Haunted by a Painter's Ghost
Photography and Symbolism in the Digital Age

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Snout in the wind, the neck extended to better sense the scent in the air, imperceptibly tilting his head in the direction of the spiralling leaf, he leapt upon his prey which never knew it had been caught. He then took it to his lair, and as careful as a lover who caresses the neck of a fawn, placed it next to his other captures and reurned to the forest where, crouching silently, he awaited the moan of a branch. Only when he no longer felt the urge of hunger did he return to his cave, and the light that flickered from a gnarled candle revealed all of his treasures. One after another they shone in the light , and every prey, every image, rose and were intertwined with the garland of fire.
Grey hat covering his brow, as if he had been living in the age of Rembrandt, Dominic Rouse walks about the stone hall of the gallery where his work hangs, and one senses the delicate spot under so much frame. When removing his beret, the thinning hair on top of his head surprises, for the viking-blonde strands protruding from under the cloth evoked abundance.

Yet Rouse, much to the cliche-hater's joy, does not disappoint and his words, firm and outspoken, disclose his convictions: "In all art, especially in photography, it is the idea that is king and what I try to do with my work is ally craftsmanship and concept."
Undoutedly it is polished, to the extent that no wart is allowed, and the landscapes and figures of of his photographs lie still and hermetic, enveloped by the fabrics from which visions are composed. All of his characters are headless, with perhaps a plant growing from the neck, and Rouse admits to enjoying the surrealists: "The images that I am exhibiting at the Festival of Light are surreal in the sense that they follow no conventional logic. As well as the surrealists I admire the techniques of the Great Masters, and I often think it would be interesting to see how Titian would have painted the ideas of Magritte."
Rouse emphatically denies his photographs to be a result of his dreams, "On the contrary, they are the products of my waking hours, and every element has been deliberately placed there." Although his words strongly ward one off from even considering such a suggestion, one cannot help but reflect upon the fact that we inevitably possess the faculty of choice, and that no matter how awake one is, the selection of the object and where it lies in space will betray the most intimate soil.
"I started off as a commercial photographer shooting 'still-life' mostly and my work still reflects this. Although I have left my commercial life behind, I still approach my subject matter from the same still, lifeless perspective."
Scrutinising Rouse's work, one notices that every picture is made up of innumerable details, such as Escher-like balls, Gothic columns, crows that darken a winter sky. "Each fragment is an original picture", he explains. I then perform my own montages in the computer, and have a lot of fun doing so." But the headless women, in spite of having thrown their masks into the bushes, still bewilder and spurn curiosity. Could Rouse help dispel some of the ambiguity aroused by these creatures? He cannot but one instinctively knows that behind a woman's austere crossing of the arms, the beckoning bosom lies. " What I'm searching for is that quality of light that, say, Rubens transposed onto canvas. I believe that surrealism in photography has a greater poignancy than other media because its cradle must be reality. Barthes reminds us that photography cannot feign this. It is an interesting challenge."
Rouse is animated. He speaks of his joy when creating, of his constant attempts to improve as an image maker. With tenderness he mentions his father, who always encouraged his creative endeavours. "There is art in there, Dom." he said when his son was still blinded by the flurries. "In a way, my pictures are for him," the photographer discloses, and the man becomes a boy.
We shall never know why these women breathe without heads, nor why the artist declines to have his photograph taken. "My work is what best represents me," he explains. He may well have a point.

Christine Castro Gache - The Buenos Aires Herald
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