Esoteric artist Dolorosa de la Cruz doesn’t approach her easel knowing exactly what she will paint. Her dark illustrations sometimes take a direction of their own.
Led by evocation, and using sigil techniques, sometimes it feels like something outside of her is guiding her through the work, she says.
She’ll use different approaches at different stages of the lunar cycle, she says. “I come alive at night. My work is derived from the occult, from the esoteric.”
Energy matters more to her than aesthetic, she says. Method can get in an artist’s way, make her focus too much on appearance, she says.
“It’s a completely different way of working. I pull everything back, and use very basic materials and a very basic colour palette.”
In art college, she created installations. The work was too literal, she says, and it took too much prep.
Cutting straight to the essence of a creation is what she wants to do. “When you’ve got more things to do, it can be distracting to build.”
De la Cruz doesn’t want to talk about the subjects and symbols in her paintings. The female form, birds, skulls and snakes, the sun, and demonic monsters.
Menstruating women lie among skeletons set against a black sun, many-legged, winged and horned creatures strut defiantly across the page, a glowing shadow woman with deer horns holds a bright star, soaring through the night sky on the back of a crow.
The subjects are personal and she wants to keep it mysterious to the viewer, she says.
“I don’t like to talk too much about that and I don’t know all of it myself. There’s still a bit of mystery to it too, because otherwise there’s no point – for me anyway,” she says.
De la Cruz is inspired by music, poetry, and surrealist artists. Discovering English artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare’s subconscious drawings was her first step into the esoteric art she creates today.
She was researching artists who did occult or esoteric works, she says. “Then I started realising I wanted something else from art, rather than just the aesthetic values of it.”
She’s drawn towards red and white and black – the “holy trinity of colours” representing basic forms, she says.
“I don’t want to express why I go there,” she says. “It just depends on what you’re ready to receive.”
A Sense of Place
De la Cruz grew up on a farm in the pastoral plains outside Salto, a city in Uruguay on the lip of the Paraguayan border.
She was a solitary child, she says, with an interest in the supernatural. “I don’t really know where I started learning about it.”
At 10, she travelled from Salto to London with her mother on a cargo ship, as her father was in the merchant navy.
“It took weeks,” she said, “I was seasick from the motion but also because of the English food. But we got there eventually.”
Arriving in England was striking, she says. Life in Uruguay had been sociable and outdoorsy. Life in an English suburb was not.
Away from her home country, it was her art of the occult that gave her a sense of place, she says.
“Since age 10, I have been going by bigger energies, rather than just where I live,” she says. “You have to make up your own little home.”
Now, she lives in the Liberties, in a home full of books. Art books on the surrealists Unica Zürn and Leonora Carrington, and magic books on astrology, mythology and different religions.
“I like a lot of poetry, so that’s a big part,” she said.
And collectors items – a rare book from Harry Clarke’s library, a German book on devils and demons. “It’s my prized possession. There’s a few postcards in it sent to him.”
By day, she teaches others art. In the evenings and on weekends, she paints for herself, or for the books she’s illustrating.
She’s a night person, she says. “So I try to work with lunar energy.”
Self and Mystery
Her work is immediately spiritual, says Giovanni Giusti, who runs Gallery X and had been due to exhibit her work this March.
“There isn’t a process of conscious construction of a discourse in the art,” he says.
He admired her technique, he says, and the themes of surrealism, of sex and death. “It was almost uncanny when I found her work. I was like wow, you belong here.”
“It does require lack of awareness,” he says. “It does require self-mystery.”
It requires not knowing yourself, says Giusti. “Because if you do, it’s like shining a light that’s too bright on the process, and that makes it stop working.”
The contemporary art world is so fixated on process. “Everyone is encouraged to talk about the art, rather than actually make it,” says Guisti.
De la Cruz is the opposite, he says. Her work represents what she doesn’t want to know – and he doesn’t either.
He’s never asked her to explain it, he says. “I look at it, and there you go.”