Dominique Golden is a multidisciplinary artist, originally from Lancashire, in the North of England, and is now working and living in London. The first time I became aware of her work was through the “Familiar Machines” exhibition at Backlit Galleries in Nottingham in 2019 where an almost life-sized Madonna with an integrated structure that made it weep bloody tears was shown. Beside working in sculpture and drawing, Dominique also makes video art, writes and performs poetry, works with music and runs her own music label (Pearl Home records).
The special circumstance of the ongoing Pandemic has opened up the opportunity for us to meet online, and at the same time kept us from actually meeting face to face. But that didn’t stop us from getting into conversation.
Hello Dominique. Thank you so much for taking your time to answer my questions. Let’s start with facts and basics: Do you have a formal art education, and do you think that’s important at all?
Yes, I do have a formal education and without it, I would not have arrived at the art I practise now. Due to having grown up in a very loving but unartistic family, it has shaped and enabled my practise and personality and gave me access to the art world.
Growing up in St Helens at that time, being an artist or even working in the arts was not a career option for me. At school my careers advisor suggested I become a florist due to my obvious enthusiasm and dedication to creative lessons.
Luckily, my art teacher had suggested to my parents that I should go to art college. I was very keen to do this, so my path was set: I firstly went to the Gamble institute in St Helens, Lancashire for pre-foundation and foundation, and then went on to Leeds University Graphic Design, studying printmaking. And following this I was accepted to the RCA fine art printmaking where I completed my MA and fellowship which was 3 years in total.
In your statement on your website you mention “family” as a central topic of your work. What exactly do you mean by this? Are you referring to the family we grew up in, as in where we come from, or rather the core family we build for ourselves?
I am not exactly representing the family as such. All of my work is a self-portrait in a loose sense. I am addressing my position within my family and within the world at large.
I have a husband called Nik and 2 sons, who are 12 and 9 years old. I came to realise early on that as a parent you are controlled by your children. Therefore, there is a dance that occurs between family members. The dynamics move around the 4 of us as we all grow and develop into new figures due to the push and pull of each other; creating multiple selves at every stage.
Would you say you see your position in the world through your position in your family?
Recently I have represented myself in the image of Mary the Mother of God for performances of spoken word sound art and sculpture. Mary has been used throughout history as a template for all mothers. I want to combine this with the every-type woman, combine these traditional depictions and meanings and the idea of the domestic and worldly into my creative representation of the feminine.
But ultimately I’m not defined by my family.
Many of your drawings I find outright disturbing. Figures that have missing limbs or doubled features, sometimes limbs are twisted so that it seems to be bodies more than living people, and then some seem to be half animal… There’s an edginess to your drawings that doesn’t quite match the positive and comforting picture that’s often associated with motherhood.
For me, family both means comfort and conflict. A lot of my work has a psychological quality, and I address control in various states.
In my recent drawings, I have been focusing on the marionette figure which represents control and nature…
The animal aspect was a subject which I have worked with for many years and is prior to my recent myth building of children made of wood.
For example, I made a series with tigers that represented feminine lust. And I used sharks, indicating an archetypal personality type which only takes and does not give.
Marionettes and wood figures: Can you explain what interests you in them? You are drawing, not making them, right?
The subject matter of marionettes comes from an eclectic research pattern which incorporates among other influences, Pinocchio, feminism, and what I call gender alternate birth rite.
The story of Pinocchio has always fascinated me because the mother is unnecessary, as the father Geppetto carves his son out of wood.
I paired this with the Catholic holy family. In this storyline, Joseph the carpenter is capable of singular child creation along-side the story of the virgin birth. This provides basis for intrigue about the origin of the son of God, and how this would shift the patriarchal control.
How would that shift patriarchal control, I don’t understand. If a man was birther of god wouldn’t that, if anything, strengthen his position?
Well, it refers to what I meant when I mentioned “gender alternate birth rite” and is a huge area of feminism and hard to describe in brief: In our male dominated society, child birth generates expectations of the role in society on women. In an alternate society as invented in the story of Pinocchio, this might turn and would mean that the notion of the house wife, or mother as primary carer would be broken down, perhaps men would become primary child carer’s, and in extension create a huge shift in society at large.
