? I like to look at a building and see a shape from nature or a shape from nature and how that might look on another planet. I think being around nature is a great source of subconscious inspiration. There are pictures hidden in the branches, the moss, the leaves around your feet.
Grace: You’ve said in previous interviews that you think every artwork should contain multiple messages but also that you want to encourage dialogue rather than impose your views on those interacting with your work. Could you expand on this idea for us? How has this conviction changed within the current political climate?
Lola: I think multiple messages or interpretations are unavoidable if you make something detailed and complicated. I do think dialogue is important. I think people become so fixated on a rigid belief that they refuse to discuss other ideas. It makes them angry. I think one of the best things you can do, one of the most powerful things you can do, is change your mind about something. Let go of your belief in being correct and accept that everything can be done better, said better.
My willingness to look at things from another perspective has not changed in our political climate. I believe more strongly than ever that you should change your opinions as the world changes around you, look again at the situation as all the players move and evolve. I do not care if someone was obviously wrong and stupid about something some time ago. People change. We all change. How about we accept that life is complicated and try to move with the flow? No one is right all the time, and even a broken watch it right twice a day.
Grace: How has travel and living in different places affected your work and creative process, more broadly? Are there certain aspects of cities/places that show up in your work?
Lola: I do not really know. I have just been working and carried on working no matter where I lived. I think it has had effects in many ways, even with language, speaking in Spanish or French. I think you make different visual references in your head. Colors and light change a lot.
We lived in the mountains near Granada in Spain for a while. Now I remember the dramatic, well-lit slopes when I am working on portraiture. What is a face if not a range of fleshy mountains punctuated with features?
Grace: You’ve been very candid in the past about needing to sell your work in order to pay rent, eat, etc. How do you see the financial future for artists? Do you have an ideal economic environment for creatives to work within?
Lola: It is true. I sell work to live. Also, I sell work because I do not want to have thousands of collages! I try to keep my possessions to a minimum and live light. I am always hesitant to purchase things because it feels like a trap. I hope the promise of decentralized technology results in a way for artists to retain more control over how their images are shared, and capture that value for themselves, because I feel so many artists are constrained by financial pressures. I think it would be nice to have your own place, be in the situation where you could put down roots, make a long-term base for yourself… I think that would be good for my work, and I hope I get to that place sometime. People are different, though. There is no ideal environment that would not be uncomfortable to a large group of people.
Grace: Can you tell us what you’re working on or thinking about currently? I’m hesitant to ask what’s next because you have such a remarkable drive and have noted multiple times that your future plans are indefinite. Even so, is there an intellectual trajectory you see your work taking, a new idea you’re hoping to infuse into the next piece, or even something you haven’t quite figured out how to convey yet?
Lola: It’s pretty mixed up right now, to be honest. I was working on a big project, which is currently frozen because of the lockdown situation, not sure if it will happen anymore. I had exhibitions lined up for this year, but two out of three are canceled, and the third is unknown. I am keeping myself busy on some personal work, which is no problem for me—there are hundreds of collages in my head I would like to make.
In the future, I would like to be able to make larger works and work on more groups of works perhaps for animation purposes, but that will take time, and financially, I am not able to do that. I listen to a lot of science and technology podcasts. I would very much like to bring these interests into my work. I am usually working with a photograph of a building, or a cat, or person. I would like to work more with just abstract forms and make images not related to the source material. Express some scientific idea in an unusual way.
For me, in the future, I would be very excited to work with scientists in some kind of collaborative way. I think I would find that really rewarding. Generally, when I work, I make something, and then I just put it aside and move on to the next thing.