Heirloom IV (Adore), detail, by Dina Torrans
Dina Torrans is a Toronto-based artist and we're thrilled to feature two of her sculptures as part of our 2019/20 season campaign. Heirloom IV (Adore) graced the cover of our 2019/20 season brochure, and is also the concert image for Dreaming Jupiter, our early February program. We're also excited to feature her recent sculpture Transiting, which strongly resembes the planet Jupiter and will be on display on stage during all four concerts of Dreaming Jupiter. We caught up with Dina to learn more about her and her work in this Q&A. Enjoy!
Tafelmusik: Tell us a little about yourself, and how you started in your field of art?
Dina Torrans: As far back as I can remember, I have been drawn to working with my hands and interested in visual, audio and written word art forms. I spent hours as a child making things, listening to music, writing and singing songs. My father was an illustrator and art director and my mother plays the piano and the fiddle and has spent many years as a music teacher. So, I got an in-house, extra-curricular, early education in both areas and a perspective that included working in the Arts as an option.
By the end of high school, I knew that I wanted to study visual art at a higher level. This is how I discovered The Art Centre in Toronto. Well known for its first-class studio facilities and its dedicated artist teaching staff, the focus was on techniques and on being exposed to a variety of mediums while learning from professional artists and developing one’s unique voice. It was a great three-year foundation arts education and set me well on my way to beginning my life’s practice.
After graduating with honours in sculpture and design, I was offered a position in the sculpture school as the Studio Technician and shortly thereafter, as an Instructor in both the Sculpture and Printmaking departments. After a decade of teaching, I opened a boutique design firm in Toronto which has produced award-winning print and digital artwork for hundreds of clients over a 20-year period.
I have continued to develop my studio practice throughout this time. To date, I have created a large body of works that have regularly been exhibited, published and purchased for public and private collections internationally. Currently, my work can be seen at Fischtein Fine Art and at The Canadian Sculpture Centre in Toronto, as well as online at DinaTorrans.art.
I enjoy the creative process and it is way of teaching me about myself, and the world. I find that I can connect with and develop my thoughts and ideas on deep, reflective levels by exploring and opening myself to what I refer to as the wisdom of the unlimited unknown—that field of play where new discoveries are possible.
TM: Tell us more about the artwork featured in our season campaign and your concept behind it. What was your process while creating it?
DT: Heirloom IV (Adore)
This breastplate is an item of adornment, and is symbolic of protection and power.
It is an artefact from the future/past of a Nature Culture.
Over 75 hand-cut and shaped copper feathers were patinated, assembled and stitched together based on the design of an eagle's wing. This wall hanging measures 48" tall and weighs under 15 lbs.
TM: Tafelmusik’s 2019/20 season theme is “Old Meets New.” How do you feel your art fits with this theme?
DT: The wings are from a series of works titled Artefacts, Ecofacts and Geolife. The items are intended to suggest that they come from a previously unknown anthropological track of history. One where the culture is clearly rooted in origins that honour Nature above all else. One that works in cooperation with nature as opposed to working against it. The future/past of a new nature culture.
TM: Is this your first time collaborating with a musical project?
DT: No, music plays a very important role in my creative life.
In 1990, I was commissioned to create a sculpture for the Toronto Musician’s Association that would become their annual award for “Toronto Musician of the Year”. My sculpture is still used today to honour and recognize contemporary musical talent in Toronto.
I have designed album artwork for dozens of musical recordings. Some of them incorporate images of my original sculpture, paintings and photography.
I spent over 10 years actively creating as a singer-songwriter-performer in Toronto during the 1990’s. I have performed on a number of recording projects and have collaboratively written, produced and recorded original songs with musical colleagues. Singing, writing and performing is something I continue to do and enjoy today.
TM: What is your favourite music to listen to when making art?
DT: I listen to a full spectrum of styles: jazz, classical, world, gospel, singer-songwriters. Depends on my mood or the kind of environment I am trying to create.
TM: What shows or exhibitions are you dying to see? Is there an artist or organization you’d encourage our followers to explore?
DT: To be honest, I am deep into working out a new series of three-dimensional paintings right now which will be shown in October 2019 at the Elaine Fleck Gallery in Toronto. So, that is the show I am most excited about currently.
TM: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
DT: All the things that truly matter, beauty, love, creativity, joy and inner peace arise from beyond the mind.
Dina Torrans standing with her sculpture, Transiting
TM: What was the process used for creating Transiting
DT: This sculpture began as a drawing, an idea I saw in my head and that I felt a strong desire to manifest in physical form. It hung on the wall of my Toronto studio for a number of years while I searched for the perfect stone to use for its carving. In 2018, I returned to one of my favourite places to carve, The Studio Corsanini Carrara in Italy. It was here I found the stone that I immediately knew would be the perfect source for Transiting. It was a beautiful piece of Persian Travertine, with all the right colours and layers of time present.
I begin by figuring out how to achieve the shape I want. Based on a small-scale clay maquette, the stone gets cut into a square the size of my intended diameter and I begin to carve it out using a diamond blade and an angle grinder. There are some mathematical calculations figured out to base my cuts on and then a lot of time and energy used to carefully carve it out. Once the shape is roughed out, hours are spent filing, grinding and hand polishing it down to a smooth, finished surface. I spent the second half of the carving process working at the inspirational Carving Studio and Sculpture Centre in West Rutland, Vermont.
TM: What themes do you pursue in your work?
My themes tend to be inspired by ideas about Nature, our human belief systems, personal and planetary evolution and our ultimate interconnectedness.
TM: Who (and what) are your biggest artistic influences?
DT: #1 is Nature!
So many artists, writers and musicians have inspired me and continue to inspire. Everything I see and experience has inspired me in some way or another. There are some well-known visual artists that come to mind, but in truth, the list seems endless.
I am inspired by these visual artists: Carl Beam, Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder, Paterson Ewen, Helen Frankenthaler, Georgia O’Keeffe, Gustav Klimt, Henry Moore, Isamu Noguchi, Yoko Ono, Jean Tinguely, Cy Twombly, Leonardo Da Vinci.
TM: What do you see as the relationship/crossover between visual art and music?
DT: I feel that visual art and music both tap into that part of our human consciousness that is connected to feelings, intuition, inspiration, divine truth and joy—our heart centre. They are both able to communicate ideas in ways that can deliver a feeling or a knowing or an inspired thought in an instant, no words needed. They both have the ability to transport us out of the everyday materiality of life and into an open-minded feeling state, perhaps even to places we did not know existed within us. They can place us in a receptive state where we can allow ideas or messages to penetrate through our standard belief systems and at times, assist us in transcending our own limitations. They can both be very cathartic and very healing, whether we are creating them or appreciating them.