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[B. 1959] A contemporary digital photographer from England

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The hunter of images by Christine Castro Gache FOR THE HERALD
The Buenos Aires Herald VOL 4 #80 August 11th 2002

Snout in the wind, the neck extended to better feel the scent of the air, imperceptibly tilting his head in the direction of the spiralling leaf, he at once lept, pouncing upon his prey that 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 without haste, 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 the other they shone in the light , and every prey, every image, rose and intertwined into a 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 fabrics that visions are composed of. All of his female characters are headless, with perhaps a plant growing from the neck, and Rouse admits enjoying the surrealists: "The pictures that I present at this Festival of Light are surreal in the sense that imagination primes and follows no conventional logic. ? But it is not that I turn to them only: in fact I admire the techniques of the Great Masters, and at times I think it would be interesting to see how Titian would have dealt with painting had he been Magritte."

Rouse emphatically denies his photographs to be a result of his dreams, "for on the contrary, they are the products of my waking hours, and every element has been deliberately placed there. "Albeit his words strongly ward one off from even considering such a suggestion, one cannot help but reflect upon the fact that one inevitably possesses 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.

"In all honesty I must admit that I started off as a commercial photographer shooting mostly still-lives. My work still reflects this aspect and though I have left my sparrow's guise behind, I approach the subject from the same perspective."

If one attentively beholds 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 a real picture at one point taken", he explains with a smile. I then perform my own montage with the computer, and have great fun doing so." But the headless women, in spite of having thrown their masks into the bushes, still bewilder and spurn curiosity. Could Rouse leave a tinge of ambiguity on the birth of these creatures? Again he denies, yet one also knows that behind a woman's austere crossing of the arms the beckoning lies ardent. "No composition comes out haphazardly, and I am fully conscious of the fact the these figures have no heads. What I'm after is that quality of light that perhaps Rubens transposed onto canvas. However, I would argue that photographically, surrealism has a greater poignancy than any other style, for its cradle necessarily is reality. As Barthes said, photography cannot feign this. It is truly an interesting challenge."

Rouse is aroused. He vividly speaks of his joy when creating, of his constant improving as an image maker. With great tenderness he mentions his father, who from the outset felt in his bones: "There is art in there Dom," he had exclaimed when his son was still blinded by the flurries. "In a way I offer my pictures to him," the photographer discloses, and the man turns into a boy. We shall never know why these women breathe without heads, nor why the artist himself categorically refuses to have his picture taken. "My work is what best represents me, he replies. After all, we all carry a headless woman about, and the further we pursue her, the faster she runs.


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