Leaving Berlin Behind and Heading for the Fields: Interview with Painter, Dóra Földes.
When we first came across Dóra Földes’ paintings on Instagram we knew she’d be great for our studio visit series. So when we reached out we were interested to learn that she no longer resided in Berlin, but instead had exchanged the city hustle for village life. Thankfully though, through the magic of Facetime, we were still able to get a somewhat literal window into her studio space and to hear her thoughts on her work as well as how she’s been navigating her practice away from urban existence.
I was first curious to hear how Dóra herself would describe her paintings.
“The term I use is ‘insider art’ — in contrast to ‘outsider art’. I was playing with the term because as much as I consider myself an outsider artist, a lot of my work is based on this inner quest for a safe place. A meditation.”
We went on to talk about how she arrived at the life of an artist.
“I studied Psychopedagogy and I had a strong inner and outside pressure to pursue an academic career, so I continued with a Masters in Public Policy. But I knew it’s not something I wanted to do my whole life. I was painting already back then — but ‘in the closet’, so to say. I never showed my work.”
These pressures that Dóra touched on — to pursue a more academic, and perhaps more stable career — are no doubt powerful tensions that many interested in an artistic life have wrestled with. And so I was interested to explore more deeply how she contended with them.
“During my studies, I thought that I’m going to have a Masters degree and then maybe go for a PhD, but the whole time I was struggling with myself, longing for another, more artistic life. I wished I could start over again with my education choices, but you know, when you’re on a track it’s really hard to get off it. So I said to myself: no worries, in your next life, you’ll be an artist. But then I was like, what if there’s no next life?”
“And then Instagram appeared and so I started an anonymous account to post my paintings. No one knew it was me and it was really nice because I got feedback which helped me to paint more. Then suddenly, a curator found my work and wanted to organize an exhibition for me. From then on, I dared giving my name and face to the art.”
I asked Dóra to recount the stories behind bodies of work that were particularly meaningful for her.
“There’s this series called Leaves Sifted Sunlight. I was painting under the shadows of a tree and the sun was playing with the shadows on my canvas. Suddenly, I was like ‘am I the one painting this?’, because a completely other work appeared from the shadows. I started feeling this kind of oneness with everything and then I just started to paint more shadows of more leaves.”
She then told me of another series, centred around the female body.
“It was called Milk and Blood — a very naturalistic lens on the female body. It was a series about the functions of the female body and putting them on a pedestal. How these body fluids are vital, important and beautiful, and how there’s a need to normalize them.”
I think it’s fair to say that us city-dwellers are all guilty of at least occasionally daydreaming about a more rural existence — so we were fascinated to learn more about Dóra’s decision to leave Berlin behind and head for the fields.
“We’d wanted to do this for a long time, and then a year ago we found this place. It’s a really nice little village more than an hour away from Berlin… I think village life was how I was supposed to live for a long time. But I also know that everything happened when it had to happen.”
I was curious about her daily life in the village.
“It’s really nice. In the morning, I check on my vegetable garden, go feed the chickens, then have my coffee and do my office work. Then I come to the studio and work until the afternoon, when I go pick up my son from Kindergarten.”
“One of the things we heard from everyone is like ‘you’re gonna get so lonely’. But like, we sometimes have to organize ourselves free weekends because everyone wants to visit.”
Dóra also owned a vintage store in Berlin, so part of her break away from the city involved letting this go. Such a big lifestyle change must’ve taken some adjusting to. I was interested in how she navigated this.
“I’m really someone who enjoys being remote. I can be honest now that I’ve closed the store — but I remember I found it really hard being ‘available’ all the time. I don’t like that… If you have a store, you always have to be there for people and be available to chat — but I really need my private sphere.”
“At the same time, in a village, it’s different from the city. Someone just knocks on your door when they want something. It’s not like ‘I’m going to text you first’ — they just come. That’s something I had to get used to.”
We then spoke of how she’s existed as a full-time artist being outside of the ‘art world’ — physically and institutionally.
“I basically function online; selling my work or even showing my work. Even more now, since the pandemic, it’s all online. Instagram has been really helpful for me for both showing and selling my work because it allows me to be independent. I’m really an outsider in the established, institutional art world. I’m just doing it my way. Not being represented by a gallery allows me to have a completely direct relationship with my customers and collectors.”
What have you been painting recently? I posed as a parting question.
“Now I’m turning to landscapes. It was a soft move towards that and it’s what I'm really enjoying right now. At first, it started with the lockdown, when I was still in Berlin, and they were imaginary landscapes, where I or the viewer would want to escape to, in a way, to get lost but to find peace. And then, of course now, because I’m surrounded by landscapes, there’s now some kind of mixture of imagination and what I see around me. So it seems I physically managed to escape to these places of my imagination.”
Thank you to Dóra. You can find her links below.
Words by Ewan Waddell.
Photographs courtesy of the artist.