Interview by Eleonore Gross
- Nicol Dourala would you say your work is highly influenced by the history or stories of the spaces where you exhibit? Yes, at least some of my past work does.
- How do you adapt your work to the spaces? Is it mainly a feeling or do you research before you begin your artwork? Both really, it depends on the exhibition; where it is, and how strong the connotations are for me. For example, for my installation ‘Sleep Tight’ for the Trust exhibition at Drum Castle, National Trust of Scotland, I did research about the castle and its grounds. Whereas for ‘Queens, Princesses and Duchesses’ exhibited in 2007 at Gray's School of Art, where I suspended many slates from the ceiling, I mostly worked from emotions I had, having recently moved to Aberdeen.
- May I say you are a site specific artist? I can’t identify myself as a site specific artist but I have done quite a lot of site specific works. It does depend on the project, but certainly, the space affects my work in some way or another.
The project based in the castle was of strong influence to me because of its architecture and history.
- Where does your obsession to unveil the truth come from or the will to expose secrets in the site’s history? Well, I don’t know if it is an obsession, and I’m not sure for that matter if it is the truth I’ve tried to unveil. I often use materials in their raw state and I guess you can define a certain ‘truth’ directly from them.
- Is using materials from the sites, a way to leave your own trace in history and your heritage? I would not necessarily say that leaving my own heritage behind is what I’m interested in, or what my work is about. I would say it’s more of an exploration to understand; the way I work is through experiencing, through working with a chosen medium and often allowing chance to be part of it.
- Do you consider your work as an emotional experience or a kind of journey to understand who we are? I do believe that an emotional experience can also be a journey in order to understand who we are. I am talking about the present and the relationships we have with the elements we are surrounded by. If you understand the past maybe you recognize or realize more about the present and understand where we are at. I used to definitely aim for conceptual but recently I have tried to liberate myself of this process and try new ways of working. Ideas are playing in the back of my mind but they are not necessarily guiding the work.
- Do you consider your work as anthropological research? Yes, I think it is and also a sociological one. Although I never use the human form, I use elements which surround us, materials which have shaped our environment.
- In your proposal and your sketchbook you mention letting yourself be influenced by the space of the gallery and the presence of the other artists? how do you feel about this now? Well, when I am given a chance to work in a simultaneous residence such as this, I prefer not having a strong, set idea and rather allow myself to be influenced; either by the other artists or the space. I found the whole process of working with other artists intriguing. It’s an opportunity you rarely get, as being an artist can be quite a lonely business, even in a residency context.
My starting point for this installation was this beautiful beam going across the gallery which reveals the foundations of the space. Following this element I let my artwork evolve, transform and turn into quite an emotional piece for myself.
- We can see two different starting points in this piece, one coming down from the beam and another almost coming out of the floor. How would you explain the relationship between these forces? Yes, there is definitely a relationship between the beam and these cement structures which are attached to the foundations and what intrigues me are the questions they pose.
- Can you explain the properties of cement and give some key factors about the meaning of your installation? I have used cement in a previous installation but it had played a very different role. This time around the cement is my star player. Well, my whole installation is only made out of two or three materials so it is quite plain and simple in that respect. I am not sure why I find such interest in cement. It might have to do with the fact that growing up in Greece, cement seemed to also grow along side me. Maybe it is because even though cement is such a hard material and seems impermeable, at the same time it is not and there are many examples where the opposite occurs. In this particular installation, I was interested in suffocating the material in plastic bags and then freeing them in order to expose the experience they underwent.