Good lingerie is like a powerful secret. It is the delicate layer between our public and private selves, the cherry on top in the dessert course of undressing. It has the power to transform you, spinning vulnerability into golden empowerment, evoking reactions without saying a word. Lingerie speaks for you, memories of passion and pleasure forever entangled in lace and silk. There is nothing like it, that intoxicating infusion of bold sensuality and beautiful design. Whether we realize it or not, lingerie is an act of self love, an electrifying reminder of our own power and worth. Toronto-based artist Dara Vandor harnesses that hypnotic, haunting power using only pen on canvas, creating mesmerizing and unbelievably detailed pen and ink reproductions of lingerie pieces.
From a technical standpoint, the painstaking composition of each piece is breathtaking. Lace, satin, mesh, silk, elastic, bows, belts and straps all come to life with perfect precision under her pen strokes, and these details merge seamlessly, capturing the fluid sensuality of lingerie itself. Her pieces are as strictly realistic as photography, yet there is an liveliness and movement to them that surpasses any other medium.
Emotionally, her work is haunting, seemingly pulled from our memories and imagination. It exposes what is usually hidden, tugging at our darkest fantasies while remaining rooted in reality, reminding us that lingerie, for all of its artfulness, is meant to be worn passionately and well. Her compositions are steeped in desire and implied naughtiness, arranged in elegant shapes that recall the body beneath the lingerie itself, the muscle memory of its impact.
Needless to say, we are captivated by Ms. Vandor and the power of her pen. There is a distinct passion behind her work, an otherworldly intuitiveness that we, as lovers and wearers of lingerie, were itching to understand. We chatted with her about what lingerie means to her, the importance of a daily creative routine, and how you can create “a whole universe in the silky creases of an elbow.”
PS. We adore her work so much that she offered two exclusive, limited edition prints for Live FAST readers, and it is our pleasure to debut them for sale at our Secret Society shop and Secret Society Pop Up at You’re So Baby, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
LF: Hi Dara! Tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your work.
DV: Hi! I’m an artist working with pen on canvas. In the last few years I’ve been making pieces that focus on lingerie. I’m based in Toronto, Canada.
LF: Why lingerie?
DV: I have to admit that it started for me as a happy accident. The sight of discarded clothing on the floor was really affecting, really organically beautiful. After I began the work, I started to ask myself why I was so interested in this, what it was that kept drawing me in, how I could better articulate these questions about what lingerie is and what it represents…the answers I began to find have kept me busy ever since. To me, it is such a nuanced subject and I still have so much to say about it!
LF: What is your creative process?
DV: I won’t bore you with it. Suffice it to say it involves lots of note taking, lots of wrong turns, and lots of music turned up loud.
LF: Who, or what, inspires you?
DV: So many people & things! As you’d expect, a myriad of other visual artists alive & dead (too many to name here…) inform my work and inspire what I make. I work alone, so keeping the brain engaged with rock and roll music and great podcasts during long repetitive sections has really become a core part of what I do. I sometimes joke that I became an artist as a convenient way to get to listen to the radio all day.
There’s also a whole new level of inspiration that comes from the internet. While what I do has very little to do with speed and technology, there is so much visual output to be in awe of. Visual literacy is at this amazing all-time high, I think. Don’t even get me started on Pinterest—it’s a marvel.
LF: Do you have a daily routine?
DV: YES. I’m fiercely attached to my daily routine. I get easily unbalanced without it, and while it sounds dull and the very opposite of the prevailing “free spirited spontaneous bohemian” artist archetype, it makes my working life so much easier and productive. I truly crave it. If all of the day’s activities are worked out in advance, it gives a tremendous freedom to create in a focused, uninterrupted way. I remember reading that Haruki Murakami, the Japanese novelist, repeats every day’s routine without fail in order to “mesmerize himself” into a deeper state of mind. That resonates—the less noise you can’t control, the better. It will inevitably creep in (the best laid plans and all that!) but why invite it in?
LF: You work specifically with pen and canvas, and your attention to detail produces an unbelievable realness. What appeals to you about pen and ink?
DV: I used to paint when I was younger, but a compulsive need to doodle during my university lectures drew me towards the pen (pardon the pun!) and I suppose I never left. It’s not the most forgiving medium, nor the easiest to make large scale, but the repetitive motion of crosshatching soothes the more twitchy, anxious sides of my personality.
LF: It appears to be incredibly time-consuming and detail-oriented work – do you ever get impatient with the process? What keeps you going?
DV: Would you believe me if I said that I hardly ever get impatient with the process itself? I find much of the “struggle” and the roadblocks are in the prep, in finding the right subject matter, the best composition, and in articulating the core message of the piece. By the time it comes down to the actual execution there is a certain security that’s been established.I just need to put one foot in front of the other, and that can be quite relaxing. Sort of like running a marathon—of course there are missteps and moments of frustration and self-doubt, but ultimately the finish line is already in place. You just have to keep moving towards it.
