Dawn Dupree

Portrait of Dawn DupreeDawn Dupree Image 1Dawn Dupree image 2
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Textile artist Dawn Dupree creates evocative, semi-abstract urban landscapes by building up printed layers of colour and images. They are full of unexpected surprises and juxtapositions each telling a separate narrative often slightly unsettling undertones. ‘I like to make things that are attractive, colourful and have a visual richness so that people are forced to look a bit more closely at them and see unexpected things,’ she says.


Where do you get the inspiration for your work?

I take lots of photographs and collect cuttings of images that appeal to me. I like urban wastelands and empty spaces which have once been very busy or are about to be busy – they have a strange anticipatory, slightly loaded atmosphere that I like to express in my work. Other sources of inspiration are films by Antonioni and David Lynch and abandoned domestic objects or derelict buildings. Recently I seem to have been collecting images connected to the theme of death – I took some images of the back view of New York from a graveyard which I really liked and I saw an advert for a documentary about the deaths of the Morecambe Bay cockle pickers depicting a gravestone coming out of the sand which I felt was very powerful. Often it’s the unexpected images that appeal to me – for example when nature and a building have grown together.

How do you go about creating a narrative?

I collect images over a period of time and then use them in a narrative that I set in an urban landscape. It might be a narrative about my personal relationships or experiences or places I’ve been. Or sometimes they are about situations that could happen to anyone like my recent piece called The Marriage. I sometimes take an object that is easily recognisable – like the shopping trolley – and then abstract it, breaking down the image and distorting it until it becomes something different. I’m currently working on a commission for the museum at Gosport and I’ve combined lots of different images to make a big, slightly surreal banner. I used photographs of different buildings in the city and images made by local school children to make one big landscape of the city although the separate images themselves are recognisable but not representational.

How do you print your wall hangings?

I am quite experimental with the printing process. I often print with screens which I can use in lots of different ways – I might coat them with photographic emulsion or put them on a light box or just pour dye directly through them. I play around with different pressures and types of ink and some of the processes are quite uncontrolled and loose. I have a rough idea of what I want the final piece to look like but I work quite intuitively and sometimes the process interferes with my work so that I am not always in control – I like it when this happens. I build up the images using different coloured pigments and processes and I sometimes integrate traditional print methods with digital technology.

Although your pieces are relatively figurative, they don’t actually contain any human figures – why is that?

I don’t really like using figures so I use objects to represent figures. I like objects with personality – some domestic objects can look quite gestural. For example, I did a series depicting upright ironing boards as I thought they had a particular attitude and they reminded me of some of my friends. I gave them strong colours and really exaggerated them and called the series Geisha Girls. I felt that like Geisha girls they were attractive but also performed a function – I wanted to bring out their dark side as well.

What are the main challenges facing you as an artist?

The main challenge is not really about my work itself, but about keeping going as an artist. I have worked as a professional artist for 17 years and it is sometimes a struggle. I don’t find it hard to motivate myself or find ideas for new work but it is hard to keep the momentum going and find time to work. It’s especially difficult to keep up with the business side.

How would you like to develop your work in the future?

I would like to experiment with scale more. And I would like to investigate doing site specific work, not commissioned pieces as such, but work which was shown outside in the landscape and not in a gallery space as I am really interested in landscapes.