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australian artist Hazel Dooney

::: bio/statement
::: contemporary paintings
::: artist interview

"My generation has an advantage: it's the first to have globally networked electronic media at its disposal. Still, exploiting these is about more than building a web site and creating an email list."
Hazel Dooney

australian artist Contemporary Australian Artist

hazel dooney interview

Hazel Dooney Artist Interview - May 2006

+1 ::: When did you first realize that you were an artist?

In Australian society, which is largely homogenous and suburban, artists are unvalued unless they are materially successful. So accepting that one is an artist, and embracing it – as I did, when I was in my teens – is really something of an emotionally fraught experience. That said, from when I was a very small child, I can't remember a time when I wasn't painting or drawing or seeing. My earliest memories are related to art - for example, I remember the exact moment, at four, that I understood perspective in drawing or the first time I consciously held a pencil in a different way to achieve an effect with line.

+2 ::: Could you tell us some more about your paintings?

My early works were large, graphic, and highly structured, and produced mainly with enamel on canvas (and, later, on board). They were inspired by a desire to confront the increasing commodification of art with stereotypical depictions of women derived from advertising and entertainment. It was a kind of glossy 'anti-art' – colorful, imposing, and yet devoid of emotional engagement. It underscored art's somewhat uncomfortable relationship with today's hyper-mediated consumer society.

My new work is very different. I like to think it embraces the primal impulses of art. It adheres to the figurative but with a freer, more expressionistic exploration of line and color. The most recent work has been with watercolor, pencil and ink on cold-pressed paper, and reflects my intense curiosity about African and Carribean voodoo. A lot of the new imagery is also punctuated by diaristic texts, poems and primitive incantations.

+3 ::: You use yourself as the subject for a lot of your work. Why is that?

It's kind of forensic, I guess. I study my self, my psyche. There is also a preoccupation with my physicality, with both its grace and decay, and this is a thematic constant in a lot of female artists' work from Frida Kahlo to Cindy Sherman, Tracy Moffat and Tracey Emin.

Art, for me, remains subjective – not objective, as so many conceptual artists, from Jeff Koons to Damien Hirst, would have it these days – and its elemental preoccupation must be about expressing highly personal dilemmas, conflicts, contradictions, obsessions, whatever.

+4 ::: What artists have influenced you, and how?

In my late teens it was all the artists I've just mentioned, but I became very disillusioned with them all - except Kahlo - when it became apparent that much of their focus was actually on celebrity rather than on art. The accomplishments of so many artists these days have reflected a triumph of consumerism over art. Their success is as reliant on message, positioning and timing as any corporate marketing strategy: it's art as commodity, artist as brand.

+5 ::: What other interests do you have (besides painting)?

In relation to my work, I am beginning to experiment with a lot of other media, including photography and film, while continuing to expand my technical abilities as a painter and draughtsman. I am, by upbringing, nomadic, so I spend a deal of time traveling, mainly in search of ideas, new directions, and materials, but also as part of an autodidactic regimen I've followed since I was a kid. In relation to my personal life, its much simpler: I am learning to surf, and I am in the middle of my first real love affair: its extraordinary how much time passes just hanging out, talking to my man and having sex!

+6 ::: What inspires you to paint and how do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?

Art saves me. It's far more than a career, it's an obsession. I gave up a lot from a young age to forge the reputation I've got now, which enables me to have the time and money – and space! – to make art and keep making it. I don't think it's ever that tough because art is, for me, essential, like breathing or eating.

+7 ::: How have you handled the business side of being an artist?

My generation has an advantage: it's the first to have globally networked electronic media at its disposal. Still, exploiting these is about more than building a web site and creating an email list. I use software for client relationship and inventory management, and I subscribe to online services that track prices for my – and my peers' – old and new work. Email encourages frequency and depth in my communication with collectors and curators, and I am able to coordinate exhibitions of my work in two or three countries simultaneously, and have direct contact with local gallerists and the press.

I operate as both an individual and a virtual corporation – an evolution of Warhol's idea of the artist's studio as a factory – and the functions of each are discrete. As an individual, I make the art I want. As a corporation, I shift product and market my brand.

+8 ::: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

The answer to this, for an artist, is always in the work. The trouble is, it's impossible to imagine the work I will be doing a decade from now. I want to continue to be frenetically busy, successful, happy but, above all, absorbed!

+9 ::: Could you talk about your latest series of paintings and what you are trying to achieve with them?

I had always thought of my earlier paintings as being little more than slick, ironic, but easy-to-deal-with veneers, and it began to trouble me more. Suddenly I wanted to strip away the glossy facade, to tear away the surface and reveal whatever was underneath. I wanted my work to be more honest and confronting, less reassuring to the viewer. So I allowed myself to tap in to my subconscious, into my troubled psyche, and let it rip. Now, it's like I've exposed all that was previously obscured or stifled or imprisoned. Those seamless, glossy expanses of my early paintings, acted as a kind of barrier between the viewer and me – not anymore. My new works on paper are all about drawing the viewer in, to compel them to 'read'.

I came to the themes derived from the syncretic mixture of Catholicism and ancient African ritual in voodoo, santeria and candomblé because I was researching primitive cleansing rituals, and ideas related to releasing or cleansing the soul within. My curiosity was piqued by a simple line in a voodoo incantation: houn djo mi ta, 'the spirit that dances in one's head'. I wanted to free myself of an imperfect past, and of a sense of having been possessed - by bad choices, addiction, and disparate other very human mistakes.

+10 ::: What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Develop your skills. When Marcel Duchamp turned a urinal upside down, signed it R. Mutt, and exhibited it as 'found art' in 1917, it was revolutionary. Not anymore. The old, late '70s punk ethos of artlessness – of playing and singing badly, sampling randomly, and making ineptly – is no longer provocative. The new punk is about raw skill and having something powerful to say. It's about subjectivity, of re-emphasizing the direct relationship between an artist's interior world and the individual work, and about the value of an artwork being determined by the skill with which the artist conveys that relationship to the viewer. The purely conceptual is not enough.

More artist information can be found at the website of the artist.. Hazel Dooney
View more artist interviews at here.. Artist Interviews

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