Under the Influence
20 February - 21 March 2015
TJ Boulting is proud to present ‘Under The Influence’, the first solo show by visual artist Dominic Hawgood, winner of
the British Journal of Photography’s International series award.
‘Under The Influence’ explores the blurring of boundaries between fact and fiction, the real and the fake, transforming
or subverting what we understand through images and iconography, questioning what we see at face value. In recent
years Hawgood has used the religious ritual as a starting point for his explorations, and this series encapsulates in
particular performative gestures and objects relating to exorcism ceremonies, held in predominantly African communities
in London’s evangelical churches. The work looks at the merchandising of modern belief systems, and is an
exploration into the theatrical practice of deliverance. The enigmatic experience of seeing exorcism first hand becomes
the inspiration for a series that engages with topics about authenticity, desire, and the real.
At first glance his images are hyper-stylised still life, almost sterile in their depiction of these objects and actions
and the peculiar use of advertising in one specific church. Anointing water in a spray bottle, a microphone held by a
preacher, ice cubes and a wrist support, are set against backdrops of saccharine colours of the ad-man’s world of consumer
culture, designed to lure us in on the sell. But what are we being sold? Advertising sells us the dream and lies to
us through a simulated reality, is it at all disturbing or surprising that religion should harness these tactics too?
Hawgood presents the images combined with light sources as 3D physical objects, like some alternative Apple advert
on a bus shelter. There is a sense of controlled precision, and the straight forward documentary image gives way to
something altogether more sophisticated and surreal. The work is carefully composed, with its design and bright lighting
referring to a constructed set where nothing has been left to chance, and feels far removed from an actual church
His previous work from 2011 ‘The Conversation’ depicted intimate portraits of women in Texas who had responded to
an ad Hawgood had placed for people speaking in tongues. Again the highly staged environment questions whether it
is actually real people, which in this case it was. As Hawgood explains: “I used lighting to denote control and challenge
notions of truth by disrupting a more traditional documentary aesthetic. By conflating photographic genres (the documentary,
the portrait etc.) merging them, or perhaps upsetting the lines that separate them, ambiguity was created.
It makes it difficult to determine fact from fiction and what is real, whether there is integrity in what I depict, and the
degree to which content has been manipulated.” We are left questioning whether these exorcisms themselves are real
or fake, and what it is we are being questioned to believe?
Conversely the black and white images presented on vinyls on the wall give a more filmic view of the protagonists
in this story, although just carefully composed. He is probing their inner personal reactions, while from the outside
looking in we interpret the workings of what we believe by questioning the authenticity of what we see. The slick and
sophisticated imagery somehow parallels the emotional intensity and religious fervor involved in the performances.
The hyper-stylized staged image saturated in technology is giving way to the hyperreal - an inability of consciousness
to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality. It is this stasis of hyperreality which keeps us looking.
In his thesis he developed ideas relating to ‘ the Therapeutic Real’, a particular kind of realism invented by Hawgood,
which explores the emotional response to re-enacting situations as a way to understand realism, and the problematic
role of photography in helping us know what is real and what is not. In an age where the captivating hold religion can
have on society is being criticised as much as the stanglehold that advertising monopolises and brainwashes, the lines
are indeed blurred, between the real and the staged, what we see, and what we believe.
Dominic Hawgood completed his MA from the Royal College of Art in 2014. He studied for his BA at University of Wales, Newport
and got a First; his thesis for his MA was awarded a distinction. He has exhibited internationally including at the HyПres
festival of fashion and photograph, Belfast Photo Festival, the Sirius Arts Centre, Cork, Michael Hoppen Gallery, Cork Street
Gallery and Matt Roberts Project Space and has work in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery. ‘Under the
Influence will also be shown at PhotoIreland this summer. He has just been selected for The European Photo Exhibition Award
and commissioned to produce a new body of work to be exhibited later in 2015. This exhibition of Under the Influence is a result of
winning the British Journal of Photography International Photography Award with the series. He was selected by Erik Kessels,
curator and founder of KesselsKramer creative agency; Brett Rogers, director of The Photographers’ Gallery; Emma Bowkett,
photography director of the FT Weekend Magazine; Bruno Ceschel, director of Self Publish, Be Happy and SPBH Editions; and
Hannah Watson, director of TJ Boulting gallery and Trolley Books.