Dadara (Daniel Rozenberg) is widely regarded as a true master of his craft. No doubt about it. Over the course of his illustrious career, Dadara has created some of the most amazing works of urban art. The versatile artist has maintained his momentum with modern art gems where he inspires viewers to think outside of the box for solutions and to seek beyond. As probably one of the greatest artists of his generation, Dadara has blurred the line between reality and fantasy, the one who has made the impossible possible, and the one who has conquered pretty much all disciplines of contemporary art.
Ahead of his new solo exhibition “Ancient Future Lifeforms” at 2B Art Gallery Palma, live painting performance and the release of the limited edition print, we sat down with Dadara to explain his brilliant approach to art, his inspiration, beginnings, and much more. So sit back and enjoy the show.
2B: Let’s get this show on the road. You probably hear this a lot, but where do you find inspiration? Do you ever stop and say “Ohh wait, I already did that”?
D: I guess my biggest inspiration is Life itself. Everywhere I go I take my sketchbook with me. Drawing in my sketchbook is for me a way to connect with my subconsciousness. Just draw without thinking and keep the ideas and art flowing. It feels like ideas are coming through me, a way of channeling without having my rational brain involved too much 🙂 What also often happens is that at random moments during the day or night an idea will suddenly pop up in my head and make me go “ Shit, now I need to work my ass off to make this happen….”. I don’t have real working days. In a way I guess I’m working 24/7 and I’m happy that my studio is next to my home so anytime I get an idea I can directly go to work, but I can also either work long hours or sometimes work in between other stuff.
2B: Your striking art is raising awareness about the problems in the world, so do you consider yourself an activist as well?
D: Art for me has always been a way to make that visible which is not visible (yet) to most, and as such, I definitely hope to raise awareness. At the same time, I don’t want to tell people what they should or shouldn’t do. I leave that to the politicians… The beauty of art is that it can trigger consciousness and give people a tool to think for themselves. I often see my art as a parallel world, a mirror that gives us a clearer look at our ‘real’ world. And to be honest, in nowadays world I’m getting the feeling that the act of creating beauty has already become an act of activism in itself. In the past, I guess I was busier with showing the ugliness in the world, but the world has often become so ugly that I don’t feel I need to emphasize that anymore, but that art can also be a way for us to transcend that everyday world.
2B: You use art as a platform to voice and help to make the world a better place, but what does art do for you?
D: Creating art for me is not only spending time in my own studio and own art bubble. I have always consciously put the art that deals with society out into that same society beyond galleries and ‘official’ art spaces. Putting art out into the outside world means that the world will also interact with you and your art. I started realizing during my project that not only did my art transform the public but also my collaborators and definitely also myself. For instance, starting my own bank, the Exchanghibition Bank, as an artist definitely changed my own relationship with money.
2B: Let’s go back in time, what was the first piece of art you remember seeing, and how did it make you feel?
D: I have drawn and created for as long as I remember, so I can’t really recall the first piece of art I have seen. I guess art was always there, but record covers (Andy Warhol’s banana for the Velvet Underground was hanging above my bed at a young age) and comics were a more conscious gateway into art at the beginning. The comics became more adult graphic novels, by artists such as Mattotti and Liberatore. Definitely also people like Keith Haring in my early teens and the European countermovement of Figuration Libre with Herve Di Rosa and Robert Combas. When Herve di Rosa visited one of my first exhibitions that was definitely a big moment!
2B: Pablo Picasso once said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal”. Are you sometimes tempted to copy or steal? Don’t get me wrong, ‘Ceci n’est pas une Bored Ape’ is a brilliant piece of art.
D: I feel that every generation of artists is influenced by the previous one and at the same time influences the next one, so there is always an inspiration and a certain influence from other artists, but I try to make sure I’m not (even unconsciously) stealing or copying by using Google to see if an idea that pops up in my mind already exists. I love referencing other artists though, which means the viewer will need to have knowledge of the referenced art in order to understand it, such as the “Ceci n’est pas une Bored Ape’ drawing you mentioned, but also the first artwork of mine which was printed as an art poster when I was 19 was a reference to Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup can.
2B: Were there times when you asked yourself, “Why am I doing this?”
