This is Part 2 of my interview with Dominic Rouse. To return to Part 1 click, HERE
BS: What about other influences? For example, are you influenced by any specific artists?
DR: My work is regularly put into the surrealist bracket which I don’t necessarily agree with. I read an article recently in which I and other photographers producing “imaginative” work were described as The New Symbolists and I am much more comfortable with this designation.
However, I do admire the works of Magritte and Escher and their like and I guess their influence is evident in some of my work. There are occasions when my prints are mistaken for etchings and this I attribute more to their detailed tonal structure rather than the influence of any particular artist.
Perhaps it is literary rather than visual artists that I respond to. My work contains references to Kafka, Larkin, Nietzsche and John Martyn amongst others and their words have often been the starting points for images. Nietzsche particularly provides rich pickings. Strangely perhaps, photographers don’t particularly inspire me though I do appreciate the work of Witkin, Koudelka and the Parke-Harrisons.
DON'T WALK AWAY RENÉ by Dominic Rouse
BS: So what is the specific message you strive to convey to viewers? Do you adhere to a specific philosophy as far as your work is concerned?
DR: “When I lie, I am closer to the truth than documentary photography.” is a quote from the Czech photographer Tono Stano which in my view exposes superbly well the dichotomy of the camera. There is a tendency for people to believe the camera’s lies and advertising executives and newspaper editors exploit this delusion remorselessly.
The misguided belief in the veracity of the camera and the almost spiritual obligation placed on its practitioners to use it as a kind of adjunct to the Ten Commandments has, in my view, resulted in clamorous praise for many frankly uninteresting photographs.
A man may point his camera at the atrocities of war and earn the Pulitzer Prize, another may point his camera at sexual intimacy and earn himself a judge’s ire but what is war photography if it is not pornography for the power hungry perverts who demand the right to censor our lives?
That a work of art that is prohibited in a given age becomes in time valued and admired, informs us that the morality of today serves as no useful guide to the morals of tomorrow and further reveals the transient nature of the certainty which moralists of every age so confidently profess. There is no surer sign of ignorance than certainty and those who tell you that they have all the answers are quite simply not asking the right questions.
I am interested in the unseen and the obscene as an appreciation of the obscene leads to a greater understanding of beauty and the exploration of the hidden self leads to a greater understanding of others. Language limits our capacity to understand, art does not.
The point is that the censored camera is no more an instrument of truth then the mouth or the pen and to laud its dubious capacity for honesty is to undermine its higher values. We may use a paintbrush to paint the living room or decorate the Sistine Chapel and even the dullards amongst us can discern which of these is the greater achievement.
Simply put, the camera’s misleading association with ‘the truth’ has led to it being under-utilized and the time has arrived when we can at last use it to produce works of imagination that will in time bear comparison with the highest forms of art.
As an aside, one might argue that because of the prevalence of the camera and its overuse - because every day throughout the world millions of images are made by millions of people - the ability to produce a memorable image using a camera is a far greater achievement than to do so using paints, brushes and a canvas where competitors are fewer. Indeed, I sometimes wish that I could paint badly as there appears to be money in it.
ONCE A CATHOLIC by Dominic Rouse
BS: What are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers some insight into your current work?
DR: I have been in marketing mode for longer than I intended over the past few months and the production of new work has suffered accordingly. I don’t see myself working in themes or on particular projects. Whatever he may tell you to the contrary an artist is ultimately a spectator of self because there is no subject more revealing. I view the folio as an ongoing body of work which will presumably end with my demise or some less abrupt form of disability.
I don’t feel comfortable discussing work before it is completed but I would say that I have no immediate plans to change direction drastically as there is still much to explore within the current style of work.
To read Part 3 of my interview with Dominic Rouse click, HERE