Arts Lockdown Series Part 3: Skye Gwilliam and Dari Mos
It’s 2016 and a millennial Santa Barbara gallery owner and multi-medium visual artist is seated writing furiously in his journal at the Café Rendez-Vous des Amis in Montmartre, once home to 19th century artists Gauguin, Monet, Degas, and Cézanne. Also sitting there is a chic femme artist-musician from Belarus studying philosophy at Sorbonne University Paris. Intrigued by his concentration, she goes over to find out more about him, and… La vie est belle.
This arts in lockdown interview is with Skye Gwilliam and Darya Moskaliova (professionally known as Dari Mos)two inseparables of art and music currently locked down in France due to COVID-19. Skye, the owner of Gone Gallery in the Funk Zone SB, is creating works in France, with six watercolor paintings recently acquired by Davis Taft Gallery Montecito via Dan Levin. Dari graduated from the Sorbonne in 2018 and concentrates fulltime on her art and music. The couple first rented in the Parisian neighborhood Barbès, and then moved to Annecy near Geneva. After a visit to California, they returned to Paris only to face the lockdown and now reside in Saint-Girons, a commune in the Ariège department in southwestern France. During lockdown they needed a note to leave the house for an hour and were restricted to stay within one kilometer of their house, or be fined 300 euros. Yet they are happy in their cocooned life of creating art and music.
Here is our California-to-France interview via Facetime and emails:
Q. Skye, what is your background?
A. Born and raised in Ojai, California. While no accredited academic schooling in art, I am raised in an environment conducive to developing as an artist; my father an architect and artist, and my mother a freelance editor and graphic abstract artist. I have been painting the majority of my life. After suffering bilateral loss of my vestibular function twenty-five years ago, art shifted to my main outlet for survival. Privately my discipline is mostly focused on brushless oil painting and sculpture while publicly I work mostly with aerosol and acrylic.
I was born in Minsk, Belarus, and moved to France and the age of 15. I studied philosophy at Sorbonne and theater in lyceum and conservatory. I started photography when I moved to France, taking photos of my theater comrades, making posters for our plays. Philosophy brought a certain harmony to all my passions: theater, music, video, photography, sculpture, drawing, painting. I took my first singing and theater classes at the age of four, went to music school for five years and played guitar. Videography, painting and other things came in between 2011 and 2015. In photography, I use both film and digital. I have several cameras (Canon, Sony, Olympus, Minolta) and I also use my phone, which has a Leica lens. I experiment with prints on my own ink-jet printer. For my other artworks, I like to make it in the most complicated ways possible, so the audience can’t figure out how it was done. I mix printed photography with paint – I mostly use Chinese ink and gesso – then I scan it, print it, paint on it again, scan it, print it, cut it, scan it, use digital post-retouch on it (I use Lightroom) and it never stops. My artwork is always alive, finishing it and framing will be killing it. That is why I don’t like art shows.
During lockdown, are the arts a plus or minus, and do they influence change?
Skye: Artists, I believe, are perhaps more prepared and well practiced in isolation than people whose activities and interactions rely on the social normalcy of day-to-day life.
I feel having an artistic outlet during the lockdown has been an invaluable resource for survival. I believe without a doubt a shift in the human condition will be felt with the change in lifestyle we are forced to consider moving forward in the current state of the world. Human interactions we once perceived as normal are now forced to adapt to a lifestyle of social distancing and remote communication.
Dari: Definitely a plus for me and the artists I know. The lockdown is an inconvenience and that’s an unpleasant experience for most people; the arts seem to be there to help to find some beauty in the misery. Music, theater, literature, cinema all helps to survive in the hardest moments for the humanity (like war), I don’t see why it wouldn’t help now. As the battle we are having against the COVID is a war, just in a different shape. With the internet, a lot of viewers started to create, so not only art can help its viewer, it also can help its creator. It always affected the human condition in a good way and in my opinion it always will.
Is that different for visual arts and music?
