Interview with Dagmar Cyrulla

“I enjoy making work that captures some of the things I have seen, reflected upon and learnt from”

Artist Dagmar Evelyn Cyrulla was born in Germany but grew up in Australia. Ever since she was a young girl, she enjoyed drawing and observing. She describes herself as an empathetic person, and empathy is one of the strongest feelings the viewer can experience after observing one of her paintings. This talented artist knows very well how to represent “snapshots of time” on her work and how to combine modernity and human nature through brush strokes.

“The Couple” by Dagmar Cyrulla, oil on linen 500 x 700mm (image shared by artist)

Cyrulla earned her Bachelor of Visual Arts in 1987, her Masters of Fine Art in 2009, and explained that she is constantly learning. Her work focuses on women and relationships, and she is always personally and emotionally connected to the concepts and ideas she represents. Australian and International media and institutions have recognized the value of Dagmar’s work over the past few years. This 2019 she was a finalist or winner of around 9 prizes and competitions. 

In this Q&A, artist Dagmar Cyrulla shares with PoseSpace how she found her artistic voice, what life experiences have influenced her work and the most exciting moments of her career:

You earned your Bachelor of Visual Arts in 1987 and you’ve been studying and painting for many years. When did you first know you wanted to become an artist? 

I studied my masters of fine art at Monash University Melbourne so I probably didn’t find my artist voice until then. I had great teachers in high school. So after high school I wanted to be an artist, but found it difficult to find my feet at university. My upbringing was very sheltered, so I never felt right in the university culture. After my first art degree I went on to study architecture, I think I did 4 years part-time or something like that. In hindsight I didn’t have the life experience to see that I could make a career through my painting and also felt I had to prove to my father that I was smart. I have found those skills handy, but we all have our individual journey. I have always drawn and painted and my family is creative: sewing, music, singing, etc. I would spend every day if I could on my floor drawing and I rarely watch television unless I am drawing. But I think that art is a direct reflection of personal growth and maybe I needed to grow before I found my voice. 

Studio session by Dagmar Cyrulla (image shared by artist)

Your work is about feelings. Why do you think you like to capture those “snapshots of time” in your paintings?

I think I am very empathetic. I think that comes from lots of self-reflection. I tried to really work out why I paint interior snapshots and why they are relationship based without just giving you a glib answer.  So I thought I would share some of my past with you. We (my mum, dad and two siblings) were immigrants who held on to our German culture and customs more than Germans. I guess because you are in a strange land and want to protect the family.  My father was working hard to make ends meet and we were very insular. There were never any babysitters. We rarely went out for a meal, mum would always cook and it was a very disciplined household. When I was 5, my grandfather came to Australia to visit and he loved the stories I would tell. So I went to live with them for a year in Germany near Stuttgart as he wanted to show me off to my grandmother. I went by myself. My brother and sister remained in Australia. From my parents perspective, they were giving me opportunity. A year passed by, I attended school in Germany and then all I remember is that I was badly behaved and the next minute my father was there to reprimand me and take me home again. Well, that is how I remember it. So I think there were a few things going on for me at that point. One, I had my father all to myself on the way home which I loved. Secondly I couldn’t speak English so I think that heightened my visual senses and observation. I also retracted into a world where I drew a lot. So as I grew up I was trying to work out my own family dynamics and relationships within that circle. I think I realised that life is about choice and that just because certain rituals happen in our house, it doesn’t mean that it is the norm. To distinguish something allows you the freedom to make the choice, rather than being trapped in a paradigm. I also believe that you need to adopt an attitude of continual learning. I enjoy making work that captures some of the things I have seen, reflected upon and learnt from. I love it when the viewer brings their stories to my paintings and loses themselves and maybe has an epiphany of their own. 

“A moment III” by Dagmar Cyrulla, 92 x 92 cm, 2009 (image shared by artist)

You have earned several awards and recognitions, what have been the most exciting moments of your career?

The exciting moments of my career is when an artist comes up to me and says they love the way I paint and really connect with the work. It is like someone really understands you, speaks the same language. It also gives you a sense of connection. I think we are all still looking to connect with a tribe, without life there is no art.

What do you think of 

I love It is fantastic. I came across them when I needed reference material for a sculpture or painting because the model couldn’t be here. It is a terrific artistic aid. The only suggestion is that sometimes, it would be great to have the hair up for a pose as well as down, when I sculpt I need to see a few more muscle connections, but other than that it is fabulous, I love it.

Sculpture by Dagmar Cyrulla (photograph shared by artist)

Tell us one thing you thought you knew, that it later turned out you were wrong about

I am often wrong about things, I hope I always will be as that is the only way to learn. I can not list one thing.

Which artist or painter has influenced your work?

Many painters that have influenced my work. There are so many that I look at depending upon what I am searching for in my own work. Specifically Eric Fischl, Velazquez, Degas, Jenny Saville… there are so many amazing painters who inspire and teach me things.

Do you have any shows or activities on the horizon that you’d like to tell our readers about?

I am in the 30 finalists again for the richest portrait prize in the world – the Moran Portrait prize. My portrait of the Global Fashion Designer Kym Ellery is being exhibited. I was ‘Highly Commended’ a few years ago, a category which they introduced as a one off as the judges couldn’t decide. That is pretty exciting.

Dagmar Cyrulla’s website:


Interview by Andrea Miliani

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