EK Interview: Dan Voinea

art blog - Dan Voinea - Empty Kingdom

Dan Voinea is surreal but so full of emotion.  Out of the weird counter reality that he portrays there is such a strong sense of feeling that comes through I can help but stare.  I want to see these in real life.  Check out Dan’s interview:

Tell us about growing up in Bucharest, Romania.

I was born in Braşov, in 1970. I moved to Bucharest in 1991 when I became a student at the National Art College. It was  two years after the fall of the communist regime. I grew up in an environment loaded with children and noise. I was particularly seduced by games that encouraged the spirit of competition. I always wanted to win, and accepted all the challenges. And I cried whenever I happened to lose. Drawing was the only activity that kept my interest more than playing in the streets. I distinctly remember my first achievement in drawing. I was a kindergarten kid and my parents were summoned by my teacher to see my first composition – a girl leaning towards a younger girl while offering her a flower. Involuntarily, I had made my first surreal work. Later on I was to notice that it was only kids who offered flowers (joke).

art blog - Dan Voinea - Empty Kingdom


What is it about the surreal that so accurately captures the human experience?  Is it that our thought process sometimes wish to contradict  that which we perceive, that we often feel trapped by the very reality that sustains us?  Or is it something different?  Something more?

Undoubtedly, it’s exploring the subconscious. Dreams are the answers to our questions: there are no logical limits in them, and we are freed from the canon of reality. Andre Breton’s surrealism stated in its first manifesto: this movement is meant to express the real functioning of thought, while truth and art could be found in the superior reality of certain associated functions, based on the almighty dream.


Where do you hope to take your viewer with your work?  What does surrealism do, that is, what is it’s function, in the framework of your art?

The subconscious of my paintings is based on an abstract and very rational phrase called “pure dream”. This is my interpretation of the surrealist manifesto: I excluded the “impartial game of thought”, and focused on the freedom of expression so that reality and fantasy could coexist in harmony. This entire endeavor aims to point at the real image of the crisis men experience in modern times.

art blog - Dan Voinea - Empty Kingdom

What aspects of your work can you point out for us and say, ‘see that, I didn’t used to be good at that and now I am’?  What helped you make that jump?  How do you study?  How do you get better?

I think that any artist is obsessed by successfully competing with his/her self. It is, after all, a common paradox: the more you realize how far you are from perfection, the closer you are to it. Performance consists of hard work, study and, above all, sacrifice. Many a time it involves isolation, too. For months in a row I never leave my studio because I am not happy with what I do. I do believe that one’s achievements are nothing but the result of their stubborn efforts to keep working, mindless of the results. Moments of quality improvements are rare; they normally take a long time. But I must confess I have experienced such “revelations” at times. Once I finished a canvas rather late in the night, after a hard day’s work on it, never looking at the whole painting. It was before I went to bed that I first looked at it closely. I couldn’t sleep at all after that. I was too happy.


Your work from 2009 is awesome, but it seems to be mostly without background, whereas your most recent work seems full, people interacting in real world settings.  What changed since then?  When did you make the move to putting your subjects into environments?

“Urban Capella” was a project of monumental and action painting at the same time. Then I was still working in advertising, so the characters’ perspectives from Venetian ceilings painted by Tiepollo (whom I highly admired) merged with my work as an Art Director. In 2010 I gave up on advertising (after a ten year activity in the field) and I allowed myself a fresh start. I diminished the size of my paintings and focused more on the set-up around the characters in order to get a real and temporal touch.

art blog - Dan Voinea - Empty Kingdom

What’s going on in the piece “Fresh angle”?  What did you feel emotionally when you painted it?  What is the fresh angle you’re referring to?

It was the painting that challenged most in the “Playboy Afternoon” series and I would rather not reveal its mystery. The painting’s beauty lies in the fascination and seduction it unconditionally provokes, without explaining why and how. All I can say is I was “hit” by this idea, and couldn’t wait to paint it. As it expressed a scene form my recent past, I was tremendously happy to paint it. “Fresh Angle” is more of a play upon words, with double meaning. On one hand it is about the perspective/angle to look at things; on the other hand, it is about what is yet unrevealed.

art blog - Dan Voinea - Empty Kingdom


How long did “a momentary rise of reason” take you to paint?  When did you decide the name?  Why have you chosen to depict the man without clothes, or a head it seems, while the woman is fully clothed?

I particularly like the latter question, which reminds me of Edouard Manet. In 1863 he caused an immense scandal in the world of art with his “Breakfast on Grass” because it featured a naked woman surrounded by two fully dressed men. Obviously, I feel unworthily flattered by the association. It was difficult to choose from leaving my character dressed and leaving it undressed. Eventually I chose to “undress” it, in order to get a violent contrast between the texture of the curtain laid upon its shoulders and its skin. It was the canvas I painted the fastest in the new series, it took me about ten days to complete. As usual, I decided on its title when work was over. I played upon the title of Pink Floyd’s 1987 album, “A Momentary Lapse of Reason”. I found it expressed best both the painting and the idea of the whole project, so I attached it to the whole series.

art blog - Dan Voinea - Empty Kingdom


What is your current obsession?  Whether it be a food, song, tv show, movie, whatever, what is it?  How and why has it affected you so potently?

I thankfully gave up on TV 7 years ago. I would rather not think of food, as I have put on weight lately. As for films, I must say they haven’t made good movies for quite a while. So I’m not obsessed by movies, but I am maniacally obsessed with professionalism.


What are you excited to be working on the rest of this year?

I would like to paint fast and well the series I am currently working on.


What was your favorite meal growing up?

I grew up watching Popeye cartoons, and however funny it may sound, my favorite meal is the spinach my mother cooks for me.

art blog - Dan Voinea - Empty Kingdom