Inspired by almost everything around her, Mersuka Dopazo creates art out of everyday life. We spoke to her about her colourful life and career in Bali.
In a frantic dash to acquire art work to take back to Australia, I found myself in the beautiful Bali home and studio of Spanish artist, Mersuka Dopazo. Her large scale collages grace floor to ceiling; they’re big, bold and complicated using all sorts of mixed media (fabrics, flowers, trees, textiles) to complete the final kaleidoscopic result. After chatting with her for a short while, it soon became apparent that her art directly reflects the gravitas of a big and bold life!
Her light and airy studio is filled with hundreds of stunning canvases propped against walls along with piles of fabrics and materials, hundreds of paint pots lining floors and the tables filling the light and airy studio. This very studio is inside her stunning home, which was designed by her husband Felipe Gonzalez Jimenezdela Espada (founder of SUKYF Architects) where they live with their six kids. As I sit down to chat with Mersuka, she shares how she became an artist living in Bali, her best recommendations for people visiting the island, and how she, a mother of six, finds endless inspiration in the every day…
Hi Mersuka, tell us why you first moved to Bali?
We came to Bali for our kids to attend the Green School for one year – that was the main reason. The plan was to then go back to Spain, but we totally fell in love with the school and also with Bali – now we are 12 years here. The time has passed really fast!
What do you love about living in Bali?
Everything – the weather, the people, and the fact that you can live among nature and the diversity. There are so many amazing places to visit here in Bali; incredible restaurants and amazing food too. You can go to a different restaurant every single day for a year if you want – there is so much to choose from and the prices are so good! I have so much help here also. In Europe I could not work and produce as much art as I do, but in Bali I have amazing help. Bali is perfect.
Where would you recommend people stay in Bali?
I would say travel around when you come here – spend some days in Ubud, Canggu and Nusa Dua – there are so many hotels and obviously everything is dependent upon your budget. But visit as many places as you can, because there are so many options. Put it this way: sometimes I think to myself it is more expensive to go to a supermarket, than to eat out at a restaurant. It’s incredible really and something quite unique. Unless you decide to drink a lot of alcohol, you can’t spend a lot of money here in Bali.
Where would you recommend people eat in Bali? Tell us your favourites.
Where would you recommend people play in Bali?
Ubud is amazing to see the incredible rice paddies, especially in the north of Ubud. Also Menjangan island – the snorkelling is amazing. Outside of Bali, there’s also the Mentawai islands, and also Gili Gede (pronounced G’day) which is also very special. I love going to Gili Gede – we stay at a house in the mountains called Villa Selalu. Whenever I’m there I am at peace. I tried to buy this villa, but the owner knows what she has. In fact, I think this is my favourite place in the world!
Where do you find inspiration for your art?
I’m very lucky in this because I get my inspiration from everywhere. I get inspiration from people, objects, my kids, materials and antiques. I love handmade things. A still life that I’m working on right now is inspired by a vase I bought in China. It is very old and very nice. Another one is from Kevala ceramics here in Bali, and another is from India – I take many things from my own life and travels to inspire my work. I speak with many artists and when they say they are stuck for inspiration, it sounds quite weird to me because for me, I am a bit over-inspired. But I also like to change a lot. I see other artists exhibits and I notice that they focus on one thing in the whole exhibition (like frogs for example). But for me, I like to spread my focus on many things. In fact, I can paint anything that inspires me – anything at all… feelings even! So I am very lucky in this way.
How did you train as an artist?
When I was 18 years of age, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I started studying Law and then realised this was not for me moving forward. I wanted to work as an artist so I studied many courses. I’d go to Italy and do a course on light and shadows for example, but I didn’t go to art university. Sometimes I’m very happy that I didn’t go down that route because that kind of directs your style in a certain way. I’m very free in my style.
Your studio is full of canvasses – how do you produce so much work?
I’ve worked for many years with another artist. It’s a very long path to find the right type of person to work with. It’s difficult to explain, but I need to be able to work well together and understand one another because there’s so much work to do to make a final piece, like cutting fabrics and painting. I was always told that the life of an artist is quite solitary, but for me, this is not the case. I love to be with many people and in Bali, I am always surrounded by people.
Tell us about living in Bali as an artist during Covid. Has Covid affected sales of your work?
Obviously Bali has been quiet because of the lack of tourism, but for me and my work, it was not quiet at all. I’ve been selling more than normal. After the first year of the pandemic I mainly sold work to Spain which I don’t usually do – I think it’s because people were spending so much time at home, they wanted to improve and make their houses more beautiful. That actually happened to me too. I have spent so much time eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at home with the family, that I ended up spending money on table cloths and tableware. I think because people aren’t travelling, they are improving their homes and buying paintings. So I haven’t had any down periods in sales which is great.
What has been the most exciting moment in your career so far?
I’m very thankful for the representation I have with Rebecca Hossack Gallery, who has been amazing and introduced me to people all around the world. I am very thankful to have this person in my life, and the way she has opened up my work to a global audience.
Mersuka, is there anything you are working on currently that you’d like to share with us?
Yes, something very exciting! I’m opening up a gallery space in Singapore. It will be called Maansouk, which means Mother in Hindi. As you know, I’m a bit of everything from everywhere, but I am also very connected to India. For example, all my materials (saris) come from there. We want to open the space by the beginning of 2022, but I still have much to do. On my way back from Spain at Christmas, I will hopefully go to Singapore to check everything off. The Singapore gallery will be a collection of my work as a ‘collector’, not as an artist. It will focus on showcasing pieces I have acquired from all over the world, but mainly from India, Spain, and Indonesia. These are other artists that I have discovered, but also there will be many pieces I have collected that are many hundreds of years old.
If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you, Mersuka?
I’m 22! Haha. No seriously, I feel in my mind sometimes like I’m 22, but I am a body born in 1971.
Tell me about life as a mum to six kids…
Yes, I have 6 kids in total – 4 of my own with my husband Felipe and 2 adopted. It will remain like this until I’m a grandmother, which I’m sure will be soon with my eldest son! I have two girls adopted from East Timor, but you never know, maybe I will have more… I wouldn’t mind being pregnant again! I love being pregnant. Actually, I can’t have kids anymore, but I really wouldn’t mind it. I love babies, and with age, it gets even better! My littlest one is giving me the time of my life. Her character is incredible; she is a princess from another planet. Both my kids from East Timor have cerebral palsy but it only affects their mobility, not their brain. They are so amazing and I am enjoying them fully. It’s so nice. It’s full, full, full!
To connect with Mersuka Dopazo and see her art in person, contact Rebecca Hossack Gallery.