Lynn Dennison Interviewed - Part 1 / by Claire Mander

ZK: What made you decide to become a sculptor? When did your interest in the site specific develop and how/where did this happen?

LD: Well I actually started my career as a painter after having completed a Fine Art BA at the Slade School of Art. After about eight or nine years working as a painter I started to introduce three-dimensional shapes into my work. Gradually these three-dimensional pieces took over from the two-dimensional pieces, and in the end the paintings became studies for the sculptures, and sculpture became my main focus.

My interest in the site specific really developed from my desire to introduce the moving image into my sculptures. I had been using photography with my sculptures for a while and I thought it would be interesting to introduce moving images. As I had no idea how to work with moving images and film at all I went back to university and did a Masters at Central Saint Martins and that’s when it really started. I had started off in a white cube gallery environment which I placed objects in and then projected onto, which I felt created more of a theatrical scene that the viewer stood outside of and looked at, and during the course of my masters I started to think about how I could make this experience into something more immersive that the viewer could be surrounded by completely. The forms I was projecting onto became less about something I was making myself and became more of an interaction with the space I was projecting into. In fact the first piece of site specific work I did was during my Masters course for our interim show at the V22 in Bermondsey.

ZK: Who are the artists and photographers you most admire and who have had the greatest impact on your thinking and your work?

LD: I always find that question a tricky one, immediately when someone asks me what my influences are my mind goes blank but let me try and pick out a few; Diana Thater has had an impact on me not only due to the imagery she uses to explore the relationship between humans and the natural world and the difference between untouched and manipulated nature, but also in the way she uses the space that she is exhibiting in, covering windows and light sources with coloured gels so that the viewer is aware of the space they are in. The existing architecture is important to her, it is not just a venue to exhibit her work. I think that dualism has been very influential to my work. John Stezaker whose collages and films have both influenced me talks about his fascination with an idea of a liminal or in between space, which is also something that I am exploring in my work. I like the idea of ‘the slender margin between the real and the unreal’. Another artist for whom it is important that the ‘edge’ is visible is James Casebere who creates models of environments and then photographs them to appear to be real spaces, until a closer look reveals them to be fabrications. I think one of the first things that got me interested in immersive spaces was the research project that took place at the Tate Modern between 2003 – 2010 called the ‘Sublime Object’, in particular Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project created as part of that project and also Miroslaw Balka’s work How it is commissioned for the Tate Unilever Series. Both these artists were creating immersive environments which changed the viewer’s perception of their surroundings, which is something I attempt to do with my own work.

Some photographers who have influenced my work are Noemie Goudal, who works with large photographs, usually of landscape, which she places in urban settings which are often abandoned and decaying, and Jitka Hanzlova who often explores the relationship between nature and culture; her photographs of Essen show the city being infiltrated by nature.

Lynn Dennison’s studio, photo by AK Purkiss

Lynn Dennison’s studio, photo by AK Purkiss

ZK: What is the importance of the site itself to your work and how do you incorporate the existing architectural feature into your installations?

LD: The work wouldn’t exist without the site, and I often let the site dictate what the work will be. The history and geography as well as the colours, shapes, and architectural details of a place are all part of the work. It is a collaboration really between what I am bringing to the site with my projections and what is already there. One can’t work without the other.

ZK: John G. Hanhart senior curator of film and media arts at the Smithsonian Art Museum has stated that ‘video art has a distinctive interdisciplinary quality’. Would you agree with this, and how do other artistic disciplines such as the written word or sound art play into your practice? In particular could you talk about your use of collages?

LD: Yes I would definitely agree with that statement. There seems to be a lot of space for other disciplines to interact with film and media arts. I have worked with sound artists on several occasions and also been influenced by the spoken word in the creation of my installations. I sometimes use ideas from literature in my work. For example in Virginia Woolf’s 1927 novel To the Lighthousethere is a passage in which she describes the water metaphorically seeping into the house and covering all the furniture which influenced my work Shipping News.

The collages I use to work out what I want to do in a space. I think because I had come from a painting and a sculpting background, both of which are very hands on, when I suddenly found myself editing video clips on a computer I really missed the more tactile elements of the creating process. My painting had often contained elements of collages so it was almost a natural progression that when it came to working out what I wanted to do on a three dimensional plane I did so with two dimensional collages. Although I now get the same satisfaction from editing I also love creating the collages for their own sake.

Written by Zana Kingwill