Dominic Kavanagh grew up in the lush surrounds of Monkerai, a small farming village in the Hunter, NSW. Situated on a large, wild property, he had the freedom of experiencing an adventure everyday. Roaming the paddocks and rainforest patches, discovering old relics amongst the overgrown foliage, imagining grand and playful narratives for his explorations. As a young adult he moved to the closest city, Newcastle to commence study in fine art. At this time Newcastle was one the verge of immense change, as its industrial past came to a halt and many incredible old buildings now gone, still remained. During these formative years the abandoned buildings and unused industrial areas had an abundance of detritus to stimulate the mind, collect and use. One only had to walk around the back streets or in the deadly quiet city center to find a goldmine of inspiration. It is from these beginnings that Dominic Kavanagh’s art practice has sprung.
If you walk in to Dominic’s Melbourne based studio it is like a ruined cabinet of curiosity; pieces of machinery, parts of musical instruments, old rolls of wallpaper, fake plants, curtain rings, a child’s chair; found objects of all sorts line the walls and the floor in a chaotic fashion. And always, a suitably sounding industrial, folk or theatrical soundtrack and a soft glow emanates from the space. Pieces with seemingly no value have been moved from city to city to be reused, re-imagined and given new life. Each component whispers stories from the past, nostalgic, re-invented and alive. There is alchemy at work here. New life rises from the ashes and shit is turned to gold.
In the tradition of artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Rosalie Gascoigne, Robert Klippel and Marcel Duchamp, Dominic’s practice shows the influence of Dada, Pop Art and Constructivism. However there is more of a contemporary sense of the ruin in his work. Like the blogs on abandoned Japanese theme parks that we often see in our Facebook feeds, or the Tugboat Graveyard in Staten Island, New York visited by Dominic on a research trip in 2009, his pieces are also fantastical, quirky, dystopic and playful. Like Hayao Miyazaki's film ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’, to which Dominic’s assemblage pieces are reminiscent; it is a world we want to run rampant in, where our childlike nature and imaginations can run wild.
There are elements of ritual and magick in Dominic’s creative processes and the work’s alchemical forms. This is present in his ephemeral sculptures that are ‘re-animated’. Moving parts lie amongst the rubble, objects brought back to life as if through resurgence. Dominic ‘performs’ his sound sculptures that are presented theatrically, commanding the ‘spirit’ of the object, it groans and sings stories of its industrial past. Having known Dominic for over 10 years and being a personal friend I have had the pleasure to experience and share much of this journey. I look on with enthusiasm as to what the future brings.
Linsey Gosper, 2014.