Pointillism revived: Rising artist Cairo Dwek connects the dots

June 14, 2022 11:57 AM

Cairo Dwek left behind her life as a model in Los Angeles to pursue her aspiration of becoming a  fine artist. Along the way, she has also reshaped her perception of normality, from the torment of  trying to achieve a ‘perfect LA body’ to a stance far more critical of that prototype of beauty: “Los  Angeles is completely appearance-focused. Growing up and modeling there greatly warped my self esteem along with my perception of normal,” said Dwek. 

The American artist, at 24, emerges adapting Pointillism to her abstract works; “I combined my  skills of Pointillism with my love for bold colors. I use Pointillism to link intricacy with abstraction.  I also focused on the juxtaposition of scale— using very large canvases but working with incredibly  minute details.” 

Dwek sowed the seeds of her style by first reacting through art to the understanding she had of the  world around her. “My early drawings in high school and when I first started modeling commented  on the unrealistic beauty standard that surrounded me on social media in LA and the harsh  expectations of the modeling world. 

Through my works, I addressed the extent women would go to achieve acceptance in their  appearance, whether that may be distorting themselves on photoshop, starving themselves, or  enduring plastic surgery; this ability to express myself through art propelled me to make it my  profession.”

Dwek attended high school at The Archer School For Girls in Los Angeles, which “empowers  young women to discover their passions and realize their true potential in an environment that is  both ambitious and joyful,” according to the school’s website. 

“I dealt with that struggle with appearance and acceptance, struggle with body image. And also, just  my own relationships with people who had drug problems or mental health problems,” Dwek said,  explaining more of this direct influence she experienced: “A lot of the girls I was around [with] had  eating disorders. So, did I. Just being in a girl's school and seeing all these girls going through these  dark times influenced me a lot.”  

Archer’s school magazine “The Oracle” featured Dwek in May 2016 after she displayed one of her  art pieces at the school’s senior exhibition: “Two pieces of her show were removed because of  concerns regarding the content of the pieces at the request of Assistant Head of School and Middle  School Director Karen Pavliscak,” said Sydney Stone, Editor-in-Chief of the outlet, in the feature  article.  

The respective withdrawn works from the exhibit record early drawings in which Dwek presented ‘explicit images’ of women undergoing cosmetic surgery. 

“Cosmetic Celebration,” a graphite drawing in black and white, shows a surgeon outlining a  woman’s future breasts on an operating table before surgery. Connected to intravenous fluids, the  woman lies in a room filled with balloons, representing the ‘LA celebration of cosmetic surgeries.’ 

“Enhance” is Dwek’s other Pointillism black and white drawing in pen excluded from the high school display: A woman looking straight at its spectators can be seen carrying a lost gaze. She is lying on a stretcher, surrounded by numerous hands holding surgical tools like scissors, a syringe,  and other cutting tools next to her face. 

At the time, Dwek said in an artist statement “this project challenged me to investigate aspects of  my life that I tend to suppress and hide. Once overcoming my initial discomfort, I began to center  my work on emotional conflicts within myself instead of conflicts in relationships. My discomfort is  reflected by the slight imperfections in my work which serve to distort certain scenarios.”  

Dwek says she doesn't feel hung up anymore by her eating disorder: “Once Covid happened, I  realized I couldn't work anymore; I just started reshaping what I wanted to do. I started reflecting  back on certain experiences that I had and I considered normal at the time, but in retrospect, they  were so far from it.” 

“My mom was a model before she had me. As a little girl I always dreamed of following her  footsteps. When I finally had the opportunity, I felt elated and seduced by the fashion industry.”  

The now full-time artist reflects on how being around photographers, fashion designers, make-up  artists, and designers inspired her artistically: “I was always very inquisitive and curious and would  ask the professionals around me about the source of their initial inspiration. I was always so  interested in how they established themselves. I watched them, listened to them, I learned from  them and their expertise”. 

While working as a model, Dwek had experienced being on steroids to keep her low weight. “My perception was completely distorted.” 

Dwek’s focus shifted once she stopped modeling; experiencing new real difficulties led her to  change her priorities: “When my dad got Covid and got very sick, I was like, why on earth do I sit around all day worrying about some stupid cookie I ate? What a waste of my time, what a waste of  my thoughts and energy.” 

Art has also served as a colossal impulse to overcoming her traumas “I started tying my self-worth  away from my appearance into something I was making, in achieving goals, and realizing that was part of my self-worth.” 

Established in London since 2020, Dwek assembles the canvas of her new life while she studies art  at Goldsmiths University: “My inspiration comes from wondering how I can capture something's essence by simplifying it into dots; each work takes 100 to 400 hours depending on the size.”  

Dwek’s exciting debut show is planned for September 2022 in the British capital. Eight of her pieces will be exhibited and curated by the American visual artist and singer Isabel Getty. “I’m so  touched she wants to work with me and that our vision is aligned,” said Dwek.  

The art world and scene are a new environment for the young artist, who has yet so much to  discover. "I'm surprised how willing everyone is to offer me advice. I try to remind myself: to ask, ask questions. If you can meet someone you admire, ask them what you want to know.”

The artist said to be now very inspired by James Turrell, Yayoi Kusama, Bridget Riley. “I love their  work, I do seek a lot of inspiration from them.”  

If she could spend a day in somebody’s studio, that person would be John Currin: “I fell in love  with his art when I was a teenager; I was doing more figurative works. He has this offense to his  figures and people, this real weirdness to them that gives you almost this window into this world of  him.” 

Dwek set a particular goal for January 2022 “to work on much larger pieces; the bigger they get, the  more excited I get.” Her objective is to create a wholly immersive experience for the viewer “I want  them to feel like they’re golfing, that as a viewer you could, almost as you could step into it.” 

Her favorite piece follows her aim of working with bigger canvases: “Is an oval. I made it the same size as a human body. That idea of somehow connecting it to the body and being life sized is  interesting, something I want to explore more”. 

The artist begins her painting by putting down a base coat, which is always the darkest tone in her  works, “I then map out my design mathematically and set markers all over the canvas with masking  tape or a water-soluble pencil. Once everything has been mapped out, I begin using the dispersion  and condensation of dots to create a form. My final stage is painting the width of the canvas to turn  the work from a painting to an object.” 

A clear purpose has been conceived for and by Cairo Dwek; reviving Pointillism by adapting it to  her vision of abstraction, has helped her bond her art dots with the dots of her own life as she  uncovers her most uncorrupted desire: 

“I want to engulf my viewers in my work by manipulating the perceptual mechanics of vision.”

Copyright of the photos belongs to CAIRO DWEK.


Explore Cairo’s website  >>CAIRO DWEK<<

Cairo’s Instagram  >> CAIRO DWEK INSTAGRAM<<

Discover Pointillism spoken with Modern & Contemporary Art expert Liberté Nuti.




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