Ritual, reality, performance and staging have been constant in Dominic Hawgood’s art practice for the better part of a decade. His work has explored hypnosis, glossolalia (speaking-in tongues), exorcism, shamanism and hallucinogenic drug trips. In every case, he has devised a mode of image making not merely to record an altered state, but to produce a visual analogue for it. Whether the objects and actions are genuine, staged, or somewhere in between, the work has an intensity that invites viewers themselves into altered states. Since 2014, the artist has focused not merely on images, but on environments; sculptural installations that envelop the audience with light and sound. As Hawgood’s work has moved into 3 dimensions and moving image he has delved deeper into the digital realm, playing with the potential of realistic imagery untethered from the constraints of real-world physics or optics, and opening up an investigation of the means of digital image production. The resulting work focuses less on depicted content than on the experience of the viewer. ’Casting Out the Self’ (submitted to the Hopper Prize) has been his most ambitious project to date, evolving like software though several different iterations, and oscillating between real and virtual forms. The ostensible subject matter is the paraphernalia found on the altars of urban shamans. These are the rattles, beads, pipes and idols used by those journeying in search of alternate worlds, with or without the assistance of mind-altering substances such as Ayahuasca or DMT. Key to the project is its equal reliance on imagery from the science of digital imaging and CGI such as 3D scanning rigs, or the chrome and black balls used to record the full spectrum of light for high dynamic range images (HDRI). The props of Ayahuasca and of the scientific imaging test are united in that they are both the apparatus for a ritual transformation: from this world to the shamanic world, from the analogue to the digital, from the real to the virtual.
Hawgood is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice has emerged out of photography’s expanded field. He has a deep interest in how we perceive reality, both in a physical and philosophical sense, and a fascination in VFX pipelines and computational photography. His understanding of the mechanics of constructing images allows him to see the world differently, and ongoing research, technical expertise, and academic accomplishments have positioned him at the cutting edge of contemporary photography, and as someone who is furthering an art form. His expanded approach to imaging unifies an array of practices including photography, CGI, site-specific installation, sculpture, lighting, design, and animation. It has been widely recognised through awards such as British Journal of Photography’s International Photography Award (2015); The London Open,Whitechapel Gallery (2015); and European Photography Exhibition Award (2016). He has also produced boundary pushing solo shows at Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam (Netherlands), TJ Boulting (UK), Oonagh Young Gallery (Ireland), and Brighton Digital Festival x British Science Festival (UK). Awards include, amongst others, the British Journal of Photography International Photography Prize, and works reside in collections such as the National Portrait Gallery, Foam Fotografiemuseum, and Fotomuseum Winterthur. An upcoming exhibition exploring new imaging technologies and how they are transforming our experience of the world is scheduled in the fall, with SCAN (Spanish Contemporary Art Network) a nonprofit contemporary art gallery curating shows with Spanish, Latin American and British emerging and mid-career artists. More recently Hawgood has been nominated for The Berry Koedam Award by the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, which recognises the important role that visual documentation has in significantly promoting an understanding of contemporary art.