Attention! Portuguese painter and provocateur Duma Arantes, and her army of fashionable female figures, are taking over the world.
Yes, the mysterious feminine subjects in Duma’s work have taken over galleries and exhibition spaces across Europe and the US while making their mark on international publications, including Nova Gente Deco, The Guide Artists and I & D Magazine.
Wherever they go, Duma’s figures never reveal their full-body, and therefore, provoke their audience to question their persona. Some things are always going to remain unknown, even when it comes to your own life.
Speaking to Magazine from her studio in Lisbon, Duma offered a glimpse into the woman behind the art- from the record that gets her in the mood for painting to the cool way she celebrates finishing a piece.
When you start a new series, where do you begin, and what does the creative process usually involve?
I usually start by thinking about a theme. Sometimes it comes from my life experiences, from what I’ve been reading, or even from a conversation with someone.
Some themes require more research than others. Some are more instinctive, more attached to feelings, but I always need to research these objects, as it depends on the elements I will use on the paintings. Then, I start to draw some ideas and put them on the canvas. If I have a solo show, I like to draw almost all the canvases first, and then I start the first layer of paint to create harmony between them.
How has your artistic technique developed throughout your career?
I tried many techniques during the first years of my painting experience until I felt comfortable with the one I have used for many years until now. We need to work hard to find the style and technique that is most natural to us. Our work reflects our interior, so we need to be honest to ourselves, and the practice will do the rest.
Describe your work in no more than four words.
Clean, soft, strong and feminine.
Beyond the relationship between fashion and art, which other themes does your work pursue?
Feelings, beauty, and the representation of femininity as I see it or live it.
If you had to choose another artist at Runway Gallery to collaborate with, who would it be, and why?
I love the work of lots of artists at Runway Gallery, but I would choose French Cowboy.
I love their aesthetic and how they photograph their models and objects, mood, and ideas. It would be fun to paint some works based on their photos.
If you had to pinpoint a defining moment in your career, what would it be?
At the beginning of my career, I was holding my first exhibitions, and I decided to leave my job in a computer company, which I had held for a few years. I decided to dedicate all my time and effort to art, and that is one of the best decisions I have made in my whole life.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
I really love to see people’s reactions to my work, and I had many amazing responses throughout the years. However, the one I will never forget was when a man was staring at one of my paintings, and suddenly the gallerist noticed the man had some tears running down his face. He shared my artwork was a perfect portrait of his beloved mother when she was young.
Where, in the world, do you feel the most creative? What is it about that place that makes you feel that way?
There are some places that I consider very inspiring, including Paris and some cities in Italy. Whenever I visit, I always come back filled with inspiration and willingness to work due to all the beauty and art I find there. At the same time, my best ideas come when I wake up in the morning, so I believe my bed is a wonderful and creative place. I also feel the need to see the sea; it cleans my mind and prepares me for new ideas.
Which piece of art has left the most significant impact on you and why?
Some Renaissance paintings and sculptures. I can’t explain what that kind of beauty does to me, but I’m always amazed to look at them. The beauty, the softness, the technique are amazing, and even the different era, the themes, and the way artists worked them.
Do you have a particular record that gets you in the right mood for working? If so, what is it?
I usually listen to compilations which I make myself. They include some of my favourite bands, including Depeche Mode, Alice in Chains, Radiohead, Pink turns Blue, Warpaint and more. I think the album I most listened to while painting was Jar of Flies from Alice in Chains. In the last years, I started to love listening to podcasts or e-books while working.
Which one of your pieces makes you the proudest?
There are some I love, and that meant a lot to me, but I have to choose one I painted in 2012 called Dead roses can also be Queens. This painting made part of a series inspired by the creations of Portuguese fashion designers duo ‘Storytailors.’
This particular painting was about the amazing story of the Portuguese Queen Dª Inês de Castro from the XIV century, who was coronated after her death. That is an incredible love story that is worth researching further.
This painting took me much more time to finish than usual due to the details of her clothing and the Portuguese crown she has on her hands.
How do you usually celebrate when you finish a challenging piece or series?
I’m always celebrating. Whether I have finished a painting or not, eating sushi or going out to have ice cream – this is my kind of celebration.
Usually, it takes almost a whole year to prepare for a show. When I finish, I just want to relax and do nothing for some weeks, so I can clean my mind and start again.
Can you reveal any plans for the future?
At the moment, the future is so uncertain, but I have a solo show scheduled for the middle of 2022 in Lisbon. I’m always working and sending new works to the galleries I work alongside. Let’s see what the future reserves for all of us.
Keep up to date with Duma’s world domination on her Instagram @dumaarantes.
By Megan Slack– Contributing Editor at Magazine by Runway Gallery.