The drawing above is from this body of work?
The title is ‘Vincent climbing through the window’. Here, everything is made of wood and is a living thing. Therefore, everything is level in status, and everything is connected. Therefore, one’s actions affect everyone and everything around you, which refers back to the comment I made earlier: There’s a dance that occurs between family members.
The drawing is also meant to represent a birth, the action of Vincent entering the home; this is also intended to echo the reversal of the gender reversal birth option as above.
That’s fascinating! – Do you currently work mainly with imagery? Is that the form you think it will stay in, or are these preparatory works? – It sounds like you have a lot of story developed, too, maybe it’ll end as a book?
I am currently making a series of drawings that are very defined in this thought process – so far I have only released them on instagram.
But my plan is to make a wooden child – I’ve started to collect driftwood for it.
I am also working on a design for a stain glass window
However, my next move which I hope to spend some time on is to make some more moving image work.
So what is your interest in the story behind your art? Is the narrative that you explore part of your research only? Or is it part of the art itself?
I would say I am interested in narrative in general and have special interest in alternate timelines and alternate worlds. I have often made work which is in some way influenced by childhood fairy tales and ancient mythology.
I use existing narrative as a mosaic. I patch together various themes which resonate with me and present them as images. I don’t tell stories as such, I retell pre-written text via image making and investigation of well known and not so well known tales.
My other interest in terms of the written word is poetry. During lockdown I created a poetry pamphlet about journeying into new pastures yet feeling like you want to stay at home. A lot of my work is hinged on periods of time that are rites of passage like when you change from child to adult, I.e. a combination of fear and sexual awakening. You can find it here:
‘The Mary Fact File’ was another publication I put together that filled in as many missing blanks from Mary the Mother of God’s recorded existence as I could find. I performed the fact file as a rap with a backing track and video animation whilst dressed as Mary. The fact file leaflet was passed around the audience so they could sing along.
You mentioned performance before. So, you are not mainly interested in written poetry, you perform and make music too?
Yes I am interested in spoken word and sound art. Prior to having children I sang in a band called Jesus Licks, I still play the flute with COMA London which is an improvisation orchestra. We perform concerts in various venues in and around London. I have also composed some scores for them which where performed via zoom during lockdown.
Myself and Nik run a DIY record label that release handmade vinyl by artists working in these formats. We also host concerts at home and present a radio show www.theneonhospice.com on Friday nights at 5.30pm. This is in order to show case our own sound art/music and spoken word as well as our friends and colleagues whom we share similar interest.
Any immediate plans for the future?
My current enthusiasm is tied up in making sound art for the radio show, I have been writing material and selecting work from our back catalogue. Also, the kids just started school again this week, so I am looking forward to seeing some shows! Just booked to see Aubrey Beardsley at the tate.
I have taken a break from drawing every day (to focus on the end of summer) now we are back to term time I will endeavour to make some moving images/animation of my drawings and create some graphic score also using animation. During lockdown I made a film for COMA London, which I will review as a stepping off point…
I am afraid, we are running out of space on this blog here. Maybe a last question: If someone wants to follow up on this and find out more about you and your art, where should they go or where should they click?
There’s my hompage(s)
My radio show can be found here every Friday at 5.30pm.
Thank you, Dominique!
all images used in the blogpost are under copyright of Dominique Golden and were used with her kind permission.
I first met Jenny at the Sheffield Artist Book Fair last autumn and was immediately smitten by her and her books. Despite their diverse subjects, they share a common aesthetic: many have a concertina as the basic element, lending flexibility and movement to the structure, with abstract collages in a calm colour palette and no text on the pages.
I was very happy to be invited into her home for this interview.
Hilke: (looking around in the room) I am always interested in biographies, how the places we find ourselves in, literally as well as figuratively, shape what we make. And how sometimes just everything seems to slot into place.
Jenny: Yeah, definitely. I sometimes wish I had my own studio somewhere. But working in the house currently works best with the family situation I find myself in. My children are 3 and 7 years old, and mostly I work while they are away in school or preschool and while they are asleep.
