I met Loris a.k.a Doctor Sunda 6 years ago. I had just finished my first street art project and I stopped by a fair where some friends were exhibiting their works. I remember how I immediately got attracted by his stall with all these intriguing designs. I was knackered and covered in painting and he gave me one of his prints ( My body is a cage. Currently hanged on my living room wall). Well, that was love at first sight. We’ve been in contact ever since and I saw his work evolve. He experimented with relational street art and huge scale walls and lately he became a tattoo artist.
In this interview we retrace his career milestones.
You started you career as an actor, right?
L.D.: I started as an illustrator, actually. I attended the Art Academy in Urbino (Italy). I was interested in designing comics and illustrations. I also developed an interest for art therapy and psychology and that led me to theatre. After reading Shakespeare I started to perceive theatre as a form of applied psychology and I wanted to explore the subject more. At that time I had troubles with my body, I was overweight and theatre helped me to reclaim my body as a tool of expression. I also felt that theatre was a more suitable career than visual art since, at that time, I was into zen calligraphy which I perceived as a too elitist art form. I began drawing again at the end of drama school.
It’s very interesting what you are saying about reclaiming your body. We always tend to think that this kind of problems belong to the female universe, it’s important to understand that is not true.
L.D.: Absolutely. Both women and men experience social pressure in terms of beauty ideals. Of course women more than men ’cause, unfortunately, we are still living in an hyper sexualised society that wants women both hot and maternal. For me it was a weight problem. My body wasn’t socially accepted because of my obesity and that kind of body shaming has no gender.
Getting back to your work. You said that you started drawing again at the end of drama school. What did you draw?
L.D.: I started a “dream machine” series. The first one portrayed a trapeze artist in precarious balance on an umbrella handle. I then started to draw my headless, small characters. They are a representation of the human insufficiency, incompleteness. Meanwhile I was still working as an actor and at the beginning it wasn’t easy to carry the sketchbooks around when I was touring. the I-Pad speeded up my process allowing me to record my inspirations into finished works as soon as they presented themselves.
When you were talking about applied psychology earlier, I immediately thought about your sketching challenges, is there a correlation?
L.D.: My work has always a theatrical component. My illustrations are staged tragicomedies for objects performed by actors. The small, limited bodies are the tragic part, the depicted surreal situations are the comedy part. With the Sketching Challenges I dive into psychology as my script becomes what people tell me about their dreams. In this relational project, the participants can see themselves in the follies I draw. The sketches are almost literal translations of the words people use when they tell me their stories. I listen, decode, sum up and return their tales in a visual form that usually infringes their expectations.
Have you ever had extreme reactions to your sketches?
L.D.: Extreme love, yes. Extreme rage or something unpleasant no. People always have some discretion in giving feedbacks. And also, I think it’s easy not to take art seriously. People usually don’t take the provocation seriously. They perceive it like a joke and if they don’t like it they just move on. Which is a pity. If I take your demon and I turn it into a travesty (which is the real tragedy) you have a weapon to fight it. There is a potential catharsis here. My act of love is to say things as they are, I don’t compromise and I don’t like alibis. People have always a clumsy innocence when they talk about their dreams, I show them that their dreams can become true in a totally unexpected way and they get shocked.
Your last step towards the relational component in your art was to start tattooing. How is it to have a body as a canvas ?
L.D.: On the one hand, tattooing gives me an extreme freedom but on the other hand there is a social limitation. For example, many people still choose to get a tattoo in places they can hide. Nevertheless, it’s just amazing. I have the possibility to transform part of people’s soul and reattach it on their bodies. It gives me the possibility to explore a different potential of expression and a different semiotic. Position is crucial for my tattoos, the physical context provides a key for reading the image. It’s an enhanced form of communication where you can enclose different levels of knowledge in a simple design.
What do you want to achieve as an artist?
L.D.: I think artists are translators of the world for the people. In this moment in time, where our reactivity and attention are measured by the scroll speed on our social media feeds, my job is to capture and fix the attention. I am a thief that tries to steal a minute of people’s busy day to provoke a reaction. My communication needs to be efficient in order to spark interest and, hopefully, make people think. I must say that in my experience people always want to approach art, to discuss and understand it. My job has also an educational components, I aim to bring art into the mainstream to raise the bar of the conversation. As long as I trigger a reaction, a feeling, a thought, I win.