“More important than my career is having fun while I’m building it. I haven’t chosen to be an artist to suffer from this choice, and I aim to enjoy every step of the journey…”
Daniel Nicolaevsky Maria
Visual Artist & Performer
Where are you from?
I come from the Little Alligator (Jacarézinho) favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I started out working in computer graphics for TV and press back home, but it didn’t click with me. I’ve always been passionate about languages and learning, so in 2013, I decided to use my savings to move to Toulouse, France, for a year to pick up French. The next year, I got into the School of Fine Arts in Paris, and I’ve been here ever since.
Your style in 3 words?
I wouldn’t necessarily define my approach as having a specific style, but I find myself drawn to working extensively with humble materials, found objects, and my own body. There’s a raw authenticity in using these elements that resonates with me, allowing my work to reflect a genuine connection to the every day and the unassuming. It’s about embracing the beauty in simplicity and finding meaning in the ordinary, which, for me, adds a personal touch to the creative process.
Your weakness? Your strength?
My work is deeply rooted in a strong connection to people, and I strive to infuse a profound sense of emotion into everything I create. It’s a quality that I would consider both a weakness and a strength. On one hand, my emotional investment can make the process challenging, but on the other, it brings a unique authenticity and depth to my work. The vulnerability that comes with investing so much emotion can be intense, and I do consider myself, when in a work scenario, an intense artist, but it also allows for a more genuine and impactful connection with the audience.
What makes you different?
I wear multiple hats as both a painter and a dancer, seamlessly blending the two worlds. My artistic expression extends beyond traditional canvases to include installations and objects, which I not only create but also integrate into performances. The synergy between my visual art and dance is integral to my creative process. As long as movement remains a part of my artistic journey, I’ll continue conceptualizing my work with a dynamic connection to my body in motion. It’s a fusion of mediums that allows me to explore the interplay between stillness and movement, enhancing the overall narrative of my artistic endeavors.
When did you decide to become an artist?
My passion for drawing has been a lifelong love affair, evolving alongside my teenage exploration of Tango, Salsa, Samba, and other Latin dances. However, the defining moment that propelled me towards a career as a professional artist occurred when I was accepted into the esteemed School of Fine Arts in Paris, widely known as Les Beaux-Arts. A pivotal aspect of my artistic journey was the invaluable experience of working closely with Emmanuelle Huynh for four years. This mentorship played a crucial role in shaping my artistic perspective. These transformative encounters solidified my unwavering commitment to the creative path, where my dual passions for drawing and dance seamlessly converged into a purposeful pursuit of artistic expression.
Do you choose your art form, or does the form choose you?
It’s indeed a profound question. I firmly believe that the idea has a way of choosing the medium. As a multidisciplinary artist, I see the perfect medium as one that harmonizes seamlessly with the concept at hand. Different mediums have distinct strengths in connecting with the audience and effectively conveying the intended message to their spirit. So, in my creative process, it’s more about allowing the idea to guide me toward the most fitting form of expression rather than imposing a preconceived notion of what the medium should be. It’s an organic interplay between concept and medium, each influencing and enhancing the other in the pursuit of meaningful artistic communication.
What do you find most fascinating about the creative process?
What captivates me the most about the creative process is the fascinating interplay between intuition and deliberate contemplation. Before diving into a new project, I find myself relying on my instincts and engaging in periods of meditation. My studies led me to embrace Transcendental Meditation (TM) and various body-mind techniques, which have proven instrumental in calming my mind and visualizing the artistic concepts I aim to express. There’s a profound beauty in the fusion of instinctual responses and intentional reflection, a delicate dance that allows me to tap into a deeper creative reservoir. It’s within this dynamic process that the most authentic and meaningful artistic expressions tend to emerge to the surface.
A few words about your favorite creation?
My most recent work, ‘Cradle of the World,’ is my largest and most ambitious project to date. It’s a 12-meter-long painting installation using bed frames, some of which were found on the streets of Paris. ‘Cradle of the World’ is an immersive panoramic painting installation created in 2023 as part of the Residence – Fabrique Fondation Fiminco in Romainville. The artwork comprises seven painted bed frames suspended by braided ropes. It confronts the viewer with the effects of the Plantationocene and its neocolonial practices on the current state of the world. Cutting through the bed slats are depictions of animals and people representing colonies or former European colonies that are currently experiencing ecological and human devastation.
“I envision a long life filled with the joy of dancing and painting, aspiring to continue these passions until I’m a hundred years old.”
What surprised you most about your first art shows?
What surprised me most about my first art show was the spontaneous and dynamic nature, embodying the essence of the French word ‘bricolage.’ The exhibitions felt like creative collages, where diverse elements seamlessly came together, forming a unique and unexpected narrative.
Someone else’s work that inspired or inspires you…
Several artists inspire me, each for distinct reasons. Steve McQueen captivates me with his narrative prowess, while Hank Willis Thomas’s and Yinka Shonibare’s versatility across mediums, from sculptures to conceptual pieces, is truly admirable. Emmanuelle Huynh holds a special place in my heart for her impactful pedagogy and dance. Julian Rosefeldt’s ‘Manifesto’ film resonates with me for its innovative approach, and Anitta, the Brazilian singer, not only impresses me with her music but also for her significant role in promoting favela culture globally.
Who would you like to work with someday and why?
Many artists are on my radar for a collab in the future. I would love to be in one of Tino Seghal’s work, or Ralph Lemon. Maybe even Théo Mercier.
