Arts + Entertainment

Kent Artist Profile: Dominic Keshavarz

Working in pen and ink to create sumptuous drawings is what Dominic Keshavarz does best. This month, insideKENT’s Lisamarie Lamb spoke to him about his influences and what about Kent makes him want to draw.

If you had to define your art, how would you describe what you do?

I make figurative pen and ink drawings of landscape subjects. The subjects of the pictures aren’t necessarily the most important thing; I’m more interested in evoking a feeling in the viewer – trying to communicate how I felt in the landscape through the drawing.

I use a stippling technique (lots and lots and lots of dots) to build up areas of tonal variation. In some ways it’s a bit like a sculptural process as I’m carving out areas of shadow and light in order to create a representation of a space.

One thing to add is that it’s a very slow and meditative process. A lot of what I do is about looking for a long time before I draw and I hope that the viewer of the work can be drawn in by the process and slow down themselves.

What is it about ink that you enjoy so much? Why is it preferable to other media?

My eye is drawn to contrasts, and monochrome work has always interested me. There’s an exercise in economy at play as one has to produce the most expression from the least colour range.

I started working in ink while studying and I find it to be a very expressive medium. The blacks that I use have an amazing depth that seems to sing when set against the unworked white paper.  

How did you become an artist?

I drew all the time as a child and grew up in a house with loads of books on art. I think that had a lot to do with it.

Part of my family is Dutch and so whenever we’d go over there to visit I’d love looking at the Old Masters in the galleries and was particularly fond of the woodcuts and engravings of people like Albrecht Durer and Martin Schongauer – I think you can see their influence in the work I make now.

I studied fine art at Christ Church in Canterbury but didn’t finish and then spent my 20s trying to be a musician. When I started a family in my 30s and couldn’t really commit to music anymore, I found that drawing came back into my life and I haven’t looked back since. It’s been like a long lost friend returning.

What is the most unusual, daring, or interesting commission you’ve ever received, or piece of work you’ve ever produced?

I held my first solo show at D Contemporary in Mayfair in 2016, and as part of that the curator requested that I create a large scale piece around two metres long.

I was daunted at first as my process is slow, and I doubted my abilities to keep a grip on the different elements of a picture that large.

It would have been easy to have lost control of the overall harmony of the picture while getting engaged in the detail, but after six months it was finished and I’m very pleased with it.

It’s called Rostrenon and I’ll be showing it as part of my next exhibition.

What is it about Kent that inspires you?

I grew up in Kent, so a lot of the associations I have with the landscape now are based in my childhood. I used to play out by fishing lakes and on wasteland and I notice that a lot of the subjects of my pictures are familiar from childhood.

I made a drawing of the Swingbridge in Faversham and this is certainly somewhere I spent a lot of time as a kid, catching crabs and trying not to fall into the mud flats. The marshes in Oare and Harty Ferry are a particular favourite too.

Can you tell us more about the joint exhibition with Simon Ashmore at Creek Creative?

Simon and I met recently and, I think, recognised something in common in terms of how we approach making our work and what we hope to evoke.

He’s a highly regarded photographic artist who uses traditional salt print and cyanotype techniques to make his images. Like my work, I think they are less interested in specific subject matter than in creating a feeling.

I’ll be showing new work and old and for the first time prints of some of my older work will be available to buy.

Where else can we see your work?

I show at the Lilford Gallery in Canterbury. I also have pieces at 19 Preston Gallery in Faversham.

What else is coming up for you in 2019?

I’ll be doing the art fairs in London over the summer. The Landmark Art Fair on the 18th and 19th May in particular is really interesting.

And there’s the New English Art Club Summer Exhibition at the Mall Galleries to which I submit every year. I’ve been selected there for the past few years and won the Bowyer Drawing Prize in 2018.

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