Category Archives: printmaking

Interview: Dominic from Luton

MS BaS 1

Written for Bad At Sports.

It is more than 1,000 miles from Luton, England, to Reykjavik, Iceland. But Dominic from the UK town appears to love a good caper. Why else would he put together a group show on very little money in one of the most far flung and expensive cities in Europe?

“It was done on a wing and a prayer,” he tells me on the phone from his Luton studio. “The art was just really, really ambitious considering we didn’t have much money to play with. It’s amazing what you can do with a cardboard tube and a delivery van.”

Five artists took part. And the show has just run for a month at gallery Kling & Bang. Along with Dominic, the full bill included Gavin Turk, Mark Titchner, Laura White and Peter Lamb. The show went by the name London Utd. “It’s kind of doing what it says on the tin,” says Dominic, whose eponymous town is just a twenty minute train ride from the UK capital.

Not that he is the first to cross the Atlantic to the artist led space. He tells me that Paul McCarthy and Jason Rhoades have also shown at the dynamic and co-operative venue. And Dominic takes the opportunity to recount the tale of Kling & Bang’s legendary appearance at Frieze Art Fair.

“They did a Frieze Project in London in 2008 called Sirkus. It’s an incredible story,” says the artist, telling me that Sirkus was the name of a Reykyavik bar: “This place was the hub, the heartbeat of the arts community”. But after nine years of business, Sirkus closed down, leaving Kling & Bang free to turn the façade and fixtures into a temporary installation for the art fair.

Dominic warms to his tale: “They arrived at Heathrow in October 2008 and basically all their credit cards had been stopped because the [Icelandic] crash had suddenly happened overnight and so this bar, which was a mirror of good times and place to meet, became that again in London.” Word soon went round about the penniless Icelanders with the reconstructed bar.

Things are a bit better in Reykjavik now and in its way London Utd has become another bridge between the art scenes in both cities. Mark Titchner’s piece was a piece of text in Icelandic, which read The World Isn’t Working. (Perhaps the UK crash is yet to come.)

Gavin Turk meanwhile offered a twelve and a half metre diptych inspired by Andy Warhol’s Death and Disaster series and featuring the four wheeled emblem of working class Britain the Ford Transit. Laura White produced no less than 54 drawings of photos of sculptures which she herself had made. And Peter Lamb translated the shifting detritus on his studio floor into two large abstract canvases.

Asked about one of his own works in the show, Dominic is ready with another yarn. “That photo was done as a tribute to Paul Young,” he tells me. Like the artist, the singer came from Luton. “He used to work at Vauxhall [car plant] in the early 80s and he told someone I know in the canteen once that he was going to be a global pop star and then literally 18 months later he was, with Everytime You Go Away.”

The track resonates with many a Lutonian and inspired a Dominic from Luton performance at an event called Café Almanac organised by Bedford Creative Arts. This involved sourcing an 80s wig from Luton Indoor Market, posing for a portrait artist in the shopping centre and getting 5,000 badges made to cover a cheap suit. “I just stood up in front of about 50 people in this Working Men’s Club on a Saturday afternoon and sung my heart out,” recalls the artist.

This took place under a net filled with 200 balloons in the colours of the local soccer team, intended for release in the final verse. However “The net got caught in all of my badges so I had 200 balloons attached to me and I panicked and – it wasn’t scripted at all – I basically ended up having a fight with these balloons and stamping on them and stuff and it brought the house down actually.”

But despite the hazardous stagecraft, Dominic’s “biggest challenge” is a self-proclaimed inability to sing. So it comes as no surprise that the artist thinks most performance art is too earnest. “People would argue with this, but I think there’s a duty to entertain,” he says, “That’s just my take on it. That’s my little mantra.” Even the anecdotes which relate to each of his gigs are compelling experiences.

As a final aside, it’s worth pointing out that the artist formerly known as Dominic Allan comes from one of the most derided towns in the UK. His “from Luton” tag is a sticky piece of cultural baggage. Dominic tells me that the name just came about through being easy to remember when he ordered materials.

Now, he claims, “It’s just a very glorious vehicle for the idea of the underdog and also to shove it back in people’s faces now because Luton’s one of those towns which people laugh about . . . The more I go on, the more I realise that it is serious, and it is serious”.

So that’s Dominic, from Luton, easy to laugh with, hard to laugh at. Prepare to be entertained if he ever comes to your town.

Dominic from Luton website; Kling and Bang website; Bad at Sports homepage.

Preview: Art Must-Sees in Museums at Night 2010

Museums at Night is a nationwide campaign running the weekend of May 14-16, organised by Culture24. Here are my picks of the best after-hours activities in the world of contemporary art:

Light Night at the Bluecoat, the Bluecoat, Liverpool, Friday May 14

Local musicians with world influences bring rhythms of the night to Bluecoat. Sit in the garden at sundown, check out a craft fair by LOACA.ART or wander through the late-opening show, Global Studio, by Livepool artists with international links. Open 7pm-10pm. Admission free.

Artist’s Residency Open Studio Twilight Visit, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, Friday May 14

As dusk falls on Aberystwyth Arts Centre, they celebrate the end of two residencies. Rabab Ghazoul uses text, film and altered-objects to create site specific installations exploring social hierarchies. Peter Williams is a printmaker concerned with relations between the individual and the home. Open 5pm – 9pm. Admission free.

India Noir: LATE, National Portrait Gallery, London, Friday

Visit a completely different timezone at the NPG with a celebration of contemporary Indian culture. Viram Jasani from the Asian Music Network will be programming the regional tunes. A panel will discuss Indian Crime Fiction. And from the artworld, The Singh Twins will talk you through mixing Eastern tradition and Western innovation. Open 6pm-10pm. Admission free.

Artists’ Talks at the Estorick Collection, Estorick, London, Thursday May 13

With a few more hours in the day, this might be a good opportunity to visit one of the world’s best collections of early 20th century Italian art. Check out works by Boccioni, Balla and Carrà and hear from artists featuring in intriguing temporary show Another Country: London Painters in Dialogue with Italian Art. Open until 10pm (artists talks between 7.30pm and 8.30pm). Admission free.

Kenji Yoshida: A Celebration of Life, October Gallery, London, Friday May 14

Yoshida is that rarest of beings, an ex-kamikaze pilot. Find out how the peace-loving painter survived the war and take a look at the deeply felt etchings, calligraphic works and paintings which resulted. Plenty to celebrate at October Gallery. Open until 5.30pm-9pm. Admission free.

10th birthday of Tate Modern, Tate Modern, London, Friday-Sunday May 14-16

After pulling in crowds for 10 years, Tate Modern has more than one excuse to open late. Maurizio Cattelan is among the curators of a free festival in the Turbine Hall which brings together projects from 50 independent art spaces and collectives. With performance, music and film, it could prove as anarchic as any 10-year-old’s party. Open 10am-midnight Friday and Saturday (until 6pm Sunday). Admission free.

Dream Home, Phoenix, Brighton, Friday-Sunday May 14-16

This Open House is less a gallery in someone’s home, more a fabricated home inside an artist-led gallery. Rest assured you can still poke around. Eleven residents include Kim L Pace, Gary Barber, Caitlin Heffernan, Rona Innes and sculptor Ben Thompson.  Open 7pm-9pm. Admission free.
Full story on Culture24.