Surprisingly, however, I found that working like this, I get more work done than ever before.
Hilke: That’s amazing! Most parents seem to complain about the lack of creative time. Why do you think it’s different for you?
Jenny: Before the kids, I worked as an art technician at a secondary school. My work gave me a sense of achievement and it satisfied my need to be creative. I still made my own work, but very slowly – there was always time to finish tomorrow.
After I had the kids, I gave up the job as a technician, and it became so much more important to do something for myself.
It is in the small time slots when I am alone or they are asleep that I get my table and bench out, unpack my materials, and become very focussed on what I want to achieve.
Hilke: I see. How would you describe your books and how you work?
Jenny: I love to work with different layers, textures and combine them all. In my collages I bring together my own material from sketchbooks, mixed media layers and mark-making experiments, and I combine those with carefully selected elements from magazines to form an organic whole.
Hilke: What is it about the book format that appeals to you? Why not make stand-alone collages?
Jenny: Books appeal to me as fairly small and handheld artwork. They are intimate and playful. The viewer holds it in their hands, and is able to experience it at their own pace. And I like how in a book the elements move, bringing the different collages into relation to each other.
Hilke: How do you approach a new work?
Jenny: I use mind-mapping to choose my theme and then gather research: other artists who worked with similar elements, drawings of the subject matter, markmaking in response to the theme and I make notes all the way through.
I also glue in paper samples, a trial collage at a later stage, maybe. – I always think through the concept of a piece. Recording my thoughts and research helps me to think and later to talk about my art. And by the time I start with the first collages, I have a clear idea of what book structure I am going to use, and what kind of feeling I want to portray. I create more collages than I need for a project so I can choose which will work best in the book and which relate well to each other.
Hilke: Moving from one collage to the other, what drives you on? Are you dissatisfied with the collage you just made, and try to make it better?
Jenny: Making collages with found paper has an exciting element for me. I’m thinking for example: How can I turn that image of a lampshade into a reflective part in a window? or: How can I cut out this bowl of soup, change the context and change how the viewer sees it.
Rather than being dissatisfied with what I already have, I’m still curious to see whether I can catch the same emotional content, picture the same atmosphere, once again now that the snippets I used in the last collage aren’t available anymore. – Once I’ve used a piece, it’s gone, and I can’t use it again.
Hilke: So scarcity of material is important for you work?
Jenny: In a way, yes. But I do use photocopiers in all stages of my work. I might photocopy a drawing, sometimes onto acetate and then cut from there. I also might photocopy a finished collage and then keep working with it.
Hilke: Do you have an overarching topic in your work?
Jenny: I like to discover the story in a place, maybe its history, the feeling of visiting it or how people live. Windows are a recurring theme – they offer a glimpse into someone else’s world. I’m also inspired by all the texture, detail and angular lines in buildings. I find that the imagery I work to, and the way I interpret a topic has a clear personal style and I often use the same materials and colour theme in my work.
Hilke: Mhm, yes, I can see how many of your books have a strong architectural element to it. Some remind me of technical drawings. Architecture often is bold and big. – What is the biggest book you made?
Jenny: I’ve always loved working small – I must take after my Dad, he’s a modelmaker. I experimented with larger work at Uni but I always bounced right back to something handheld.
Hilke: Where would an interested reader be able to see your work?
Jenny: I’m going to be at the Turn The Page book arts fair in Norwich in May 2020, and my book ‘Cut Across’ will be included in the exhibition 2020 Vision: Magellans Voyage in Liverpool Central Library.
Hilke: Thank you for taking the time to work on this interview with me!
All images in this article are used with kind permission of Jenny Stevenson.