A new project coming up or an idea you want to work on?
I’ve recently wrapped up a solo show at Art-o-Rama, the largest art fair in the Mediterranean, showcasing my work, ‘Cradle of the World.’ Cable Depot, a British art space, played a crucial role in supporting this exhibition, and we’re currently in collaboration for upcoming projects. There’s potential for further showcasing ‘Cradle of the World’ on tour or possibly creating a new piece in London next year, opening up exciting possibilities for the future.
Finish the sentence „More important than my career is…“
More important than my career is having fun while I’m building it. I haven’t chosen to be an artist to suffer from this choice, and I aim to enjoy every step of the journey. I envision a long life filled with the joy of dancing and painting, aspiring to continue these passions until I’m a hundred years old.
2024: Where are we going?
As of 2024, my journey has been quite bustling in Paris. Following Art-o-Rama, I engaged in a three-day performance at Artissima in Turin, Italy. December brought the culmination of a solo show at the prestigious Galerie du Crous de Paris in the 6th arrondissement. While the beginning of the year is marked with some group shows in Paris, my focus shifts in February towards taking some time for rest and dream with my family in Brazil, and delving into new research inside the Amazon forest. Later in the year, my ambitions extend to exploring the cultural landscapes of Central and East Africa, opening up new horizons for inspiration and growth.
Do you think about time as an artist?
Absolutely, time is a significant dimension in my artistic exploration. The concept of time became a focal point during the pandemic, leading to the development of a project titled ‘The Roots of Time.’ This work involved the creation of surreal rope clocks and a corresponding performance. As an Afro-Latino individual, the historical context of time weighs heavily on my mind. The 400 years of slavery endured by my ancestors for me to have a voice today is a constant reflection in my creative process, infusing my work with a deep awareness of the passage of time and its profound impact on identity and cultural heritage.
When the going gets tough…
When the going gets tough, I turn to self-care. I find solace in a shower, recharge through sleep, and center myself with meditation. Through these moments of rejuvenation, I gather the strength to continue facing challenges head-on.
Put on your future vision glasses: What direction is our generation moving in, what will our world look like in 50 years?
Looking ahead through the lens of the future, our generation is hurtling into a landscape reshaped by the explosive growth of generative technologies, altering how we perceive and create. Envisioning a hopeful future, I yearn for a world in 50 years where we’ve triumphed over climate change, redirecting our collective efforts from colonizing distant planets to nurturing and safeguarding life on Earth. In this vision, the rapid pace of technological evolution converges with a deepened commitment to sustainability, fostering a global community that thrives within the intricate harmony of innovation and environmental stewardship.
What would you do if you could change the World?
If given the opportunity to change the world, my primary focus would be on halting the destruction of wildlife, ending illegal deforestation in the Amazon, and addressing the ongoing genocide of marginalized cultures and ethnic groups worldwide. Urgent attention to these issues is crucial for preserving biodiversity, safeguarding the environment, and upholding the rights and lives of affected communities.
What does freedom mean when it comes to art?
Freedom in art means not being constrained by commercial considerations, allowing the artist to experiment and create without being bound by concerns of success, approval, or sales. It’s about having the autonomy to explore one’s creative impulses and push boundaries, irrespective of conventional expectations or market demands. True artistic freedom lies in the ability to express oneself authentically and fearlessly, even if it doesn’t conform to mainstream preferences or commercial viability.
If the universe is everything and it’s expanding, what is it expanding into?
The concept of the universe expanding doesn’t necessarily imply an expansion into a pre-existing space. Instead, it suggests an expansion of the very fabric of space itself. The idea can be challenging to grasp, as it involves the expansion of spacetime, not into something else, but a continual stretching and evolving of the space within the universe. So, in a sense, the universe is expanding into its potential and infinite possibilities. As for what lies beyond the observable universe, that remains a subject of scientific exploration and speculation. The phrase “To infinite, and beyond !” from Pixar’s movie character Buzzlightyear captures the profound mystery and boundless potential of the cosmos, inviting us to explore the frontiers of our understanding.
Tell us about your future plans…
While I can’t reveal all the details at the moment, I’m excited about potential future endeavors. I have aspirations to develop installations and large-scale works in different countries and continents. Engaging discussions with institutions and brands are underway for potential new partnerships, but I’d prefer not to reveal too much and spoil the surprises. Stay tuned for upcoming projects that promise to be both innovative and inspiring!
Your city’s favorite spots?
Even though I haven’t grown up here, Paris has somehow become my welcoming town for the past decade. Over here, Vincennes Woods Park holds a special place for me. It’s a fantastic location for biking or leisurely walks with my dog, offering a serene escape. Additionally, the heart of Paris itself is a favorite, akin to an open-air museum. The cityscape, filled with its iconic landmarks and cultural richness, provides endless inspiration and a vibrant backdrop for exploration.
A book that everyone should read…
Absolutely “Short Anti-racist Guide” by Djamila Ribeiro and “Plantation Memories” by Grada Kilomba are indispensable reads, offering profound insights into anti-racism and historical memory. On the novel front, I enjoyed “The Messenger” by Markus Zusak.
Last but not least: what is your favorite Song?
“Road to Nowhere” by Talking Heads is a timeless classic.
One last statement please: „Wood or stone, gold or art?“
Wood, and the alchemy of transforming art into gold.
#CradleofTheWorld #PerformanceArt #DanielNicolaevsky 😉