Skye: Visual arts as with music are often created and shared remotely within the artistic personal space of the artist. Aside from presentation of live concerts and physically attended art shows, I think creation will continue much as it was done in the past. The change will not so much be for the creation of the art but in the way the artworks and artists interact with the audience. The way we view art will be greatly affected, as there is seldom a replacement for the intimate experience of interacting with music or visual art firsthand. I do not feel that digital art shows or live streaming will ever replace the profound impact of art experienced directly by the viewer.
Dari: The lockdown definitely paralyzes certain aspects of art. It is hard for me, as a photographer, to take photos of my main subjects – people. It is hard to travel. In the middle of the French quarantaine I had to make a video with my little brother, we had to keep the distance and pretend we didn’t know each other each time we saw the police. As we were only authorized to go out for an hour, we had to go home each time to re-write a new autorisation of sortie. That was very inconvenient for the creation.
I really enjoy this time to make music and get together with other musicians, they were sending me something they work on, I would add my sound to it and send it back to them. In my opinion, of all the arts, cinema and music come as the most needed during the lockdown. I can’t picture my day without music and my week without at least a movie. It is like food and water.
Any anthropological-social-economic-political issues influencing your experience right now?
Skye: I think it is almost impossible to not take the current state of the world into consideration when creating art. Whether concisely or subconsciously, we digest all that is happening around us. Our personal experience is reflected in what we create and how we live, though I cannot say there in one particular motivating factor other than the collective influence of injustice affecting all of humanity and the personal reflection that creates in every aspect of our life.
Dari: I can’t say that what is happening in our world right now influences my art in a direct way, I have never been creating anthropological-social-economic-political related art-pieces and I wouldn’t start now, it is just not for me. However, as an artist I am very sensitive to what is happening around. I feel like a lot of people I know suddenly started to create art and I feel like they do it to take part of the history and experience some sort of importance and fame. I find it really sad. I don’t want to say that I don’t care about what is happening around. I do! Sometimes I take things too close to my heart: for example, what is going on right now in my homeland – Belarus – affects me in a very profound way. My beloved people have been living under the dictatorship of [Alexander] Lukashenko for the past twenty-six years; a lot of people are in jail for no reason, a lot of people are dead. Being in France is hard, but I still manage to do every little thing that I can do from here to help rewrite the history of Belarus. That said, what is going on affects my thoughts and my subconscious, which naturally does affect my art. The difference is that I don’t premeditate my work; I just take a blank piece of paper and put on it whatever crawls out of my mind and heart.
Are you seeking new ways to create?
Skye: The need to find new avenues to voice my personal experience is relentless. The shift is constant in the pursuit in adaptation and development towards finding a way to communicate that experience though art.
Dari: I think I have all the possible ways of creation at my disposal and if I didn’t take them, it’s that I just didn’t discover them yet. Discovery is a big part of creation. I am glad there are still a lot of ways to discover and experience.
What’s next for you?
Skye: Currently I am taking things as they come not really knowing what the next step may be.
Dari: I don’t know and don’t really think about it. I enjoy the moments of the inspiration and hope they’ll never end. It is really difficult to experience the luck of inspiration, when motivation is present but I have nothing to say. That’s the moments I use to do what normal people do – go get groceries, clean the house. As when I am full of inspiration for an entire week non-stop, you can’t even wonder how my house or my fridge looks like. What is next, I imagine it will be making more shows, I have one in September, so I need to put it together. It is my least favorite part of being an artist. I wish I could just create all day long and have someone doing all the social things for me.
Any advice for the artists/musicians going forward?
Skye: I would say now as I have always felt, to stay true to the work and what you need to communicate while being wary of compromising or pandering for acceptance or sales. Historically, I believe artistic communities are built in times of turbulent uncertainty.
Dari: Never stop, but never force. If it comes to you, don’t be afraid of experiencing it till the very end. If it doesn’t, don’t beat yourself up, just go do something else. If you are creating because otherwise you just can’t live – I am sorry for you, you have no choice. If you are an artist because you chose it for yourself for whatever reason (you find it cool, hype, or it brings you money and fame), do yourself and other people a favor – just stop, as it compromises and parasitizes everything that we, artists, breathe for.
411: Skye: https://www.instagram.com/gonegallery/