D: I guess the “Why am I doing this?” question it’s a constantly recurring one, but already from a young age, I realized that I have no choice because being an artist is what I truly am. It was always my biggest dream, and yes, sometimes it’s tough, but most of the time I feel so grateful that I have always been living my dream full time and that feeling is so amazing, I can’t explain in words how blessed I feel!
2B: Which of your early artworks are you most fond of, looking back?
D: When I was working on my retrospective art book a few years ago, that was actually the first time that I really looked back on my older art. I’m mostly just focused on the Now and possible Future art. Looking back made me realize that, to be honest, I thought that my first drawings which I did for flyers and record covers and were a huge hype in the early nineties, weren’t actually that good….. Until I realized that I should look at them from the perspective of that period. So I learned to embrace and value my older work, but I still am most excited and value most what I’m working on now. In the past, I also didn’t want to sell a lot of my art and hold on to it, until I realized that my older art is still getting so much love every day in the home of collectors whereas in my home it would still just be stored in my studio.
2B: What’s still on the to-do list for Mr. Dadara?
D: I’ve never had an agenda (neither physical nor digital) and realize that serendipity has been the driving force behind my art and life. So I’m constantly on the lookout for the next big thing, without knowing what it is, but being ready for it. I would love to make a movie though.
2B: If you could be Doctor Dadara Who, travel in time, and paint with anybody in the history of art, who would it be?
D: Hieronymus Bosch, the Dutch painter from the 15th century. More than 500 years later his paintings are still so powerful and universal. My dad, who is a scientist, is a huge Bosch fan, so I grew up with lots of books about him around the house and also once spent all night at the big Bosch exhibition here in the Netherlands a few years ago.
2B: Why did you choose art in the beginning?
D: I guess I didn’t choose Art, but Art chose me 😄 I was always drawing already from a very young age, but around the age of 14/15, I started taking it very seriously and started really going for it, because I realized that it would be my ticket out from the small village I grew up in.
2B: What do think you would be doing now if things had not taken off when you started painting?
D: I still remember the feeling I had when I was in my teenage years that it would be really difficult to become an artist and the only way it could ever work was to have no Plan B and go 1000% for it with no distractions (A Plan B would definitely mean I would not go 1000% for being an artist). I also remember back then that I thought that when I would be really old, let’s say thirty (When you’re 16 I guess that feels like really old 🙂 and it would not have worked out, I could’ve lived with that, but only if I would’ve tried 1000%.
2B: Do you feel like your relationship with art has changed over time?
D: One of the things that I’m most grateful for, is that Art is still such a big love of mine. A lot of people told me that if you turn your Passion into Work, you might lose your Passion, but the Love has only grown deeper. One thing that did change though is that when I was 17 I believed that I’d only need a sketchbook, drawing paper, and a pen and brush and could live everywhere and would only need a small room. Now I have a 30-meter-long studio behind my house and sometimes that still doesn’t feel enough…
2B: The talent part is not in question for you, but when you think back on how you became successful, is that luck, or is it that you had more desire than the next guy?
D: I think part has to do with the attitude which I mentioned earlier of the 1000% focus, but yes, there definitely is an aspect of luck, or being there in the right place at the right moment. Then again, I do also as mentioned believe in serendipity, and by always living that way I feel that it has been easier to find the right place and right moment. But there were definitely some lucky moments, like when I was 18 and stayed in Milano and made an appointment with a comic magazine Linus, who then started publishing countless drawings of mine over the following years.
2B: What’s the best advice you can give to young artists out there?
D: I often tell people that being an artist is a pretty intense life. It’s difficult to make a living, you always have to deal with your own emotions while you’re creating. It can be a lonely and tough struggle at times. But when it’s your biggest passion then it’s the best life you can have! So I guess if you’re a young artist you should really ask yourself why you’re doing this. If it’s your biggest passion then go for it. And what I believe is a very important one is to realize that when people have an opinion about your art, it’s their opinion. And because art is subjective opinions can differ a lot. People can hate or love your work, and all these opinions can be valid, but they are their opinions. You need to stay true to who you are.
2B: What can we expect to see in the future?
D: Ask me in the future 😎