Interview Dominic Brown - That magic feeling
In his own country the Dutch artist Dominic Brown is known for his contemporary mural art printed on pillars, electricity boxes and walls. His ‘Modern Murals’ are often connected to the immediate surroundings and their history. There is a very large one near the entrance of the central station in The Hague, consisting of two landscapes (5 by 20 metres each): a city view and the beach nearby. Alongside this type of commission Brown creates personal art, abstracts, landscapes and portraits. His work has been exhibited in The Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Seoul.
- Abundant, multi-coloured and often complex designs with titles based on philosophy. What is your starting point?
‘To me major examples are Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Raphael, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Basquiat, Serov. Modern art, old civilisations and other cultures inspire me. I grew up in a suburb of The Hague with many nationalities. My friend next door came from Iran, other friends from Italy, Bosnia, Iraq. At home there was an interest in modern art. My parents had copies in the house of Picasso, Mondrian and Paul Klee. When I was very young they took me to Turkey and Greece where we visited ruins and museums. My older sister told me stories from Greek mythology, they made a huge impression. And I will never forget arriving in Egypt, in the harbour of Port Said. A completely different world with all those colours, the noise and the people.
In the museum of Cairo I saw the most beautiful things I had ever seen. We also went to Bali and the Dominican Republic where, for the first time, I saw people living in shanties. When I started to travel independently, I returned to Egypt for a longer visit and went to Luxor and Karnak. At the end of the day all the tourists had gone and I was wandering around in one of the temples alone. This was truly magic. It is what I am always looking for, that magic feeling in old, mythical places I connect with. The mystery. I came across this too in Mexico where my sister now lives, land of the Mayans and Aztecs. Venice had the same effect on me, in deserted streets in the middle of the night. There was a light fog which added to the feeling. The end result was my painting ‘A night in Venice’. With gondolas and a mythical figure.’
- You use new mixed media. How do you work?
‘Usually I start drawing on paper, or with a photo of a location or model. This is different from my abstract work, which is more free flowing. For my landscapes or portraits I use a defined starting point, but here also I do not always know what the end result will be.
I am self-taught and have developed my own style and a new combination of handwork and digital techniques. I draw and paint on thick paper with pencil, markers, wax pastels, water paint. I scan the result in high resolution and adjust the image using computer programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. On the computer, I often combine new drawings with existing ones. The other advantage is you can play with sizes and dimensions. The result is printed on canvas, which I paint on making it a unique work. Or it is printed on HD Metal, the newest photo printing technique.
Working with the computer offers many possibilities to create completely new work and distinguish yourself as an artist. This is the beauty of technology nowadays. Things develop at a dazzling speed and the graphical possibilities are vast. The other day I tried out drawing in Virtual Reality. With a digital palette in your hands and wearing a Virtual Reality headset you draw 3D in the air. But you can digitally save the image, enlarge or reduce what you created and even print it in 3D. Bizarre and mind blowing! Things are advancing ever faster.’
- What is ‘art’?
‘To me, it is a language – a figurative language that can be read by everyone regardless of their age, culture or the moment in time. The biggest compliment for me is when people point at their belly and say they feel something. Or when they see something they have not seen before. I think my art also tells me something about who I am. It is not easy to really get to know yourself. Art helps.’
Art gallery: Prins Constantijn Promenade 36 – Rijswijk - The Netherlands