Sam Dodson’s ‘Catalogue of Dreams’
In the Studio with Sam Dodson
Slide 1: “The Snake Pit Will Get You in the Imaginarium” / Slide 2: “The Snake Pit”
“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap flying fancies in a single bound…up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s...SuperSam!”
Part ringmaster, part mad hatter, larger-than-life Sam Dodson delivers a one-two in works that detonate with the force of an atom bomb. Fluently melding comic book characters, Mahatma Gandhi and the Klondike Kid – all the while weaving in a self-portrait on the fly – this ringmaster of camp saunters with an unquenchable panache. Possessing “je ne sais quoi”, he swings from exhibition to exhibition. This writer catches up with the king of collage in between a breakneck life among the jet-set.
VV.: I see that you’ve recently enjoyed a show abroad…or two…Tell me about it; was this a culmination of your life’s work?
SD.: No and no. The exhibition was in London, as is my next, largely the culmination of one year. Plus a few things that are recent.
VV.: How and where did you begin?
SD.: I became a musician by accident, my musical career spans about forty years or so. Basically I left school and joined a band. Then punk happened. I formed a band called the Transmitters – always highly experimental. Played with tape machines, did collage as music, formed Loop Guru, had various solo projects. My visual side has taken over now. My first exhibition was only five years ago.
“ I love the idea of trying to stun people and make them think…”
VV.: Your work expands different approaches over the arc of your career. Is it best to define your oeuvre as evolving in a series?
SD.: I started very much as an abstract artist about six years ago but really have been trapped by collage for at least the last four years. I started experimenting with all sorts of styles until I found my path which appears to be collage now. I may throw paint around again sometime I never really know where I’ll go next. I don’t like to feel too safe with what I’m doing. I want to stretch the boundaries.
VV.: Do you have a favorite collage or series of collages?
SD.: I think that what I’m doing now is always favoured. From “Imaginarium” onwards was where I found myself. Really, I love the idea of trying to stun people and make them think.
“I don't like to feel too safe with what I'm doing. I like to stretch the boundaries.”
VV.: Do you work on canvas and/or murals? How did the “Imaginarium” triptych come about?
SD.: Sometimes it’s just paper collage, but for the larger pieces I like to use canvas. I came up with the imaginarium idea when I knew I needed to take what I was doing further, push the boundaries, I started on a series on A3 card and knew I had to get original. After I had these finished (I never really think anything is finished really) I got a commission from Vodophone wanting a five feet tall approximately 4 feet wide collage so I had the A3 collages blown up to A2 and started re-collaging my own collages, interspacing with new collage too. As you said it’s a triptych five feet tall on three sixteen inch wide panels.
VV.: I see we’re old school. We prefer analog over digital! Ha ha!
SD.: Definitely. I’m not sure but with digital everything is possible but I find it stifles the imagination. To me what I do it’s all about going beyond the imagination. The limitations of paper and size of what can be cut out makes you think harder, makes you work harder. I spend a lot of time trying things out to get them to work.
VV.: Oh now, we’re talking! I hear you! When did the impetus to work with currency come into play? Do you use other found objects?
SD.: It started at an exhibition in Waterloo (London) a couple of people walked in and went straight to one of my larger pieces and just went “WOW”. We got talking and they said they were putting on an exhibition in White City (London) and would I exhibit with them (Yes). They were also running a project called called fivers4artistic alongside such luminaries as Sir Peter Blake, Gilbert and George, Ralph Steadman and Damien Hirst amongst others, Would I decorate a five-pound note for them? Another yes! Once I’d decorated that note they posted it on instagram, within a couple of days I had a message from someone saying would I decorate some bank notes for him with the “I can get you into Saatchi Gallery” so I did some notes for him, one of which did get into the exhibition in Saatchi. I found that I really enjoyed the process so from time to time go back to decorating/ defacing bank notes. Found objects are essential in what I do. I can’t walk past a charity shop without going in and checking stuff out. Old frames, pictures, toys, I like to intervene with things and alter them.
“Encyclopedia for strange children”
VV.: Now that you mention it, I do remember you posting great “finds” on your feed. What inspires you?
SD.: So much really, life in general. Of course I find inspiration in other artist too. Hanna Hoch, Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Cornell, Robert Rauschenberg, Matise cut-outs, so much really. Good books. My last big inspiration was strangely a big fever, I’m allergic to aspirin and paracetamol, so I just glided through, fuelled by fever and red wine for about five days. I went through the big-bang, back to the future and came up with the idea for The Crystal Ball, a nine feet-by-four feet collage – again a triptych where all possible futures and all possible pasts are to be seen, and you can also see yourself in The Crystal Ball.
“Keep on making mistakes, work when you're having a bad day, work when you're having a good day, just keep on working.”
VV.: That’s fascinating! Here’s a question that I like to ask: What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
SD.: Don’t do it because you want to be famous because you won’t be, do it because it’s a passion, make mistakes and keep on going. Keep on making mistakes, work when you’re having a bad day, work when you’re having a good day, just keep on working. Read, live, find inspiration and never play safe. Don’t do something because you think it will sell do it because you love it. Take a leap into the unknown and do it with passion.
The idea that great art is born out of pain is WRONG! Great art is born out of experience, and that includes pain and love and great experience, everything!
VV.: Now these are words to live by! Fantastic wisdom, Sam!