Last week in my post after our trip to the Pittenweem Arts Festival, I hinted that there was something exciting I was going to write about and I thought it was time I let you know. One of the reasons I wanted to visit the Arts Festival was because I had spotted in the programme that Dominique Cameron, whose work I had seen earlier in the summer at the Tatha Gallery, Newport on Tay, was exhibiting, and I was keen to see her work and studio. Her drawings and paintings are powerful evocations of place and are a record of almost a year spent observing, walking in and drawing an area of woodland near where she lives. It seems to me that watching the seasons change the landscape and the transformations that occur are eternally fascinating so I was keen to take a chance to speak with Dominique. Although the studio was busy with visitors, Dominique and I found a few minutes to chat. The first thing I asked her was about the materials she takes out with her when she goes to the wood.
- I take both small sketchbooks and large rolls of paper into the wood. The large paper approximately 160 x 60 cm is given a couple of coats of gesso before I go and simply rolled into a tube for carrying. In the wood I am constrained to some extent by where I can paint as I lie the paper directly onto the ground. I enjoy the challenges this brings. Other works are sketched there and used back in the studio.
How important are the noises and sounds of the wood and are the written notes you take integral to your understanding of the place?
- Yes, the writing is another way of seeing for me. It is an integral part of my practice, as it is another articulation of the space. I can express things that I cannot in paint or charcoal such as the sounds and weather and small details that all add up to the experience of being in the wood. So for me the eye and the ear are as important.
How important do you think it is to have a regular practice of visual recording and note-taking?
- Very. I think the discipline of drawing, whether that be in line or text keeps the eye and ear sharp and focussed. I always find it difficult to stop for a period of time only to start again, but not from where I left off. I have to find the rhythm of working first before I can start to articulate the landscape.
An artist’s studio is always interesting and I wondered if you can briefly describe your working space. For example do you like to have the radio or music on while you work or do you prefer to work in quiet peace?
- My studio space is invariably messy! Every now and then I have a clear out but generally there are accretions of paper, paint, books, old cups of tea, and general rubbish that cover every surface. If I am painting in the studio I listen to music whilst I work, music with no lyrics because I become easily distracted, and start singing along! So this week it might be Gorecki or Chet Baker, depending on the day.
What are your favourite materials and media for your paintings?
- I use a variety of media, whatever I feel is appropriate for whatever piece I am working on, but it ranges from oil, acrylic, charcoal and ink principally.
The large drawings and paintings you have produced of the wood that are featuring in your forthcoming exhibition at Fidra Fine Art are the result of almost a year’s work and study. Are you carrying on with this or are do you have a new project in mind?
- This project has now finished after nearly a year spent in this landscape. I tend to work project by project, and I am now working on a farm not far from where I live. I shall be there on and off for a year, making a series of drawings and paintings for exhibition next year. I wanted a different kind of challenge to the woods. There it was the complication of space that I found interesting. The farm on the other hand has a different set of challenges, from the landscape itself to the animals, farmer and workers, machinery and attempting to understand what it means to live and work in this place. I am starting as usual from the position of not knowing to hopefully by the end of having some understanding. It is these explorations that I enjoy and as long as I remain curious about the world I will continue to make work.
Thank you very much Dominique. I’m really pleased that you are one of my first Studio conversations and I wish I’d known you when you were a near neighbour on this side of the Tay! It’s been so interesting to hear about your practice – I wish you well for your next project and look forward to seeing the results of your explorations.
Dominique’s exhibition The Wood, opens next week, on 1st September 2018 in Fidra Fine Art but you can follow her work at Dominique’s blog. And of course watch out for next year’s Pittenweem Arts Festival.