Dominic Beattie’s approach to art making is unconstrained, regularly adapting and developing skills and resources within his possession to try out new disciplines. His ‘ersatz ceramics’ are composed of rough-hewn wood, paint and found objects, and his ‘quilts’ replicate textiles in plywood, spray paint and ink. Dominic says that this allows him to explore mediums that interest him without having to learn the specific skills necessary. However, this also has the effect of blurring categories within art: ‘craft’, ‘design’, ‘art’. By changing the medium of familiar objects, Dominic’s work plays with the way familiar objects are read or understood, and similarly, how they might function.
In his exhibition Sweet at Fold Gallery in London 2018, Dominic produced a series of furniture pieces that were both functional objects and sculptural forms. In addition, the items provided three-dimensional surfaces to paint on and could therefore also be read as deconstructed paintings. Dominic says that everything he makes is first and foremost something interesting to look at that should enhance its environment. As such he is less concerned with categories or functionality, instead focusing on colour and pattern design.
Working with primarily non-traditional materials and from a foundation of abstraction, Dominic uses repetition to explore the parameters and mechanics of pattern. His bright and graphic works, simultaneously design objects, artworks and craft pieces, are a visual treat to behold.
AMM: Hi Dominic! To start us off, do you perhaps have a motto or philosophy that you work by?
DB: My philosophy as pertaining to being an artist, would be to work hard and focus.
AMM: Your art plays with the so-called categories of ‘art’, ‘design’ and ‘craft’. Please tell us more about this and what your interests are in this kind of hybrid practice.
DB: I see each area as equally valuable, no hierarchy. A beautiful chair can please me in the same way as a masterful painting or textile design. I’m very much inspired by dwellings and architecture; I like to make things that can enhance the environments we live in.
AMM: How do colour and pattern figure in your work?
DB: Colour and pattern have been a major area of exploration for me for the past three years, before that I was more interested in formal elements of shape and materiality. I sort of graduated into pattern making through the repetition of forms. It wasn’t a conscious decision. Pattern is difficult to make new, I’ve been drawing a lot, in an attempt to unlock some revelation about the mechanics of pattern design, but inevitably it’s fairly predictable geometry. My use of colour is intuitive, primarily I use it to delineate alternate areas of form. Aesthetics, harmony or deliberate jarring are a secondary consideration.
AMM: What does abstraction hold for you artistically?
DB: A friend told me a while ago that he never thought of me as an abstract artist. I found that really funny and I try to remember it. I think he saw my work as decorative, which it definitely can be. Abstraction as a category of art has always been the most interesting to me, I like to be surprised when I look at something, to be confused about the thought process that created it. I got that feeling when I was first introduced to abstract expressionism in my teens, I still get it from some contemporary abstraction, design and a lot of outsider art.
AMM: Your work focuses on surface detail. How do the various media and methods that you work in relate to this aspect of art-making?
DB: Surface is never really a concern to me, it’s more a by-product of the materials I use. I’ve always chosen materials that were affordable, easy to get hold of and quick to use. Never really ‘fine art’ paints or canvas, mostly marker pens, house paint, found wood, tape etc. When you use these things I guess you get a more unique surface.
AMM: There’s a lo-fi quality to your art where imperfection and irregularity become features. What is your thinking behind repetitive mark-making in your work?
DB: The mark making is a means to an end, I enjoy it but it’s the laborious thing you have to do to make the final piece. All the glitches along the way give the piece its character and make it unique. The lo-fi vibe is a visual preference that was developed from working fast with rudimentary materials, I make slick stuff too, my work hovers between the hard edge and the handmade.
AMM: The furniture pieces and vessels are suggestive of functional objects but are also quite sculptural in their design. In what ways do you toy with expectation and familiarity in your art?
DB: Everything I make is primarily something to look at. The furniture has function too but my interest is in the look of the piece or the collection. The ‘Ersatz Ceramics’ are definitely not functional, they emulate the style and texture of ceramics I enjoy, such as Troika, West German Pottery or Clarice Cliff. But they are dummies, approximations. I made them from wood and spray paint and found junk, not as a joke or trick but because making real ceramics would require learning a whole new process and a new studio set up. I thought I could achieve what I wanted with the skills and materials I had.
AMM: Do you consider yourself a painter? Or a sculptor? Or designer? In what terms do you think of yourself as an artist?
DB: Just as someone who makes things to be looked at.
AMM: What is your creative process?
DB: Lots of material exploration, testing what I can do with certain media. I tend to play with a material until a theme develops and then sometimes a series of works might emerge. Eventually I’ll tire of the process and the series will end, then I move onto something else. I’ve built up a library of ideas of what I can do with different materials and I use that knowledge to create new concepts.
AMM: Your wall-mounted paintings are reminiscent of block-printed textiles. Are you influenced by textile design and printing techniques? What else influences your art?
DB: Textiles have inspired me for years, I’ve tried to emulate folk quilts, Welsh blankets and crocheted blankets in my paintings, I find them really pure and striking to look at. I’ve seen examples that are better than a lot of abstract art. If I had the time or skill I would make them myself. My work is influenced by furniture and decoration, especially mid-century design. Comics, electronic music, architecture, ceramics, primitive carvings, lots of other things.
AMM: You’ve recently been prototyping large geometric wall reliefs. How do these build on from your paintings and furniture objects?
DB: They are for a potential commission, they are directly linked to the small ‘Pattern Studies’ I’ve been producing since 2016. They are scaled up architectural versions of sections of the drawings. Once complete, I imagine them looking like hard edge style wall carvings. Sort of modern and primitive at the same time. The process for making them is the same as making the furniture, it’s two distinct areas of my practice that have been joined to make something new.
AMM: What themes or ideas are you currently exploring in your work?
DB: At the moment I’m trying to work out how to make an object that is part painting part modular floor. It’s complex and it’s been on my mind for a long time but I think I’m almost there. I’m always developing the furniture with the architect Lucia Buceta, we are drawing a lot of new designs and working with new materials.
AMM: What’s next for you?
DB: I’m curating a large group show called ‘Harder Edge’ with Ali Hillman at ‘h CLUB’ in Covent Garden. It’s going to be a survey of recent abstraction with some striking large pieces. I’m also getting ready for a two person show with Olivia Bax next year at Linden Hall Studio in Deal, Kent.
Find out more about the artist: www.dominicbeattie.com
Interview by Layla Leiman for ArtMaze Magazine.