I don’t keep a sketchbook[…], all is experimentation.Hilke: You said you kept on working through cancer treatment. – You really must love your work. But I am curious how you do it! From talking to others I know I am not alone in feeling that planning lessons is consuming all my creative energy. And then there’s the marking and all the many small things a teacher does for their pupils… How do you cope and keep on working on your own projects? Clare: I made the decision to work part time on my return and to reduce responsibilities in school in order to find better balance and nurture my reignited passion for creating. Being a teacher can easily be all consuming. When I am in school, I give my pupils 100% of me, and I love it. But when I am out of school, there is this switch in my head – and I am off work and can work on my art. Hilke: Do you feel your pupils and the work in school give you something that then manifests itself in your prints? Clare: No, not really. I think it is rather the other way around: Because I am active as an artist, I have a better feeling and understanding for what I ask of my students. They profit from my practise that way in the end. You know, it’s a bit funny but, although I require that from my students, I don’t keep a sketchbook or something similar. I turn my sketches right into screens, use ink to paint directly and intuitively onto acetate. There’s no in between stage, all is experimentation. So although my students have to do that to document their progress, my work gives me that understanding that free practise and experimentation is something that has to have its place, too.
We can be broken, taken apart, and then reassembled. And […] there is beauty in that.Hilke: Let’s talk a little more about your art work again. You said your practise changed from before the diagnosis. Do you see development in your prints since? Clare: Yes, definitely. I can see three connected series of prints. In the beginning when I picked up my work, all my figures were falling to illustrate the lack of control and uncertainty. They explode with colour as I see opportunity for growth in embracing change. Their bodies are not whole: in motion they leave fragments behind. They show how we can be broken, taken apart, and then reassembled. And that there is beauty in that. The bright colours are integral to that concept and this is where the circles started to appear. As time went on, as I got to a better place myself and grew stronger, my figures take more active roles: they jump and leap, taking control and radiating energy. elements café and Artcore. I will also be doing a number of open studios and art trails over the autumn, and last Friday the “Loovre” opened with my work at Surface Gallery. To keep up to date please go to my website www.curisousinkyme.com. Hilke: Thank you so much for your time today. And good luck with your upcoming exhibition! Clare: Thank you! A final tip from me, the author: If you are curious about her artwork do go and have a look at her instagram feed. There she shares work in progress, quick sketches, and newly finished prints. All images in this post have been provided by and are used with kind permission of Clare Morgan.
How could one translate silence into imagery? We all might have an initial idea of what a “loud” image is: something with exaggerated bright colours maybe, “screaming” at the viewer. But what is it that makes a picture silent? And how do you depict silence?
Sarah Roach is a photographer and printmaker from Nottingham exploring silence in her work. Her minimalistic, often black and white prints combine crisp edges that stem from exaggerated contrast in photography with softening elements like blurring, layering or printing on a textured substrate. Her topics come from details found in nature: silhouettes of grass or trees against the sky, or the shoreline rendered black between the white sand and blazing sky. Some are almost unbearably harsh in their contrast, others are smoothened out by bluriness or layering effects similar to multiple exposure photography.
To me they not only speak of silence, but also of loneliness, of longing for the long summers spent lying in the grass as a kid, of a longing for simplicity and calmess.
Hilke: Hello Sarah, thanks for welcoming me in your studio today! Let’s start with some basic questions first: How would you say you became an artist?
Sarah: I don’t remember to ever consciously make a decision to be an artist. I always enjoyed art and the process of thinking about things, having ideas and creating but I was never your traditional artist. I was about 15 when I realised I wanted to study art. I started as a painter but it was never just straight painting with me, there was always another dimension to it. And even while I was painting I also made things.
You mean like taking photos?
The photography came much later. After my fine art degree, around 1999, I was living in very small rented accommodation. I was working full time then, but to keep my creative side happy I did a photography course as I thought it was a way of being creative that didn’t take up much room.
Was that when you started your current practise?
For a while I took photos but didn’t really do anything with them. It was my partner who made me realise I should do more with my photography and with my creative side. He told me it made me happy – it’s funny how sometimes you don’t realise that by not doing something you’re making yourself unhappy, until it’s pointed out to you.
Quite a few years later I had the opportunity to study for my Masters while working part time. It was then that I started with printmaking, and developed my current style of work.
On your website you call yourself a “photographer and printmaker”, and you also bind some of your works into books. All three of them, photography, printmaking, and bookbinding have this craft-aspect to them and can be very technical. How do you see this navigation between art and craft?
I don’t see a dividing line there. To me it’s all part of the same thing – a way to express ideas and be creative. It doesn’t necessarily need to be defined as anything other than art.
