Q&A: Raleigh Scratchboard Artist Dorian Monsalve

A Q&A with Raleigh-based artist Dorian Monsalve, who brings fantastical visions to life in his surrealist scratchboard art.

Looking at Dorian Monsalve’s surrealist scratchboard art is like peering through an incredibly detailed kaleidoscope. Every glance reveals a new perspective. There are a multitude of vividly colored dimensions, each etched with unconventional shapes, textures, and ghoulish faces.

Scratchboard art- scratching away layers of ink on a clayboard to create images- captivated Monsalve since he first encountered the medium in high school.

Trained in Colombia and New Jersey, the now Raleigh-based Monsalve has exhibited in the Triangle since 2015. With solo and group exhibitions including CAMRaleigh, The ArtsCenter, Trophy Tap & Table, City Gallery, and merit awards from Litmus Gallery & Studios and the Maria V. Howard Arts Center, Monsalve’s work brings fantastical visions to the Triangle arts scene.

Monsalve walked me through his artistic process, the reception to his work in the Triangle, and how his art connects him with the universe.

When did you first encounter scratchboard art, and what were your initial impressions of the medium?

The first encounter with scratchboard was in high school in my senior year. I thought scratchboard was so fun to create images just by using a sharp tool and etching away the india ink through either lines or crosshatching. The best was the high contrast on the drawings and how detailed I could be with this medium.

Totem for a Broken Soul, Dorian Monsalve

Walk us through your artistic process. How do you go about selecting the colors you’ll use in a piece? Are the images you create planned in advance, or do they emerge organically as you create?

The white clayboard can be pre-inked with any colored ink you wish rather than the black india scratchboard that already comes pre-inked with black india. In order to apply the color you will have to etch the image, then paint, or just keep it black and white. Most of the time I’m using white clayboard. I select the ink colors, layer them and apply them randomly with different materials such as plastic, metal pieces, or any elements that create different textures.

Once the ink is dry, I start revealing the imagery and scape by rubbing a steel wool all around the piece. Then I visualize and explore, always finding faces or fantasy beings.  To bring the image forward or faded away I use a fiberglass brush, then for a more intricate detail I use x-acto blades, speedball tips of different sizes and tools that I invent. All imagery that emerges is from deep inside my being and from what I call the source, always inspired by instrumental music, nature, and the micro/macro cosmos.

Psychedelic Beast, Dorian Monsalve

You’ve been exhibiting in the Triangle since 2015. How would you describe the reception to your work in North Carolina?

My artwork has been appreciated and admired among artists and all public in general. My scratchboard art has been described as mysterious, macabre, dark and transforming (enlightening). The public has interacted with my work by looking through magnifying glasses that I provide to explore all the small details. The closer you get the more images are revealed.

Emergence of the Beast, Dorian Monsalve

You’ve often described experimental scratchboard art as a way of connecting with your inner self and the infinite. Your work tends toward the surrealistic, even the psychedelic. Do you find that surrealism is the most honest expression of your subconscious world?

I believe abstract, surrealism, psychedelic or even visionary art are just a word to label certain type of artworks. The soul is our/my most honest expression of ones/my subconscious world. It all comes from the source, God or however you wish to call it. “We are the instruments receiving divine energy from the source to materialize all beauty”.

Vortex III, Dorian Monsalve

You’ve been experimenting with scratchboard art for twelve years. What are you most looking forward to seeing in your personal artistic explorations of the medium, and in the wider world of scratchboard art?

What I am looking forward in seeing in my personal artistic journey with this medium is to accept, learn and experience all my soul and being by expressing sacred images, and bringing awareness that we are all one with the universe. The same way all the parts, organs, cells, even the microscopic atoms in our bodies are part of one single being. I am a reflection of the universe, so is my artwork.

Shaman Connection, Dorian Monsalve

All images courtesy of the artist.

Follow Dorian Monsalve

https://www.dorianscratchart.com

Facebook: @DorianMonsalveScratchArt

Instagram: @dorianmonsalve

Twitter: @dorian_monsalve

More Q&As

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Review: Nick Dahlstrom’s con(TEXTURED) at The Carrack

In his first solo exhibition, Durham artist Nick Dahlstrom explores the importance of context through oil paintings of raw meat.

In (con)TEXTURED, his first solo exhibition, Durham artist Nick Dahlstrom decks The Carrack’s walls with oil paintings that are both gruesome and beautiful. In his depictions of raw meat and dried flowers, Dahlstrom explores the essence of texture and the importance of context.

Paintings of Meat?

It sounds strange, but meat as a subject is not as unusual as you might think. Dahlstrom cites Francis Bacon as an influence, an artist who portrayed meat as a subject and symbol in several of his works, including the haunting Figure with Meat.

Victoria Reynolds also comes to mind. Her paintings of meat straddle the line between gore and beauty. They’re also displayed in elaborate baroque frames. Plus, the meat is highly stylized- check out Fat of the Lamb for a prime example. Dahlstrom takes a more restrained, contemporary approach than Reynolds. He positions raw chicken, beef, and bacon simply, in negative space.

The Devil’s in the Details

Examined at close range, the array of textures in Dahlstrom’s paintings are astonishing. Great globs of paint coexist with chunks of opalescent tissue. Skeins of fat are as delicate as gossamer.

Painted in bright colors, Dahlstrom’s flowers retain the gore of the meat- the frilly tubes of an orchid look anatomical. If the bacon, beef, and chicken are reminiscent of the human body’s insides, the flowers look quite a bit like sexual organs.

It’s easy to wallow in the textured details of Dahlstrom’s work… which is probably the artist’s intention.

(con)Textured in Context

Back to the title of the exhibition: (con)TEXTURED. The definition of the word “contexture” is “a mass of individual parts woven together.” With the title in mind, the viewer must consider that every individual texture in these paintings is part of a greater whole- in the painting, and in the exhibition.

Notably, a statement is missing from the display itself, but you can find it on The Carrack’s website:

“The photograph has become synonymous with truth. Freed from context, the mind is forced to fill in the blanks likely forming falsehoods in place of realities. In the age of the artificial image “are we reading too much into it?””

Dahlstrom, by not putting the statement in the space itself, frees the art from context. Without context, the viewer can prioritize whatever they want. (con)TEXTURED is all about the importance of context. And in our current political climate and the carousel of today’s news cycle, when anyone can prioritize any detail to form the bigger picture they want to see, context is more relevant than ever.

Pertinent, beautiful, intriguing, grisly- don’t miss (con)TEXTURED. You can judge the meaning of the exhibition for yourself at The Carrack until December 23. The gallery is open Thursday to Sunday from 11AM to 5PM.

Nick Dahlstrom will be giving an artist’s talk on December 21 at 7PM during The Carrack’s Third Friday reception.

You can find more information about (con)TEXTURED here.

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