with Susanne IIes, Symbolist Art
to Artist by © Rocío Heredia
is a surrealist artist who beautifully incorporates symbolic shapes into
her artwork. There is a substantial imagistic inspiration in this painter,
who is also widely known as a writer. Susanne finds an interconnection
among these artistic disciplines for the expression of her spiritual faith,
inner visions, fears and passions through clear allegory and vivid colors.
Susanne uses these symbols, especially the dragons, and finds her way
into the narrative of her paintings and writings. I look at her artwork
sovereign power, beauty, history, time and repetition of the dragons to
prove their spiritual communion in the diverse cultures of the world.
The historical context is important for her and is very interesting for
the evolution of Symbolist Art as a whole.
How did you get interested in visual Art?
I have been passionate about drawing since I was a child. Much of my time
was spent outdoors where I was enamoured with the immediacy of the colours
and textures surrounding me. I tried to capture the feeling nature gave
me through sketching and painting. Books too were a great source of pleasure.
The pictures and words fed my imagination and inspired me. Art became
a way for me to translate my emotions into something tangible.
How did you learn about Dragons and symbolism, and why did you
become attracted to them?
I have always been fascinated by the ancient stories of mankind. While
researching these myths, I discovered dragons came up time and time again
as heavenly messengers, not demons. The dragon had once been a symbolic
link between heaven and earth; this idea surprised and excited me! I was
prompted to find out as much as I could about dragons.
Did you go through the Dragon craze when you were a little girl?
So where does it begin for you?
When I was a child, there was a special place in my yard where salamanders
lived under mossy rocks. I used to pretend they were baby dragons....I
loved dragons as a little girl! Magnificent ones used to come to me in
my sleep. They didn't frighten me at all. In fact, in my dreams I used
to ride them.
How does symbolism fit into your artistic style?
I believe symbols are an international language. Mythical imagination
can reconnect us to our roots, the earth and each other. Through my Art
I hope to bridge the barriers of language, race and culture.
What is your background? Which is your favorite technique?
I trained at the Ontario College of Art, Toronto, Canada. I am known primarily
for my pen and ink illustrations and acrylic paintings. I love to use
very tiny brushes to lay down colour in feathery layers. The tension between
contrasting colours adds to the rhythm I try to achieve in my work.
You deal extensively with symbolist shapes. Are there connections
between your paintings and surrealism? Is this a foundation for your Art?
Yes, there are connections between my paintings and surrealism, as much
of my art ideas come from dreams. I most certainly believe this to be
a foundation of my art.
I'm tempted to ask if you've made a list of symbols or subjects
from which to paint.
I don't keep a list of symbols. I do, however, keep a dream journal and
a list of painting ideas.
What intrigues me is the varying ways that you approach Dragons.
Can you take us into the creative process? What inspires you?
Each dragon painting is approached differently. I am inspired by the Art,
myths, rites and rituals of many different cultures. I know I must approach
each story with the utmost respect. I carefully research the myth and
seek spiritual guidance to more fully appreciate the wisdom and beauty
of the message I am trying to translate into a work of art.
One of the things that I can see your artwork is the steam that
you express into your paintings. From what do you draw your intense power?
What do you find spiritual?
I have very strong faith and believe in divine guidance. I pray. I journey.
I dream. I allow the energy I experience to flow through my brush. I find
the sacred in the simplest things...the smell of bergamot tea; the sound
of a raven's wings in flight; the softness of a sleeping newborn.
Why have you chosen to express the spiritual concept and mythology
As Joseph Campbell once said, "Myth must be kept alive. The people
who can keep it alive are artists of one kind or another." Being
spiritually guided, I uncover myths and use the theme of dragons to symbolically
express the idea that although we come from different backgrounds we are,
in essence, part of the same family. As a body of work, the dragon paintings
become a metaphor for the interconnectedness of all humans. It's for this
reason my mission is to return a lost knowledge of ancient traditions
and heighten spiritual awareness with respect to the integral role of
the dragon as man's sacred link between Heaven and Earth.
Do you feel that your spiritual faith lets you to take creative
What is the relevance of the Symbolist Art today?
