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I am an artist, creator of Bollis, a name I have given to my wide-eyed characters which feature in my paintings.

 

They look right back at the viewer, representing eyes as windows of the soul, holding a mirror to modern society. My pieces are painted on big canvases with eyes taking large amounts of space. There’s no such thing as eyes too big after all.

 

The philosophical concepts, combined with simple, cheerful representation create a very personal universe searching for emotional reaction in the viewer. I want to put across my values and beliefs and at the same time force others to question their own. I try to create art that all people can relate to by expressing emotions we all face.

 

I want to change the world by representing my vision of utopia, a place where ethnicity and backgrounds don’t matter, where we are all the same, equal, where there is no prejudice, hatred, or war. I paint people of all colors and sexual orientations. There are no rules, just Bollis dreaming with their eyes wide open. 

 

My art is inspired by the street art and crafts I saw on my backpacking travels through Central and South America and Africa as much as some fanboys pieces in NYC MOMA. 

 

Bollis have been exhibited internationally in several countries and there are upcoming 2021 solo and group exhibitions and art fairs for them in NYC, Paris, Nice, Madrid, and London.

 

When did you begin painting and how did you get started?

Bolli: I started painting in my early childhood. I was very keen on all things creative. I remember drawing and painting on the walls of my family home which my Dad strongly supported although my Mom wasn’t convinced that my early graffiti was a form of art. I made the first version of my painting ‘Tabula Rasa’ when I was 4. It wasn’t called ‘Tabula Rasa’ then obviously and it didn’t feature Bollis in their current form – the eyes were square at that time. Today’s Bollis are very much influenced by my early art as they are a return to that feeling of childhood innocence when you are not moulded by everyone’s expectations of what they think you should be.

Bollis are very much connected to my early childhood art. As years progressed and I started ‘proper’ art tuition, I became conditioned to believe that good art meant traditional-style landscapes, portraits or still lifes. I focused my energies on trying to create the perfect reproduction of something which has already been done. While I understand that as in music, an appreciation of the basic structure and techniques are helpful to an extent, it bored the hell out of me. I like the idea of back to basics with the punk and rap movements replacing so-called musical virtuosity, and the Impressionists, Picasso, right through to Banksy and street art replacing the old guard in the art world. This stripped-back DIY thing is as much the real deal as anything else in music or visual arts and can take things in a different direction. I have come to realise that art is an expression of the self. I want to create something unique rather than simply adding to the canon of what is established taste. My art is different now than it was just a few short years ago, but it has basically come back full circle to where I began with my life experiences to colour it.

Tell me more about how you’ve got the inspiration for your art on your travels through Central and South America and Africa.

Bolli: The major turning point in my life and my art career that transformed my perception of life was backpacking through some of the poorest countries of Central America, Africa and Asia. That’s when I met a lot of amazing people from different backgrounds, so welcoming and happy to share the little they had, they allowed me to see the world from a different perspective. I find that new life experiences and meeting people from outside your day to day environment gifts new ideas to create meaningful pieces of art.

Do you remember the moment when you got the inspiration to create Bollis? Tell me more about that.

Bolli: I have for a long time had an interest in eyes. The windows of the soul so they say and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The eyes are the medium through which we experience everything that is visually beautiful. The pupils in the eyes can either dilate or contract to the size of a pinhead. When dilated, they seem to be absorbing every little detail of the world around. Like black holes, attracting everything within their orbit with an irresistible gravitational pull. Also, the use of black enhances the brightness of the other colours. I like to use vibrant colours in my work and the wide-eyed Bollis hopefully enhance the other detail and colours in the picture.

During my travels, I visited a shebeen in Soweto, on Vilakazi street, where both Mandela and Desmond Tutu lived. I come back out onto the street, my head a little fuzzy after a drink with the locals and one of the kids wants to see my iPhone. My partial inebriation allows me to hand it over without too much thought or concern. After playing with it for ten minutes and showing it to a bunch of his friends he comes back, hands me the phone, throws his arms around my neck and I show them all some photos on my phone. Then the kids ask ‘Do you want to see some of my pictures?’ ‘Yes,’ I say, ‘I would love to’. Some minutes later he has retrieved a sketchbook from his nearby home and he is showing me these pencil and crayon drawings he has done. I loved them. They reminded me of my own drawings from my childhood and I’m transported back to that magical land of blissful nostalgia. It was a realisation that all the paintings I have been striving to achieve perfection were not what I wanted to present to the world. Art was in the innocence, in the untainted originality of a child. It was all about doing whatever you wanted to do. There were no restrictions. It didn’t matter to me any more of having a perfect perspective, of drawing perfect faces, of having the perfect forms of people or things. Art was about freedom and self-expression, it was never about perfection. It was already perfect.

You say you want to change the world by representing your vision of utopia. How important, and how effective do you think the message through art is?

