Hazel Dooney

Since 2006, Hazel Dooney has emerged as one of the Asia-Pacific region’s most controversial young female artists. According to the Australian Financial Review, she “walks the razor’s edge between respect and celebrity in today’s artworld” (September, 2006). She has exhibited in solo and group shows in major cities all over Australia, as well as in the USA, Japan, and England.


What are the main medium/s you work in?
Painting (all media), collage, photography, video and sculpture.

What are your thoughts on artist statements?
I hate the idea of artist’s having to make statements – as if the art can’t or won’t speak for itself.

How do you describe your work?
Essentially conceptual, my art is a forensic investigation into my own psyche. It deals with issues relating to how we are constantly re-imagining and re-defining ourselves in relation to entertainment media and consumer advertising – oh, and religion, which, these days, in the West, is just another form of popular consumerist culture.

What are you currently working on?
At any given time, I am preparing for a couple of shows and completing several commissions. In other words, too many projects to discuss with any coherency.

One word or statement to describe your current works?

Why are you an artist?
I’m not sure I really had much choice. I’ve been making art ever since I can remember.

How did you get into art?
Art wasn’t a career choice. It was – and still is – a necessity for me, like breathing.

What did you do before becoming an artist?
Nothing. However, in order to survive as an artist, I have been a model, a shop assistant, and a waitress, among other things.

What is your earliest memory of art?
Making sculptures from leaves and twigs.

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?
Only in the sense that I grew up in a lot of bleak, empty rural spaces from which I felt the need to retreat within my art.

What or who inspires your art?
Who? Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Eva Hesse, and Francesco Clemente – in roughly that chronological order, I can’t help but like Damien Hirst’s chutzpah too.. What? Nearly everything I experience in media and the consumer environment, from TV and the web to fashion and electronics stores.

How important is art for you?
It is the life I live. How much more important can it be?

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?
I’m not sure any artist chooses their medium, It chooses them.

Do you have a personal description of “Art”?
No. Too many people waste too much time arguing over what is and isn’t art – and why. I’m not going to add to the noise.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
I value it very much in my own work but the degree to which I value it in others’ depends on what they are trying to express and why and in what medium.

Does the sale of your work support you?
My work supports me and several others. I am, by any definition, successful – I have been financially independent for three or four years now.

Some say the lifespan of an “artist” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
Who listens – let alone bothers to comment upon – what ‘some’ say? You either commit to the life of an artist or you don’t. Some of us have little choice in the matter. One way or the other.

Tell us about your connection to your subject matter, way of working, concepts etc?
My work is deeply self-absorbed and self-reflective. Every minute I’m awake I am delving into myself for material and documenting or preserving it in some way. It’s pretty weird, I guess, and very egocentric. I spend a lot of time alone.

What has been a turning point in your career thus far and why?
Learning how to free myself from the traditional sales and marketing mechanisms of the art world using the web.

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?
Any of Eva Hesse’s drawings or a Clemente watercolour from his series, ‘Fifty One Days On Mount Abu’.

Have you had any “big breaks” in your career?
I have had several but nearly every one of them was a double-edged opportunity: in other words, they took as much from me as they gave.

All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had.
My struggles have mainly been with mental illness: I suffer from Bi-Polar Disorder and every day, I work hard to maintain my sanity and stability.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?
Yes. Apart from a visual diary, I also maintain a blog online, which is very candid day-to-day account of my life and work.

How important is it to you that your work communicates something to the viewer?
If and when I am trying to communicate something, it’s important but sometimes art isn’t about communication. It just IS.

What can you say about your work that might not be evident to the viewer?
It’s harder than it looks – and less obvious.

What can you tell us about your creative development process?
It tends to be long and painstaking, with several iterations of the idea in text before I even attempt a sketch.

Has being involved in the arts proven to be a millstone or a point of elation?
Both. At different times. But I’m not sure art has the monopoly on this.

Art is about entertainment, experiment, inventiveness or shock for you?
Oh Jesus, none of these. It’s about so much more.

If you stopped doing art right now would you miss it?
I couldn’t. Could you stop breathing, even if you wanted to?

What discourages you from doing art?

Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?
Motivation is overcome every day by discipline and focus. I don’t believe in inspiration. If inspiration flags, I work harder.

Do you have a challenge knowing when a work is finished?
Sometimes. But that is often the difference between a good work and a less good one.

You know you have “made it as an artist” when…
You don’t have to ask the price when you go to buy new art supplies.

The value of Visual Arts is…
Whatever the highest bid at auction happens to be.

Your first “decent” gallery representation, how did it come about?
I’ve never had ‘decent’ gallery representation – which is why, in 2005, I took the major step of breaking off all my gallery relationships in order to represent myself.

Your first show at a “gallery” you thought was of value, how was the whole thing for you?

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?
If artists truly want independence and freedom, they have to be prepared to represent themselves, and to communicate themselves. The business of marketing and promotion isn’t rocket science but it should not be left to others.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?
Reverence. And sexual arousal. Together. It was very odd. Especially in a female.

Tell us about getting caught in a creative “slump” and how you got out of it?
I’m manic depressive. Slumps are long and deep, productivity (when I am up) is high and energetic but less long-lived. I’ve learnt to manage it better over the past few years.

Is your art, “art for art sake…” or a matter of “art for commercial viability?”
I do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I let the market sort it out later.

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?
‘The Outsider’ by Colin Wilson, unquestionably.

If someone says to you “Oh your work is decorative and lacks any meaning…” your response would be…?
“Who the f*@! cares what you think?”

Tell us about your studio environment?
I have a wonderful studio in a small house on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean. It has plenty of storage and on most days is bathed in light. The only problem is that the humidity and salinity play havoc with the drying process of enamel paintings.

