Isolation Interview with Dominic McHenry
Updated: Sep 7
We sent Dominic McHenry a disposable camera a list of questions during lockdown to see what he had been up to.
Photos by Dominic McHenry.
S: How are you finding working from home at the moment, has your practice been drastically interrupted since the lockdown?
DM: My creative output towards my practice has become next to nothing. I've found that once I have been given the luxury of all possible time to focus on my art, i have been finding excuses to delay and procrastinate. I think this is properly due to a fear of finishing anything and then being left with nothing to do. This limbo means that time has taken on a new quality. Making a cup of tea can take up the whole morning. An hour on the playstation is four hours in real time.
There is also a feeling of what the point in making any art? In a society purged of any culture, is it like that thing about a tree falling in a forest? it's been sad to realise that something you love and believe in is surplus in a time of crisis.
S: You usually live in London but are now in the countryside with your family. Has the change of environment been cohesive to making work, or has the change of scene and not working from your studio made things difficult?
DM: I have been isolated back with my parents and brothers in the countryside for ten weeks now. It's a big change from working in my tiny studio in camberwell. However if I had known from the outset that I would have been here this long I would have worked out a proper plan of action. It would have been brilliant to fill the shed up with tons of materials and work like someone possessed so at the end of this I would have a whole new collection and everyone would think that I'm totally great. sadly this is not the case. I did manage to use some of my government money to buy some oak beams I'm currently working on. I am really taking my time on these sculptures and am really enjoying this new pace of work. not having to do "work work" frees me up to stop and think about what i'm doing. In London before the virus time was so precious. I had to have exact plans and time management. Time to pause and reflect was an extravagance. Now I can pick up a chisel for five minutes, put down when I get bored, and come back to it a week later.
S: Is there anything that you are missing during isolation that has surprised you?
DM: I am not really missing much that I think is surprising, like everyone I miss pubs, restaurants etc. What I do miss is being able to be spontaneous. I know what my day consists of from when I wake up to when I go to bed.
S: Can you tell us a bit about your process? Do your drawings and prints inform your sculptures or do you consider them as separate entities?
DM: I love designing my sculptures by drawing in my sketchbook. It is the most freeing part of the creative process. Making three dimensional work can be costly so being able to experiment with ideas on paper is great. I consider the planning and designing part, 'the art'. by the time i am using my tools the creative part is finished and I'm more a technician than an artist.
S: Do you have a favourite material you are working with at the moment?
DM: In the madness of packing to flee London I grabbed a big red crayon. I've really enjoyed scribbling down future ideas with it.
S: Is there any artist in particular who has had an impact on you and your practice?
DM: Carl Andre has been a big influence on me recently.
S: Has your work changed since being at home? Either by the size or what you want to be making?
DM: I had thought that isolating would have had an impact on my work but it hasn't. I'm just producing a lot less.
S: Do you collect art? What is in your home?
DM: I have a large amount of mixed matched prints and paintings I've found at car boots, I've got a few works I've traded with other artists too. My flat is full of my sculptures right now too as I had a solo show get canceled due to lockdown.
S: What do you listen to when you work?
DM: Much of the time I just listen to radio 4 in my studio in London, but I stopped listening about 8 weeks ago as it was starting to give me minor levels of anxiety. Ive now switched to radio three. My internet here is really bad so Spotify doesn't really work all the time.
S: You are also part of a sculpture collective called BASK, who are also represented by SEAM, how does your personal work differ from the work you make with BASK?
DM: My work and Bask's work inform one another constantly. The collective and my own work are trying to address the same ideas of form and structure. The nature of both practices work on an individual level as well as a group. If Jim or Angus or I bring an Idea to Bask we break it down as a group and turn the idea over for a while, often it comes out totally different from when the process begins.
S: Thinking of your work outside the gallery, where would you most like to work or who with? Be it a residency, company or space to exhibit in?
DM: The desert. Any desert. Making a sculpture or a series of sculptures that just exist out in the open seems like a perfect setting.
S: What has inspired you most recently? Be it a film, book, quote or person.
DM: Something that has inspired me recently wasn't anything to do with sculpture or art. The live launch from the missile row of the new Space X and NASA collaboration was amazing. I watched on the computer as it left the Earth's atmosphere and then 15 minutes later saw it as a tiny speck in the southern sky racing towards the international space station. I thought those lucky bastards, the two astronauts, are getting out of here.