Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Art Space Talk: Dominic Rouse (Part 1)

Digital imaging tools are now providing the creative freedoms previously the reserve of painters and the fine art digital print is now regarded equally as favorably as the traditional darkroom photograph. The digital domain almost 're-invented' photography and has been embraced by those photographers who felt hampered by the technical constraints of the old analogue processes.

One such practitioner is the photographic artist Dominic Rouse, described by America's BW Magazine as a "master of digital manipulation" and whose superbly-crafted black and white silver prints were lauded by the editor of the British Journal of Photography as "masterpieces" when 'Haunted by a Painter's Ghost' was exhibited in London.

Brooks Jensen, the editor of LensWork Publishing described Rouse as "one of the most interesting photographic artists working today" and compared his photographs to the paintings of Pieter Bruegel, Hieronymus Bosch and René Magritte. Rouse's work is certainly dark in tone and has a visionary edge that does bear comparison with the likes of Bosch & Breugel but it goes beyond that.

His provocative fantasies provide endless opportunities for speculation and possess qualities that force the viewer to suspend both belief and disbelief in unison. His prints are not only challenging and alluring but are also impeccably crafted things of beauty providing seamless transitions between the world of contemporary digital art and the timeless qualities of large format photography.


Brian Sherwin: Dominic, what can you tell us about your academic background concerning art? Did you study art formally? Tell us about your art studies in general-- any influential instructors?

Dominic Rouse: I didn’t study art as such but I did study photography for four years after completing my secondary education. On leaving school I took a year’s press photography course which led to a five year career in photojournalism and then I returned to college for three years to study commercial photography as I felt that I needed to broaden my horizons.

This second stint of my photographic education took place at the Blackpool & Fylde College of Further Education where I was fortunate to come under the tutelage of the ‘Blessed Trinity’ of Roger Goodwill, Gordon Read and most especially Geoff Clark who were each inspirational educators. Twenty-five years after leaving Blackpool I am still in touch with Geoff and many of the lessons I learned from him then remain valid today.

Another lecturer who deserves mention is Ted Gray who taught technology which was my special area of interest. It was at Blackpool under his guidance that I learned to make improbable imagery using multiple exposure techniques which gave me a pretty good living until the arrival of Photoshop.

LADIES-IN-WAITING by Dominic Rouse

BS: Tell us about yourself. At what point did you gain an interest in creating visual art?

DR: Now that is an excellent question! If we assume that press photography and advertising photography do not constitute “visual art” (and I don’t think they do) I would say that it wasn’t until twenty years into my photographic career that I was in a position to make the images that I really wanted to make. It was at that point in mid-1996 that I bought my first workstation and finally the images that filled my head and my sketchpads started to appear as two–dimensional realities.

Between 1996 and 2000 I effectively put my fine art on the back-burner while I built up a library of saleable stock imagery consisting largely of older commercial work revamped in the computer. In 2000/01 I finally gave up commercial work altogether and concentrated solely on my fine art prints.

ECCE HOMO by Dominic Rouse

BS: Can you tell us about your art? Give us some insight into the thoughts behind your art.

DR: I consider it my good fortune to have been ‘classically trained’ in the skills of the large format photographer and also among the first photographers to explore the potentials that the new digital tools have given us. It is my belief that the digital realm has granted to us photographers a freedom of expression previously reserved for painters and that this new freedom combined with the traditional photographic processes has the potential for great things.

Art is often defined as the search for truth and beauty and many an artist sets out to reveal the truth but quickly discovers that there is no such thing. He is left to give his honest impression of the lies which is the closest that Man has to a truth. An artist who is only interested in the truth will soon find himself unemployed. I would define my photographs as expositions of the fallacy we know as truth and I might add that beauty is measured in degrees of deceit, the greater the beauty the greater the deceit. Nonetheless, I am addicted to beauty though unfortunately I am a habit that beauty has managed to kick. It is comforting to consider that if all that existed was beautiful, beauty would cease to exist.

Perhaps my images have the potential for truth as they are inaccurate representations of reality.

GO-BETWEEN by Dominic Rouse

BS: Can you discuss your process in general? Are there any specific techniques that you utilize?

DR: My images are produced as toned silver gelatin prints in limited editions of eight and sixteen. They are hand-made in a traditional 'wet' darkroom using an enlarger and photographic paper developed and then bleached and toned using chemical solutions.

When collecting the elements that I need to compose an image I shoot on colour transparency material because it is much more scanner friendly than negative material which is designed to be projected onto photographic paper and has a coarser composition which shows up all too readily as granularity in high resolution drum scans.

Once all the elements have been digitized then the compositing begins. When finished, the file is written to black and white negative material using a film recorder which is essentially the scanning process in reverse.
This film is processed in the usual way and from the resulting negative the prints are made.

It might be worth mentioning that digital negatives are often better than those made in a camera because of the controls that imaging software offers. One obvious advantage is the 'sharpening' filter which, used with discretion, produces a crisper negative that contributes enormously to print quality.

To read Part 2 of my interview with Dominic Rouse click, HERE
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
Myartspace Blog on Twitter

1 comment:

Laetibule said...

very interesting!!! great!