clara Dias

painter / London (United Kingdom)


Grafting Piece , distemper on canvas, thread and found object, 93 x 72 x 30 cm, 2018.

Grafting Piece, distemper on canvas, thread and found object, 93 x 72 x 30 cm, 2018.


1. Can you tell me a little bit about what you do?

I am a visual artist based in London with a creative practice that ranges between painting, installation, photography, site specific works, drawing and collage.

My practice is deeply influenced by my past work in the healthcare sector. This period of work led me to raise questions about the surface of the human body, the laceration of the body and the nature of repair and healing. I started investigating how the skin acts as a surface, membrane and boundary and can represent materiality, medium and metaphor. By capturing subjective experiences occurring in urban environments that are generally unacknowledged or overlooked, I make connections between human agency, in the sociological sense, and lacerations of the body. These connections work as an analogy of the alteration of the skin’s integrity through time arising from its exposure to the surrounding environment.

My investigations highlight the materiality of skin, its visual and tactile qualities, and its functions through the use of different materials and methodologies in order to suggest different qualities, and each of these qualities in turn implies a distinct skin.

I work with multiple  physical ways of experimentation: soaking, adding, ripping off and stitching, introducing pigments, tearing canvas, hand sewn thread, and machine sewn thread. The results of these processes, as well as the mapping of my own experiences, are translated onto canvas surfaces through mark making, at the same time as mapping my own experiences. Taking these materials through these processes, which marks on them the effects of the passage of time, invites a rethinking of the disciplines of anthropology and ethnography.

The works’ surfaces reveal evidence of themselves as living entities, behaving like organic bodies and reflecting different stages of the life and death of human skin. The canvases display both their insides and outsides, inviting an intimate relationship with the viewer. A tactile experience is incited by looking, in spite of denying the possibility of touch. My work opens up spaces to think about my own relationship with skin and surface, as a symbolic border that both separates me from, and connects me to, others. By embodying the skin’s surfaces, the work can be seen to exist in its folds, creases, tension and movement, while collapsing and constraining to reveal skins and bodies within the work itself.

2. Why do you make art? What are your main sources of motivation?

I make art because I can’t do anything else. I’ve tried and just went terribly wrong. Art is my source of life and love, without it there’s no reason to keep going.

3.What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of your early days as an artist?

I think I’m still in my early days as an artist. The struggle is real, from unaffordable studio spaces, to low paid art jobs and a finite number of opportunities for a large community of artists. It’s a constant challenge, and progress is very slow.

4. What was the first opportunity you were offered in the arts? Would you have liked to have had different ones? As time went by, how did opportunities influence your practice?

My first opportunity in the arts was the chance to study Painting in Lisbon (Portugal) and subsequently a degree level at Wimbledon College of Arts in London (UK). These two opportunities of education have given me extensive knowledge of various creative practices, materials, media, etc – as well as a large network of range of types of artists.

In 2017, I was awarded the SPACE Patrons and Friends Studio Bursary that enabled me to challenge my art practice and explore lines of thinking beneath the surface. The bursary provided for a safe and supported environment allowing me to  work independently. It also contributed to me feeling validated and reinforced the direction of my work and its potential. During my time at SPACE studios, I had the opportunity to exhibit in Milan, in two exhibitions at Fringe Bath Art Festival 2018, undertake a residency at Joya Air (Spain), participate in the SPACE Studios Open Studios, be shortlisted for the Elephant and Griffin Art Prize 2018 and to be invited to spend two weeks in the personal studio of the writer, artist and curator Jeremy Cooper.

I don’t really think about things that I don’t have, or I could have, I prefer to keep my mind positive and embrace all the opportunities as they come – keeping myself focused on my work.

Contortion , distemper on canvas, thread and found object, 135 x 62 x 45 cm, 2018

Contortion, distemper on canvas, thread and found object, 135 x 62 x 45 cm, 2018

5. What were the first risks you had to take? Do you think the challenges you had to face gradually evolved with your practice?

My first risk was giving up a solid and stable career in the healthcare sector for a career in the arts. I believe that all risks are worth it if you can put all of yourself into it. That’s what I did and now I can never go back. As my career in the arts evolves the challenges come in different guises, but I remain driven by my intention to be a contemporary art producer.

In the Flesh,  distemper on canvas, thread and scaffolding, 200 x 360 cm, 2017

In the Flesh, distemper on canvas, thread and scaffolding, 200 x 360 cm, 2017


6. How do the risks you take influence your work today?

By committing myself to a full time job, I reduced the time devoted to my artistic practice. By having a lower paid job, I risk not being able to afford a studio space in London. However, these risks or challenges opened up other projects and other practices.

7. What puts you at ease when experimenting with something unfamiliar or trying out a new approach?

Fear is more dangerous than danger itself. Of course there can be a lot of fear and discomfort at the beginning of a career – and at the beginning of making an art work. However, I know if I persist this constant change will become familiar. Change creates openings for new ways of creation, transformation and adaptation – all crucial for the development of an artist.

Necrotic,  distemper on canvas, thread and scaffolding, 253 x 150 x 20 cm, 2017

Necrotic, distemper on canvas, thread and scaffolding, 253 x 150 x 20 cm, 2017


8. When overcoming challenges, what is the role of your community of peers and mentors?

They are the ultimate support – and reassurance that challenges can be overcome.

9. Are you easily able to consider your work outside of the labels of ‘failure’ or ‘success’? If so, are there tools and techniques you use in thinking beyond these labels?

I don’t believe that art can be labeled as failure or success. That stopped making sense with Duchamp. In my opinion, an artwork resonates with a particular time and space, and with where and when it was made and it’s in constant flux – so there can be no objective measures of success or failure

10. If you could go back in time and give yourself a good piece of advice what would it be, and is that the same advice you give yourself today?

Keep going, keep making. 

11. What are you working on at the moment, and is there anything particular that excites you?

I’m currently making mainly collages at my desk near the window at home and going through applications for prizes and international residencies. I’m also thinking of moving to another city/country in search of  the opportunity to expose my creative practice to another environment – and to also achieve a state of more affordable and sustainable living.

Untitled , paper collage, dimensions variables , 2018

Untitled, paper collage, dimensions variables , 2018


More of Clara’s work here and here