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'Animal & Tree' 2013

Dom Theobald makes paintings, prints and mixed media-works. His colourful, semi-abstracted images derive from a variety of sources including cartoon forms, music and plant structures. He has exhibited widely in this country, as well as in Europe and the USA. He trained at Norwich School of Art and the Slade.

The work comes from literally anywhere. I use photographs, films, ideas, objects and music to initiate images. Recently cartoon forms, bones, documentary photographs, whales, shoes, wheels and botanical drawings have all proved useful as elements.

Studio 2013

At times there are clear distinctions between objects and ‘background’. I like to think of the distinct forms as ‘stones’ and the surrounding areas as ‘nets’ in which they have been caught or dredged. This in turn refers to the sifting and selection process which is a combination of memory and the activity of painting.

In some paintings forms echo each other, almost repeating themselves. A bone can resemble a blade or a dragonfly wing. A missile‘s vapour trail, a petal or ice-cream cone. The forms can even become a series of pulsations, each fashioned or synthesised from the last.

At school I was interested primarily in Biology and Art. Biology was filled with microscopic forms that often seemed more compelling than the chairs and corkscrews I was drawing in Art. I would spend hours drawing these forms in great detail. I still refer to these drawings for occasional source material. I was also left with an awareness that we concentrate on particular modes of form and scale in our communications with each other, and that we are surrounded by so many other possibilities.

‘The great physicist David Bohm put forward a wonderfully satisfying theory about the relationship between quantum field mechanics and human consciousness that involved the ways in which our mind and our senses – the explicate order as he termed it – was continually unfolding elements from the hidden structures of the world – the implicate orders –  to give form to the world we live in. Looking at the coruscating body of work in Dom Theobald’s new show at Hester Gallery (2012) with its myriad webs of vibrating abstract lines and marks and colour fields enfolding their mysterious cargo of object/forms – shoes, petals, children’s toys, natural history specimens, bones and feathers among them – I find myself increasingly aware that the really good artists already know all this intuitively! Paul Klee, for example, to whom I find myself frequently turning to find appropriate analogies for what Dom Theobald is aiming to achieve, namely an impassioned statement of belief in how, as I have written before of his art, “the truly magical ordinariness of things can come to embody the most profound sensations of the sacred and numinous.” ’ Nicholas Usherwood in Galleries magazine November 2012

Dom Theobald in conversation with Nicholas Usherwood

NU: In a piece I have just written about your work for Galleries magazine, I referred to the great physicist David Bohm's perceptive ideas on the close interconnectedness of quantum mechanics and human consciousness, of how our mind and our senses - the explicate order as he termed it - was continually unfolding elements from the hidden orders of the world - the implicate orders - in order to give form to the world in which we live. Your works, it seems to me, with their myriad webs of vibrating abstract lines and marks and colour fields enfolding their mysterious cargo of objects/forms - shoes, petals, natural history specimens, children's toys among them - understands much of this intuitively. Is this just a critical conceit of mine or does it in fact resonate at all with the ways and means by which you evolve your highly charged, intensely evocative imagery?

'Olive' 2011

DT: Perhaps making images is one way of thinking, thinking about being in the world, and scratching at surfaces of reality. Dancing around the edges of things. That's what it feels like. Then the paradox is that we are also immersed in experience, right in the middle of things. On the edge of ourselves. The weaves and textures of experience are overwhelming, and painting references the sifting, the allocating of significance, the reasoning, Bohm's 'sustained incoherence' that is thought itself. My paintings don't carry meaning like a bowl holds water. But they do represent a certain kind of chant, a certain kind of rhythmic knowledge of things. And an untangling of experience.

NU: That’s a nice way of putting it – and I’m particularly struck by that last phrase, about how your paintings “represent a certain kind of chant.” It echoes a marvellous observation of the 20thC. French philosopher Deleuze that “the three determinants of art are: lines, colours, song. Art in its pure state” which further led him to reflect on Paul Klee’s observation of 20thC. art as being “ not to render the visible but to make visible”, a resolution of forces and materiality if you like. I know Klee’s work with its unmistakable qualities of music and song has always been very important to you but are these in fact the kind of ideas that interest you particularly in the making of your work or is it something else again.

'Plant' 2013

DT: It's not Klee's style or content that intrigues me the most- it's his brilliant understanding of making (and being) as an activity. Didn't he say that one eye sees, the other one feels? He might agree that processes are everything (that resolution of forces and materiality), that images are artifacts - the evidence us fools leave behind when we've finished scratching in the dust, and have moved on. In a way, I want to say that art is nothing special, I want it to live as part of the everyday, not the refined, febrile and fearful conceits of ‘Aaahrrt’. It's much more interesting than that. Coming back to what you said about music, you reminded me of David Byrne- “I wouldn't be surprised if poetry - poetry in the broadest sense, in the sense of a world filled with metaphor, rhyme, and recurring patterns, shapes, and designs - is how the world works. The world isn't logical, it's a song.” I've said for a long time that I'm influenced by music. It's not strictly true. It's more that I like to join in.

NU: The more I think about it the more I really like the idea of art as a kind of visual singing or song, the resolution of forces - of mind and consciousness on the one hand - and materials/matter - paint, pastel, canvas, collage, etching plate, corrosive acids even - on the other. So, looking at this show, where painting, drawing and printmaking all seem to play an equally important part in your ‘song’, I’d be interested to know whether the evidence of these different processes come to represent different stages in the development of your thoughts and feelings? Or are they all part of the same song - one song?

DT: Increasingly they all feel like the same process. I like to have all media going on at once, so that an inference in a painting can be picked up on a copper plate or a drawing, or vice versa. Printmaking is so useful, in that I can work on different proofs from the same plate until I identify a way forward. And all those proofs eventually become other entities of their own, often painted on or cut up. I have got to know the timespan of making- it is very similar, whether a painting or a print. And I can find no way to speed it up, or to trick the image into being finished. This exhibition (Hester Gallery, 2012) is a cross-section of the current state of things, informed, I hope, by the inclusion of a few older pieces that still seem very relevant, and that anticipate the rhythms of the new work.

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