Doug Foster’s digital film works have captivated audiences, not least of all those who will have experienced his work at all three of the Lazarides shows at The Old Vic Tunnels, ‘Hell’s Half Acre, ‘Minotaur’ and most recently, ‘Bedlam.’ After seeing first the larger work (left) and then a miniature wall-mounted version of ‘The Psychotron’ (below), we knew had to ask Foster some questions: can wall-mountable art works that offer moving images and which can be switched on and off replace the traditional canvas on our walls? Is the ‘static’ nature that unites most of the art in our homes going to be finally and properly challenged? And what exactly, goes in to the making of one of his works?
Beautiful Crime asked away…
1) How do you explain to people what your art is exactly? And what are the themes surrounding your work?
It’s my hope that the works explain themselves to some extent. I try to make work that is immediately accessible, but also rewards further investigation. I spend an unhealthy amount of time working out the details of each piece, to assure myself that it has some sort of integrity, but I’m more than happy for viewers to add their own observations to what I intended. That feedback can sometimes influence the form of future pieces.
My work is often inspired by the cycles and patterns of nature that subtly dominate our lives. I strive to create illusions that affect people at a primal level before they even start to look for meaning. Most recently, I’ve been imposing symmetry on liquids in motion to create pseudo biological forms.
2) How is your work made?
Every work is different, but quite often I will film a person or some concocted optical effect and apply a simple editing process to the footage. Usually, I limit myself to dissolves, superimpositions and mirroring so as not to distract from the subject. I prefer to create the image ‘in camera’ with lighting and composition, rather than in post-production.
The film for ‘The Psychotron’ installation was made by syringing gold ink into a tank of water. The lighting was critical in creating the forms and textures that would later be kaleidoscoped into an ever expanding liquid mandala. Several hours of footage were whittled down to the most interesting 42 shots that could be blended together with long dissolves to form a coherent seventeen minute sequence.
3 – Do you think digital film can ever become as accepted (and as successful) in art investment terms as more traditional forms of art have – painting and sculpture for example? And can it supersede or surpass the more traditional art forms in the future, when it comes to people having these type of works on their walls at home?
I was recommended to Steve by Hamish Jenkinson, director of The Old Vic Tunnels, who hosted Lazarides ‘Hell’s Half Acre’ exhibition there. I created an installation for the show called ‘The Heretics’ Gate’, which involved flooding two vaults to create a thirty foot long reflecting pool for a vision of hell projected into a fourteen foot high archway.
The piece went down well and Lazarides gallery offered to represent me. I’ve now created works for all three of their shows in the Tunnels.
5) What are the most adventurous works you’ve ever done and what did they entail?
My first artwork, ‘Breather’, was a bit of a leap in the dark! It’s a four-channel stereoscopic film installation housed in a large, rusty steel-plated box. Two sets of eye ports offer the only access to the inside, one at head height, the other at hip height. Through the upper eye ports, a woman is seen, neck deep in water, taking a large gulp of air and then diving under the surface. Through the lower ports a man is visible, trapped underwater. The woman breathes into his mouth and goes up to the surface for more air. The couple are caught in a desperate, endless cycle.
To make this piece work I had to cobble together a stereoscopic camera from two 35mm film cameras and two periscopes, and then get an actor to keep another actor alive in a tank full of cold water, while I filmed them! The system of mirrors and high definition screens squeezed inside the piece was totally experimental, but managed to create a stereoscopic illusion so convincing that, occasionally, viewers jumped back from the eye ports in surprise!
My latest installation, ‘The Psychotron’, also has an element of risk, in that it totally relies on the audience understanding that they need to lie down on a grass covered platform and give themselves up to the kaleidoscopic mandala floating above them. Luckily, most people seem to catch on, and the ones that don’t can follow the lead of the others.
(‘Psychotron’ above, is one of the few framed digital film artworks suitable for hanging at home, made available in an edition format for £3000, which is accessible to the aspirational art buyer or collector. Each of these works comes with a certificate of authentication, signed by Doug Foster.)
6) What shows or plans have you got coming up next?
There is currently a group show at Lazarides’ Rathbone Gallery, in which I have a ‘mini’, wall-mounted version of ‘The Psychotron’. Beyond that, there are a few potential projects in the works, but I don’t want to give any of them the kiss of death by mentioning them here!
7) Where else is your work sold?
It is only available from Lazarides, you can see more of it at www.lazinc.com
Doug Foster’s ‘Chimera’ for ‘Minotaur’, the second Lazarides show at Old Vic Tunnels.
An older work from Doug Foster, ‘Ovum’ a Random Acts film for Channel 4.
For more information about Doug Foster’s work you can visit his website here.
Interview by Ruthie Holloway
Cover portrait image of Doug Foster © Crane.tv