Is your work process fast or slow?
Slow. Tediously, grindingly slow.

Otto Dix the German artist said (in part)… “All art is exorcism…” Is that the case for you? If so how…
I’m not sure I’m trying to cast out anything. But there are certainly aspects of ritual to the process of making art.

People around you (family friends etc.) what would they say about the way you work, the moods you have, your life as an artist etc?
I am too self-absorbed to have paid much attention to anything they’ve said.

Do you have a connectedness to other art forms?
Yes, particularly music and poetry.

Some artists are more “at home” isolated in their creative process, while others revel in being part of a group to bounce “ideas off” how about you?
I am emphatically solitary and introspective. I don’t like people much.

What is one thing you need to have in your studio before you work?
Coffee. And, often, loud music.

Are you a purist with your art materials or willing to mix things about?
Oh I love to mix things up. I do like high quality materials though. No matter how poor I have been, I have always used the highest quality materials available.

What moves you most in life, either to inspire or upset you?
Love and passion. And chemical imbalance.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed?
I’m not sure anyone would – or should – separate these.

Are there times of the day when you prefer to do your work?
I think I’m pretty much a night person, although one of the drawbacks of success is that I have to be more accessible during office hours!

From your early beginnings at art school to now, how have things altered for you?
Oh s*!#, what HASN’T changed. I am happier, more productive, more inspired – oh, and richer too, in all senses of the word.

Is the making of art all it was “cracked up to be”?
What’s it ‘cracked up’ to be? If you don’t want to do it, then f*@! off. Plenty more where you came from.

Do you go into any contemporary art prizes, if so why?
No. Art isn’t a f#@!ing  sport – let alone the spectacle the Turner Prize tries to make it.

Are you the sort of artist that seeks out promotional opportunities or one that shuns the limelight?
When it comes to my career, I am a complete attention whore. Any opportunity to promote myself or my art is grabbed with both hands. In my personal life, I’m a hermit.

Technology (websites and social networking sites to name a few) has become an important marketing tool for many, how about  you and your art sensibility.
The traditional gallery system is dead, the business of marketing and selling art and artists disintermediated by the web. If you don’t accept and embrace this idea soon, your career will be dead too.

When you create your work is it somehow an emotional relief as you do it or at the end?
The end is always the real hot, orgasmic rush of completion – and much anticipated release.

Do you aim to make “masterpieces” with the aim of being seen in the future as an artist that really made their mark in art history?
Does anyone do that? We don’t get to determine greatness. That’s not an artist’s job. That comes later, long after we’re dead.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Listen to no one. When it comes to “what works”, nobody knows anything. Be totally fearless.

Want to see more Artist Interviews the day they are posted? Subscribe and we automatically send you the latest post via email, it’s easy… click here to subscribe.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2011+

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/stevegray58

Check out our other Art Site http://artstuff.net.au Loaded with creativity boosters, professional development strategies, investing/collecting art and activities for Artists and Students…


14 Responses to “Hazel Dooney”

  1. Stefan Maguran on October 1st, 2008 6:22 am

    Great interview!
    The new layout makes it much easier to read and the photos are clear this time.
    Well done!

  2. Charles Marlow on October 1st, 2008 8:31 am

    Whatever one might think about her art, there’s no question that Dooney is bloody fearless when it comes to talking about art and the art business. Her blog is a ‘must read’ for anyone working as an artist today – or thinking about it. Come to think of it, her recent ‘Porno’ photographic exhibition in Melbourne proved her art can be fearless too.

  3. Jos on October 1st, 2008 9:28 am

    Great interview!

    Give me some of that determination and confidence!

    Good stuff

  4. Ursula on October 2nd, 2008 9:02 am

    great questions. great answers

  5. Ursula Theinert on October 20th, 2008 8:41 pm

    Inspirational and fearless. Oh! I want to have that strength. Well done Hazel and Steve!

  6. Hazel Dooney : ArtStuff on November 24th, 2008 9:54 am

    […] can read more of Hazels interview here… November 23, 2008 | Filed Under […]

  7. More Dooney paintings under the hammer : Art Re-Source on February 24th, 2009 10:53 am

    […] Check out her interview with Steve Gray  here… Hazel Dooney […]

  8. Karen Shirley on February 24th, 2009 11:18 pm

    Thanks for the frank stuff – hey, how does a dead artist like me best get themselves a webpage or learn how?

  9. Dooney in five or so questions… : Art Re-Source on April 28th, 2009 10:43 am

    […] Hazel Dooney is popping up all over the place lately, amazing what some social media, a few good interviews and some other bits can do (like media savvy). […]

  10. Constance Vlahoulis on August 29th, 2009 12:28 am

    GREAT interview!

  11. NEWS FLASH - Dooney does Victoria : Art Re-Source on November 6th, 2009 8:38 am

    […] Our Dooney Interview here… http://www.hazeldooney.com […]

  12. Winston Lapley on January 19th, 2010 10:16 pm

    Has anybody even seen her art in a gallery in the last 3+ years?
    What galleries is she currently being shown in?
    (All she ever discusses on her website is old art being sold via an auction house.)
    One goes to her website and there is very little art being shown.
    Lots of PR, lots of art angst, lots of hype, little art.

  13. Steve Gray on January 19th, 2010 11:33 pm

    Winston, I hear there is talk of a show in Gippsland, but not sure of the details…

  14. Dreaming Hazel Dooney | Art Re-Source on December 16th, 2010 4:14 pm

    […] Hazel Dooney. Those who follow the many interviews on this blog will probably know about the interview Hazel did with us way back at the start. Of course her own blog is something to wrestle with as well. […]