Symbolist Art is important in that it leads the viewer's imagination into
the unseen world of thoughts, hopes and fears. I believe symbols in art
are a catalyst to personal revelation.
What are your working on at present?
Although I continue to paint each day, I am devoting more time to writing.
A book is in the works, in addition to freelancing for magazines such
as Spirituality & Health. Another project I am very pleased about
is the International
Juried Online Symbolist Art Show. As curator, I am very excited by
the entries to date. The quality of the artwork is outstanding.
What is your purpose as an artist?
There are so many stories to tell. I have a dream persona called the Bone
Singer, a type of spiritual archaeologist so to speak. She digs up the
bones of our ancestors, spirits, dragons and other mythological beings,
and breaths new life into them. It is my hope that my artwork will respectfully
unearth those bones and bring them to light in a modern context.
Which is your most important unfulfilled wish? What do you aspire?
I wish my artwork to have a lasting message. As an artist I feel I have
a responsibility for the message I put out into the world. I also believe
that art should contribute to the fabric of society.
Who are some of the other artists who have influenced you?
Nicholas Roerich, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, pre-Raphaelites, Jack Shadbolt,
DaVinci, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Alex Colville.
What made you decide to start writing?
I have written creative stories and poems since childhood. As an avid
reader, the rhythm of the written word has always intrigued me. Writing
for me now is a natural extension of my creative expression.
Which came about first, the writings or the painting?
It is easy for you to combine those two things: writing and painting?
What relationship do you see between both?
Yes, I feel both writing and painting give me creative balance. The relationship
I see is that some things need to be written, particularly when passing
on knowledge or information. However, when speaking of emotions, of deeper
feelings, they cannot be put into words as easily. I believe you can tell
the story through words, but the heart of the story translates better
How did you choose to write about Dragons?
I received many inquiries from people who wanted to learn more about the
stories behind the paintings.
Do you seek to illustrate the origins of how the dragons are present
in the different cultures?
Yes, this is exactly what I hope to do.
What writers do you feel most influenced your work?
James Joyce, Joseph Campbell, Neil Gaiman, Shakespeare, Mircea Eliade,
Maria Gimbutas, Thomas Moore, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, James Herriot, Richard
Adams.How have you found that the Internet has played into the
promotion of your artwork?
The internet is quite valuable to reaching out and making my artwork accessible
to a global audience. My website, dracoblu.com, has been an outstanding
success, frequented by over 3,000 visitors per month.
How do you see the world and the Symbolism Art a hundred years
I hope symbolist art will become a bridge between cultures. I believe
this bridge will allow people from all walks of life to share their histories,
traditions, hopes and dreams through the visual language of art.
Would you talk about your perspective on The First Annual International
Juried Online Symbolist Art Show and what your thinking is about this
My purpose for organizing this exhibition is threefold:
1. To promote and celebrate symbolist art.
2. To provide artists from all backgrounds a convenient and meaningful
3. To help art students gain exposure and bring together a diverse array
of inspirational perspectives.
To date, the quality of the entries have been wonderful and I am confident
the show will be quite successful.
What do you expect to transmit with this group of artists?
The theme of this year's show is the "Dreamer and the Dreamed".
Because dreams can heal us, frighten us, spark creative inspiration, or
carry us to other realms, I am encouraging artists to explore how dreams
influence their lives. I hope this show will be an ongoing event, which
over time may be the catalyst for reviving greater interest in symbolist
art and artists.
What do you hope visitors to this exhibition at BTDesign Art Gallery
will bring away from it?
I am grateful for the opportunity to exhibit my work at the BTDesign Art
Gallery. I hope my artwork promotes a positive mythic world view. It is
my wish visitors will experience a passion in my art which resonates with
their hearts and minds.
Finally, If you could send one message to the general public what
would it be?
Seek beauty in everything you do.
Susanne, me and I am sure our viewers, appreciate your time and responses
to my questions.
Susanne Iles ~ Dracoblu:::
Interview © March 2002 Rocío Heredia.
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BTDesign Art Gallery.
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