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In Conversation with an Edinburgh College of Art Student: Ruthella Dafnis

With a name like Ruthella Love Dafnis you cannot deny this woman was born to be a great artist. Ruth grew up in a hippie-alternative family where she was encouraged to take part in creative practises like art, drama, dance, and even circus classes from a young age. She often found herself working behind the scenes of productions making costumes or painting scene settings. Unlike many children who were pushed towards creative classes with the purpose of stimulating material success through competition, her family always encouraged goals such as discovering self-confidence and expanding creative aspirations. This unique parenting style had a significant role in shaping Ruth’s approach to art and life in general.

“I take inspiration from women, how I see and feel as a woman in society.” Through nude paintings, Ruth translates her’s and other women’s personal experiences as a female in today’s world into art. When painting, her aim is to create a safe space for the subject whilst increasing their confidence. She furthers these ideals by focusing on diversity, with her paintings depicting non-binary and trans women alongside all kinds of body types.

Ruth fosters depth in her work by redefining the correlation between pink and female fragility. Instead of having a benign and sensitive nature she reinvents it to have a bright and powerful essence. This is conveyed with lush washes of pink to decorate the backgrounds, further emphasising her creative intentions about the powerful nature of the feminine subjects.

Upon asking Ruth whether she feels the male gaze distorts the viewing of her work, she explained how her paintings expound the idea that the body is not an object, and that, like the colour pink, she is redefining individual’s impressions in looking upon the female figure. In her words: “when I paint, I see them as people.” Thus, unlike their portrayal under the male gaze, these bodies are not produced with the intention of sexual pleasure but rather with the subject’s empowerment.

Later, in a discussion of the challenges that last year’s studio access restrictions had upon her, Ruth describes: “My personal space is not my artistic space; I did not feel like myself.” However, she also claims that the experience grew her ability to use her personal life within her art. In particular, this is shown through her piece ‘Flowers in the Night’ (2021). The work features images of eyes projected onto flowers, with the eyes belonging to people she met at the University of Edinburgh last year. The work showcases how the restrictions of a year of pandemic learning placed strain upon personal interactions, more specifically how masks limited our view of others’s faces to just their eyes.

In reference to her future projects, Ruth recently found inspiration in the connection between experiencing sleep and time and the idea of blending synthetic and traditional instrument sounds. I am excited to see where Ruth Dafnis’ creativity takes her. Her tenacity in expanding the borders of creativity in both the mundane and imaginative areas of daily life show her persistance when it comes to finding her place within the art world, a promising trait for a burgeoning artist.

[Image Ruth Dafnis, Her Ash
Image courtesy of the Artist]