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.