Bolli: The message I send is for people to look around to create a better world, a world where everyone is equal and happy. We seem to have lost sight of what’s important in life. Having a big house, a nice car, clothes, jewellery. Consumerism generally. You get one life, I want to say that it’s about each other, noticing more than just the immediate environment – it’s about love and support. When you die, it won’t matter what possessions you had during your lifetime, it’s the impact you have on the lives of other people which will keep living on within them.

I believe that artists need to use their voices. The pieces of art I admire most are ones that are timeless and universal in their message. A message which stays relevant even after years have passed. This is something I try to deliver within my works too. After all, painting is not just an end in itself but a means of trying to communicate one’s beliefs.

I base my works on people, my feelings and life experiences. Also, I try to give voice to current issues so that people can relate to my art and recognise it as relevant to them too. I want to express everything our lives involve.

I do like to think that the messages which encourage equality, love and togetherness I try to convey through my art will still be relevant in some years to come. That is unless the world becomes a utopia (which I hope it will), and the message becomes reality.

Could you walk us through your process? How much planning do you do before you jump into a painting? If you do, what are you trying to solve at each stage of it?

Bolli: The main part of my process is an inspiration. The inspiration can come from anywhere really. Everything and anything inspires me. I’m fascinated by people and I want to express what’s around me and what’s on my mind. I find inspiration in the people I meet, conversations, music that moves me, current affairs, life experiences I’ve had. It also comes from my dreams and I keep a notepad by the side of my bed to write down any ideas before they fade with the waking dawn.

Once the idea is there, a name for a painting normally comes naturally into my mind. I usually name all my works before I even start painting.

I sometimes prepare a basic sketch but more often I just go straight into the painting process. I work with large canvasses and I usually have 1-2 paintings on the go at the same time. As I progress through each piece, I sometimes change the piece slightly as to what it was originally intended or add bits I didn’t initially think of putting there but the general idea always stays.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

Bolli: I have many positive responses. Quite a few people say that my work is unique and has a very personal touch, quite different from what they saw in other artists’ creations. I believe life experiences help to develop art. Once we have something to express, something to say, the art starts growing. It’s important to get rid of the notion that art is this thing only accessible to a few gifted people. To me, art is not about skill but about an idea. Everyone can express themselves through painting and everyone can create amazing, unique art. I think it’s important for artists to create something new instead of trying to copy what has already been done. The main thing is to be yourself and I like when people see that in my art.

I also had some negative responses obviously as whatever you do, it will never be liked by everyone. One of my recent ‘haters’ started talking to me about how bad my art was and I responded back. We got talking (mainly arguing at first) but now we are actually friends. He learned to appreciate my work by talking to me and hearing more about what I was trying to express.

What artists have influenced your work the most?

Bolli: Most of my work is influenced by people I meet and I owe my art career to inspiring people I met on my travels.

I loved street-crafts and murals I saw on my travels. Some of my favourite established visual artists whose works are enjoyed are Banksy, Van Gogh and Munch. I admire works of all artists though, not just visual artists but also musicians, performing artists, photographers… my favourites are always ones who have their own, unique style.

What are you currently working on?

Bolli: I’m currently working on some of my upcoming exhibitions. Many of the 2020 and 2021 ones have been postponed but I’m also planning ahead for 2022. I have still managed to exhibit in several places in 2020, including New York, London and Puerto Rico. My upcoming 2021 shows will be in New York, London, Paris, Nice and Madrid. I’m working to also take my art to new areas, including Africa and Asia.

I’m also working together with journalist Luis Jorge Rios and his team to expand my art to NFTs in the near future.

On top of my own art, I also work with several emerging artists to guide them through the first steps of their careers.

I am also working to use my wide-opened eyes to support Amazink Areola, a company that works to give back self-confidence to women who went through a mastectomy.

I try to send my message of looking at the world with eyes wide open and giving back across though everything that I do.

Apart from the above, have also been involved in charity projects, including supporting orphanages in Uganda and India.

Where do you see yourself and your art in 5 years?

Bolli: I have a plan which I’m currently working on, most of it involving expanding my art to new places as well as collaborating with people on some exciting projects. I also work on taking my art into the world of NFTs.

But recent events have shown us that nothing is set in stone and that all plans need to be revisited and revised to take account of external forces over which you have little or no control. It’s good to have goals but they change in terms of the specifics.

I definitely want to keep bringing happiness to others’ lives through my art.

I feel grateful to have the chance to influence the world for the better, even in a small way. If you can make someone smile, it’s worthwhile.

What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?

Bolli: I believe the best way to reach people is through exhibitions. I do love physical exhibitions where you can see and appreciate pieces of art in person. But I also got many people who are interested in my art through social media and through my press. Some of my art is featured on fine art platforms like Artsy and Artland but I do believe the best way to appreciate a piece of art is to actually see it in person.

To learn more about Bolli and her art, please check:

Website

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Thank you!

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