INTERVIEWED BY Michaela Stehr IMAGES courtesy of Dylan Culhane
Cape Town-based artist and photographer Dylan Culhane uses nature and colour to create his vivid, dream-like works. Here, he chats to VISI about his artistic process, his biggest passions and what’s next.
How did you get into photography/art?
I guess my art journey started as a toddler, with crayons. For real! Colouring in and drawing and collage and papier-mâché are some of the first skills we all learn in pre-school, and I just never stopped enjoying that process of making pictures. It’s an unbroken line from three-year-old me to 37-year-old me. I started taking photographs on film when I was about 14, and almost 25 years later it’s proven to be my life’s most enduring obsession.
What inspires you?
The sensation of feeling minuscule within the enormity of a mountain, the intricate design of natural textures, the energy frequency of intense colours.
What does a typical day for you look like?
Sensitive question, routine is a huge challenge for me! Now that I’m running an online platform to sell my prints, I spend a lot of time managing these processes, cataloguing, marketing my work, learning about e-commerce. All artists need to think of themselves as entrepreneurs, at the end of the day, and I’m growing into this idea. Making art is a relatively small slice in the pie-graph for me, but the goal is to create more opportunities to travel and create increasingly sophisticated work.
Do you go in search of images or do you snap spontaneously when you see something amazing?
My two biggest passions – nature and photography – intertwine so beautifully. So I try and seize any opportunity I can to travel, or just get outside somewhere. If I bring my camera along, it automatically becomes a picture-making mission, and I tune into this super-perceptive mode. I’m the worst on group hikes, always lingering five minutes behind, crouched intently over some interesting-looking rock, oblivious to everything else.
You use some pretty vivid colours. How do you go about choosing which colours to use?
I use different techniques, like spraypaint or gel filters, to enhance or modify the colours in a scene. It’s mostly instinctive, responding to the environment I’m looking at. More often than not I like to push this towards an extreme because it’s always an experiment. To see, for example, what happens when neon green paint and vivid orange lichen merge against a blue sky.
What processes do you follow when creating your work?
Most of my work is made with multiple exposure photography on film; superimposing two or more images inside an analogue camera, often incorporating painting and collage. More generally, I treat the camera like a magical toy for making pictures, always playing around with lo-fi tricks and hacks to move my photographs away from literal depictions, and towards a feeling or an idea.
What feeling are you trying to evoke through your pieces?
An expansion of consciousness.
Any local/international artists who you love or think we should check out?
I’m mostly into the old classicists, but my biggest contemporary inspirations are Ryan McGinley and Quentin Jones. Obie Oberholzer is a local hero of mine. I’d also suggest looking at the work of Anke Loots, Michael Ellis, Luca Vincenzo, Kent Andreasen, Justice Mukheli, Andile Buka, Kelly Makropoulos, Brett Rubin, Meghan Daniels… there are so many brilliant photographers in this country.
Any exciting plans for the future?
I’m excited about exploring this frontier of self-determination that’s available to all artists right now; taking ownership of your intellectual property in a more holistic way and creating a sustainable lifestyle doing what you love. I’m exploring this terrain on my own right now, with trial and error. Once I’ve figured more of it out – built an audience and developed some strategies – I’d like to open it up to other South African artists and photographers and create an online gallery platform that generates a significant income for as many of them as possible. We need artists in society, and we need them to succeed in order to sustain a perpetual flow of insights and inspiration for all of us.
Dylan’s work is available for purchase via dylanculhane.art. VISI readers can use the discount code (VISIMAG) which gives you a 15% discount on any purchase on dylanculhane.art until the end of the 2018.