The dividing aspect that is important to me and my practise is how abstract a process is, how removed you are from your subject matter.
I mentioned before already when I was a painter there was always another aspect to my work. I like to do things with my hands and I like to make things. With photography (especially with digital photography) I often felt a bit removed from the subject and ideas, and once you had printed the photograph that was it. I always felt slightly dissatisfied with that.
That’s where it becomes important to me to develop my photos further, and add a more hands-on process to it. I work with photographic etching, and the making of the plates and the printing of the images is very close to working with analogue film, but you get the added loveliness of the textures, the ink, and the edges created by the plate. You get inky hands, the whole of you becomes part of the work.
The techniques I use in printmaking make me look at photography differently and it helps me experiment more – they feed into each other, which makes me think beyond the photographic image – the photograph almost becomes just a step in a journey.
The book making really came about through my love for books and paper. Binding semi-transparent pages with my prints allows me to build up a work through means of layering. There are several aspects to this that I like: the building up of an image, but also the blurring and softening that comes from not looking at one print directly but through additional layers of paper. I screenprint on thin paper, too, and often I like the backside of my prints better than front.
But mostly I like books, and I like my work to have a tactility about it – and what’s more tactile than a book?
I guess that can be seen as related to craft – that you can touch someone’s work.
In your statement you write: “I am fascinated by silence and its relationship with sound and the world around us.” Could you please explain that in more detail? It sounds very poetic, but I don’t really understand it. How do you photograph silence?
I’m naturally a very quiet person and I enjoy time away from a lot of noise. Walking and spending time outside in nature is often where I can experience feelings of calmness and stillness and I think that is what I was always striving for in my images.
So that’s why most of what you photograph is nature?
Yes, I like nature and the landscape, especially grasses and stones, and I photograph what I like. I just love grass. There’s so much variety to it, and it can look like branches and even trees when blown up.
I also like trees, but they are hard to photograph without background, and a discernible background is like adding noise to me.
I sometimes photograph grass in situ. I then use overexposure and play tricks with light to isolate my motif from the background. I also have a collection of dry grass and stones at home that I simply place on a white surface to photograph.
I can perfectly see how a minimalistic image of a single blade of grass or a single pebble is “quiet”, and a bright, colourful painting might be loud. But the tangible connection you seem to feel is remarkable.
Silence is important to me.
It took me a while to realise this, but when I did, it opened up a whole new world to me. I began to read about silence (I know it sounds boring but you wouldn’t believe how fascinating it is) and what I did realise is that you can’t have silence without sound – how would you know what silence was without sound? Then the big thing – that silence doesn’t actually exist.
Sarah picked up a couple of books and told me about them. People who went to the desert in a quest for silence, and – I probably shouldn’t have been surprised – a range of books about music. In the books stuck hundreds of post-its, colour coded, marking passaged to be entered into a database on her computer, so she can quickly find quotes and ideas again that struck her as remarkable.
She told me how we can hear our body when other noises are drowned out, and as a human, apparently you can’t ever experience the total absence of any sound.
We also talked about ambient sound, and how different rooms, landscapes all have their own sound. And how different vegetation generates different sound. Going to the desert to experience sound is not just to escape humans, or other animals, but also to escape the sounds of vegetation.
Did you ever go on such a trip, to the desert or elsewhere to find silence?
No, I’ve never had the opportunity, but I’d like to. I think I would love it, but I have read that some people don’t, it’s too much, that much silence.
Coming back to your art. How does it relate to sound or silence?
In my photographs I am trying to create a visual representation of the space that exists between sound and silence, the moment of stillness, of silence that occurs just before sound.
Do you have plans for future work? Do you have any work in progress you would like to talk about?
I just started printing on a range of different fabrics, and I am playing with the idea of presenting them folded up: In that manner one can see part of it, in a layered block, but a part also remains secret. I find this idea very appealing. But my thought process is not finished yet. I also played with other thoughts of how to layer them. – This might end in a new body of work.
I am looking forward to seeing what will come out of this!
Sarah, thank you so much for having me here today, and for this conversation!
All images of her work are copyrighted by Sarah Roach and were used with her kind permission.