Interview: Amah Cynthia Dongo
To The Green We Go by Amah Cynthia Dongo
Acrylic on Canvas
48 x 40 inches, 2020
1) Could you introduce yourself? Where did you study art and when did you begin to see yourself as an artist?
My name is Amah Cynthia Dongo . I actually didn't study art, but went to design school at Parsons. I saw myself as an artist actually 3 years ago. I kinda went from design to art gradually.
2) What does it feel like to make an abstract painting? For people who are not so familiar with abstract art, what metaphor would you say is the closest thing that feels like making an abstract painting? How do you read an abstract image?
Abstract art is anything that uses symbols and images to convey something. So I think it's something that makes you feel without really putting it into concrete words. Abstract art is a love language that is invisible to some but visible to the eye of the beholder.
War of The Words by Amah Cynthia Dongo
Acrylic on Canvas
24 x 24 inches, 2021
3) Why did you choose painting as the primary vehicle to make abstract images? What tradition of artists do you work from?
I think the language of symbols and images play an important role in society. So for me, its all about interpretation and context I think. If you see something naturally, it can make you feel something. So painting is quite similar. We understand things in so many different ways . That you can paint peace without saying peace but also buy literally painting peace. I thin kits nice to have a romance to the ideas which abstract images do that..
4) Where do you find inspiration for your abstract works? Do you process the information that you absorb from the world around you in a subconscious way and then express it through your painting in a spontaneous way? Or do you engage in an extended and multi-layered process of consciously mapping and planning out the details of your abstract paintings in terms of form, composition, and color?
I think I find inspiration from all parts of life. People, places I see, nature, references to other artworks or artists. I sketch a lot of the ideas and a lot of it is mixed between conscious and subconscious. I often will mix colors to create another one within the body of the work. . We aren't always aware of the subconscious and it becomes quite expansive. I may say sketch a painting and then deviate from the sketch while I'm painting as something organic happens in the process. Other times I don't sketch and I just put what I feel on the canvas. So there isn't a singular method, nor do I think there should be. With colors I decide right before. Some people do color studies, but again I just go with an intuitive standpoint. I know there are rules and ways they work, and then there is what works for the concept of the work.
Steel by Amah Cynthia Dongo
Acrylic on Canvas
40 x 40 inches, 2020
5) Which do you think is your most successful work and why? What were the major breakthroughs in your painting and studio practice (List a few and explain the context)?
I don't think I've painted my most successful painting yet. I do think I will within the next years because I've had time to really process my ideas. But I think my two strongest and favorites are Steel and Vortex because it technically was a great concept, composition, and executed well. I think the breakthrough was finding a method that is workable for me to create good art, so I think I have found that through just practicing.
6) Do you keep certain recognizable elements like the shapes of skyscrapers or the colors of flesh that indicate a human figure to give the viewers something to hold onto while looking at your work? Painters like Willem de Kooning have said that they like to leave some easily recognizable visual elements in the painting that can serve as clues to interpret the rest of the painting. Do you agree with this kind of approach or thinking for abstract painting?
Yes, I believe without context or relevance, it is hard for the viewer to make a connection in any shape or form. So yes, it is abstract but there is a method to it, which makes it good art. There is this control and lack thereof. And something that happens is the cause of this. So it's good to have a starting point or frame of reference.
7) What is the goal or the overall message of your art? Is the goal behind your paintings to provide visual problems to the audience that can only be solved through the consideration of multiple perspectives and the greater use of observations? If people can relate to one another because of the joy in sharing a rich and beautiful visual experience through your art, is it safe to argue that your art has the transformative potential to bring about greater understanding and empathy in this world?
I think its to open up the idea of perspective and way of thinking. If a society can open the way they think, they are more likely to find solutions and work together. So there is this sense of creating art to make people see in a different way versus right or wrong and also really instill confidence in trusting what one sees and feels. So yes creating more empathy happens when we can access that side of ourselves and understand a different viewpoint. I mean I think art allows different methods to grow to understand and conceptualize ideas and thoughts.
Ladder by Amah Cynthia Dongo
Acrylic on Canvas
30 x 24 inches, 2022
8) Who are your favorite artists? Who do you admire among your contemporaries?
I love Picasso, Malevich, Kandinsky . Right now I really enjoy Keith Tyson and Sanford Biggers a lot. I think they have way of telling stories with colors that is fantastic, but also a wide range.
9) What do you think about representational or figurative art? Would you consider experimenting in those forms, or are you strictly an abstract painter?
I like both. Both allow the viewer to gain a certain access to the work. I would consider these forms in a more traditional sense if that is where it evolves. I think the story has to grow organically inside.
10) What are your dreams and goals for the future? How do you see your art evolving and changing? How does your art transform you as an artist and a person?
Dreams are to continue making art and getting better at it. I think its transformation happens as I paint. I do see my art evolving and it has from when I started. But in what way, I'm in it, so I would have to take a step back and look at it after it has had more time. I just want to be the best artist I can be and that people enjoy it.