ARTIST IN THE SPOTLIGHT | 'Love and Fear' by Dyah Neilson
Welcome back to Cacique's artist in the spotlight series where we chat with Nassuvian, Dyah Neilson, upon debuting her latest collection on our shimmering shores. A body of work as deep as the oceans she portrays, dyah delves into a few sensitive taboos that she holds close. These works relate to many, touching on the very tabooed topic of mental health, the hardships it presents and the strength to conquer them.
It is with a happy heart that we announce our latest muse, Dyah Neilson, who is riding the ‘first solo exhibition’ high having just presented at Doongalik Studios earlier this month. This bold, bright collection - ‘Love & Fear’, depicts things perhaps a little less buoyant on our island - the very real battle with mental health. Dyah’s use of beaming, whimsy blues render comforting island scenes drawing the viewer in while a deeper, subliminal message stirs from beneath the waves. The Bahamas is crippled with a stigma surrounding mental heath and so these conversations are often swept out to sea, if you will. The collection is so intentionally approachable, giving mental illness a positive portrayal, something that can be overcome with love and support.
Cacique. what inspires you ?
Dyah. I am inspired by so many things. Growing up in The Bahamas has definitely influenced my love of color and the animals I choose to put into my work. My university experience sparked a desire to learn about other cultures and their beliefs. I’ve also been really interested in avant-garde photography and fashion in the last few years. I love the creativity they put into the make-up and hairstyles, or when they use non-traditional materials. In the past, I used to get a lot of my inspiration from other artists but I've been trying to limit how much I let other artwork affect my own - I want my voice to be truly mine instead of someone else's.
C. Is there an element of art you enjoy working with most ?
D. Definitely colour. It is so much fun to mix colours and figure out which work best together in a composition. They carry so much meaning with them too. I have deep emotional responses to colour that I wasn't aware of until my roommate pointed it out. She had watched my work progress over five years of living together and in this one particular painting, I was using a really bright orangey-red for the background. She then told me that I was using my "angry colour." I know it's so silly because that's what red is known for, but it was that particular hue that she was referring to. After that moment, I started to realize that I stay away from certain hues and gravitate towards oranges, blues & purples because of their calming effects, and how well they work with other colours.
C. What work do you enjoy doing most ?
D. I really enjoy coming up with new compositions, deciding on color schemes and researching the different meanings that the elements in my pieces have in different cultures. Because my sketches never look like the final piece, it's fun to be able to look back and see where the work started, how its evolved and how the meaning changes during its evolution. There’s a degree of uncertainty when I start a composition sometimes and a lot of soul searching that follows. When I really think about what imagery is resonating with me at the time, it causes me to stop and evaluate my behavior, thoughts and emotions.
C. how has your practice changed over time ?
D. I've always wanted to be an artist since I was a little girl. In high school I drew the typical celebrity portraits and painted the predictable hibiscus or beach scene. I emulated styles of other accomplished artists and illustrators. At one point, I wanted to be a children's book illustrator and only worked in pen. Later I moved onto coloured pencil in an attempt to do realism. In my last year of University I wanted to sell work on bird paintings on Etsy. When I finally stopped trying to pigeonhole myself I was able to find my voice and felt my style becoming more authentically me. I enjoy what I am doing right now, but I’m also excited to try different things and learn to love each medium, technique or topic. I’ve come to find that it’s better to try different things, hold on to what I really enjoy and let go of what I don’t. I’ve also learned that I don't need to be known for only one specific thing and should just enjoy the process of creating.
C. What themes do you pursue ?
D. For my exhibition ‘Love & Fear’, the overarching theme is mental health, anxiety and self-love. However, under that theme, my works touch on issues of death, jealousy, nationality, religion, among other things. My work doesn't seem to run in a particular direction but rather in clusters or branches that overlap. There isn't one specific theme that I enjoy focusing on because to me, everything is connected. I want my work to speak about history, culture, religion, femininity, and other issues that affect us today because these things are all important and affect our daily lives in one way or another.
C. what memorable responses have you had from your work ?
D. As always, life is never always ‘smooth sailing’. There have been times where I’ve been snubbed or stifled but I think that’s all part of it. Not everyone is going to like my work and I’m ok with that. For the most part, I’ve had a lot of good responses from people and I am so grateful for all the love and encouragement I've had along the way. When people tell me that they connect on a deep, emotional level and see parts of themselves mirrored in a piece, it makes it all worth while. Most importantly, makes for great conversation when we can connect to a piece in the same way. It always makes me feel special when people love a piece of work enough to purchase it, especially when they understand that it's as if they are taking home part of my being.
C. Art Culture is booming in the Bahamas - what has been a catalyst for this ?
D. I believe that art culture is taking off here because Bahamian artists are cultivating change. The art community is acting as a platform that allows citizens to ask questions, get involved to make a difference in an attempt to push the country in the right direction. We have such a strong history and rich culture in general and more young people want to be part of that. Art has always been a catalyst for change globally and new genres of art have allowed societies to adopt ideas and behaviors. Since coming back to The Bahamas from Canada, I see so many young artists breaking away from the traditional drawing and painting of predictable island scenes. Now they are going into illustration, animation, collage, graphic design, multi-media, print-making, etc and using that to represent the authentic Bahamian experience. I think people just want a change and no longer simply want to make art that sells, but that resonates with people on a deeper level.
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At Cacique, we love to showcase our colourful art scene and the characters that create its distinct flair. For more information on Dyah Neilson or Doongalik Studios or any of our other fabulous Artists In The Spotlight, or to find out about curating a unique event, feel free to contact us.
Looking forward to the next chat! SMS ;)