Dan Arcus was born in 1983 in Galati, an industrial town in Romania. It is obvious that his country of origin still plays a big role in the work he makes today.
Dan is fluent in English and he loves to talk about his personal battles and his Romanian roots. His Master degree in Fashion was the start of a creative carreer that lead him to Brussels where he now lives and works for over 12 years.
We had a long conversation in his Brussels studio nearby the Atomium.
Did you always wanted to become a painter? Because the other day you told me you worked in fashion back in the days in Romania…
When I was a child, 11 or 12 years old, I knew I wanted to be an artist. A painter, a poet, an actor, whatever. When I went to highschool I had different options and I chose fashion, probably because of a fascination for a world I knew from television and magazines but also my gay orientation for sure. It felt safer and more appropriate somehow. Sculpture was full of macho bullies and the painting department seemed a bit boring.
I always felt very at ease in the fashion department. It was mostly girls and I felt better there, it was calmer, the teacher was nice. These factors have been an influence for choosing fashion.
Then I entered the faculty of decorative arts at the Cluj-Napoca University of Art and Design. By the way, it is the same university the world renowned contemporary painter Adrien Ghenie went to. I think it’s the best place to study art in Romania.
There were only two boys in the fashion department. Me and Amir, he later became my associate. The teacher liked us and our work was appreciated. We had the chance to organise and create fashion shows and participate in national and international fairs and competitions. I remember I even won one in Florence and during all that fashion period I had some pretty nice accomplishments.
Personally everything opened here for me. There was less judging about begin a gay guy and I felt less affected by bad things. I was 19 years old and it was a different world.
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Did you develop painting skills in Belgium, where you arrived 12 years ago, or did you develop them in Romania?
It all started with the fashion sketches and drawings I loved doing in Romania.
During my years at University I also started my own business with my friends. Our brand was quite successful in promotion but we lacked the maturity and the know-how of a business. We did make some nice collaborations with famous companies for their promotional costumes and we even made the costumes for Romanian Eurovision participation in 2008. Unfortunately the same year brought the financial crisis that put our business to an end and at that point I took the time to finish my Master.
After graduation I didn’t see any future for me as a person in Romania. A very corrupt system, the LGBTQ issue in the society and the multiple awful interactions with the state institutions from health to finance or work services made me take the decision to move to Belgium.
I left everything and started looking for a fashion job but it was almost an impossible mission back then. A Romanian friend that was a DJ in Brussels introduced me to the owner of a club and they offered me a job and a place to stay. I worked there for some years, when the law permitted I was able to get hired at Zara, later at Inno and I managed to build a life.
Later I started drawing again and participated in several contests. During a Bangkok drawing contest I got selected for an exhibition. Freshly installed in my current flat I decided to work with charcoal and pastels because it would not stain the walls or the floor of the rental flat. I was quickly accepted on the main online art selling platforms and, frankly faster than I expected, sold some pieces. That gave me a boost and really got me into fine arts.
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What is your art inspired by?
I am inspired by what I see and read, by things I like or dislike. I constantly watch the reality around, the society and the online trends and I let my imagination make stories that become images. There are many artists that I appreciate and inspire me but I am very bad with names and it seems that curators do a better job in identifying similarities. In an Artfinder blog post about my interview they mention something about Francis Bacon and psychology but I must admit that my interests and preferences keep changing and evolving.
You are settled very well as an artist in Brussels now. Do you have any advice for young artists? For the ones who come from abroad?
It’s been five years since I managed to rent my studio and I am quite happy with it. I think it is very important to be secured and independent. It’s really important to have decent rest, eat well and a good environment to practice your art.
I discovered that the obsession to find a gallery is not productive. It is more important that you keep working. This is 2022! All of the free tools that are available online are there to help you to show your work. Use them!
Start posting! Trust yourself! Post what you do! Don’t be a perfectionist! Stop not working or not showing your art because it is not exactly what you want it to be. Just do and just work. The more you work, the better it will become. You will notice people appreciating your work.
You don’t know what people’s taste are or what people’s needs are. Just put your work out there!
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image above : “At the border of safe” – 100×90 cm – oil on canvas
Do you have any regrets about work that you sold?
Frankly, no. A client once bought a pastel that I kept for 3 or 4 years. It was one of those works from the beginning that I was dismissing a bit. Afterwards she sent me a message to tell me she was being treated for cancer and that my work was comforting her and she valued it a lot. She loves seeing it in her room. That touched me as an artist. It is unexpected and somehow humbling that my drawing can cause that.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Probably more present in “brick and mortar”-galeries, participating fairs and so on. I would like having my own artistic business like a big studio where I can do more monumental works, having assistants and people helping me creating my work a bit like an art factory.
One of my things in life is “Aim High”. As high as you can because only then you will at least achieve a little bit.
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