LF: Your drawings explore femininity and sexuality through the lens of lingerie. What is femininity to you?
DV: Being at home in and honest about one’s female body.
LF: Beautiful lingerie is an whirlwind of aesthetic design and sexuality, and inherently intimate by concept. What does lingerie mean to you? How does it make you feel?
DV: I didn’t grow up in a lingerie-filled household—my mother was very practical in her sartorial choices—so it played a very mysterious role for a while. So I suppose at first lingerie represented an exotic world outside my quiet, sensible upbringing—a world of glamour, of women leading exciting lives. Now that I’m older I think I see both sides of that fantasy: while you can live quite a life in granny panties, there is always a certain special feeling when one is wearing beautiful lingerie.
You know when Superman rips open his regular shirt and underneath he’s got his special superhero gear, and all of a sudden he’s this different person and everyone takes notice? I think there’s a parallel there. You move differently in lingerie, you feel like you have a secret, and it’s a powerful and empowering one…
LF: Your work raises the question of the ritualistic act of undressing and its role as a performance for the viewer. Both provocative and elegant, innocent and sexual at the same time. Is this duality what makes lingerie so powerful?
DV: I do think this is a facet of it, yes. What’s great about lingerie is that it can be just as powerful when it’s hidden and only for oneself—it doesn’t need to be just for show. On the most mundane level, we all know the joys of a well fitting bra! On a more erotic level, the effect great lingerie can have on a lover… it’s otherworldly. So yeah, practicality + magic in one item? I can’t think of much else that combines those two traits.
LF: Your pieces are created with the haunting feeling of a body still inside them – the curves and lines, the way the fabric moves – minus the actual human form. It seems to be playing with the fluidity of lingerie, as well as the idea of muscle memory, that the impact remains even when the physical body is removed. What was the inspiration behind this choice?
DV: In a certain way it’s inevitable, something that comes into my work with or without my coaxing. Lingerie is fabricated to echo the body so closely that it’s impossible to avoid that sense of the uncanny once it’s off the body: nylons without the leg look like deflated limbs, empty bras resemble collapsed breasts. I love that. The idea of aura and ghosts present in clothing has captivated me for a long while.
There’s also a beautiful manner in which clothing gets conflated with the wearer. A friends T shirt is always “Cindy’s T shirt” with or without Cindy being present. Cindy could move to Australia but that shirt is always Cindy’s (even if it was gifted to you) and often you can even go deeper and remember where you were when Cindy was wearing it in 2004. It’s so personal, and so deeply woven into our memories.
So to circle back to your question, the idea of those memories being the memories of passion, of performance, of self pleasure…If I can make the viewer connect to those moments, those lovers, those characters in their own life, I’ve done my job.
LF: I can’t get over how lifelike your pieces are! Do you have a favorite texture to draw?
DV: I have to say the technical fetishist in me loves the intense challenge of lace—there’s zero room for error as the pattern of it is a fixed and almost mechanical one. Super nerd answer, I know.
I also have to say I love playing with the looser, more “painterly” feel of silk. If you’ve ever looked at what Rembrandt and van Dyck and those guys could do with silk… It’s absolutely rapturous. They seem to create a whole universe in the silky creases of an elbow, or a glove.
LF: How do you choose the pieces that you draw?
DV: Sometimes it is a detail, a texture, or a shape that just jumps out at me and I know I have to draw it. Sometimes the lingerie is more of a vehicle for something I am trying to say and so I work backwards trying to find the right piece to fill that role.
LF: Do you have a favorite lingerie line at the moment?
DV: I’ve done a lot of work with Agent Provocateur pieces—they’re lovely and the experience of shopping there is so luxe. I’m also so interested by the work of smaller labels like Fortnight and La Fille d’O.
LF: What do you do when you’re not drawing?
DV: Read, cook, entertain, sleep, Pilates, garden, daydream. Perhaps not in that order…
LF: What advice would you give to your younger self?
DV: Just get on with it! I knew that I wanted to be an artist since I was a child, but it took me a while to get the courage to pursue it more seriously, to jump away from security & certainty with both feet. It’s a fine line between idiocy and courage, but in my case I think I needed less prudence and a bit more urgency.
LF: What’s next for you?
DV: A few projects that I am too superstitious to put in print until they’re released! Prepping for a show at Art Angels Gallery in Los Angeles in 2017. Best way to keep up with what I am doing is via Instagram (@daravandor). In terms of the actual art, there are some nuances and tangents I want to broaden and explore within my current body of work. New questions to be answered…
LF: Lastly, how fast do you live?