... Paul Young of the 1980s, popular, photogenic, successful, is again brought back from obscurity in a performance by Dominic Allan’s alter ego, Dominic From Luton, which took place in Bedford Men’s Club. Wearing a mullet wig, and wearing clothes quite literally covered in badges showing the Hurr portrait, the character is very much at home with a pint in hand, standing close to a snooker table. Encountering photographs of this curious character, we are, surprisingly perhaps, obliged to consider not only such things as hair styles, fashion, and popular culture, mentioned earlier, but perhaps weightier matters such as the ways in which particular notions of masculinity are reflected and embedded in solidly working class environments as working men’s clubs. For better or for worse, such spaces have particular histories, and Allan’s willingness to cite a performance in such a space shows how he is inextricably bound to towns, such as Luton and Bedford, unglamorous towns in which these clubs are traditionally located.
Allan is here to let us know that he has an almost bewildering number of ways in which he can and will animate and indeed advance his engagement with Luton. But his work is something other than simply autobiographical. Nor is it mere eccentricity. In obliging us to consider Luton and aspects of its multiple histories and identities, the artist is creating for us no end of access points through which we can consider all manner of contemporary conditions such as history, identity, geography, space, place, sport and culture, particularly how these things impact on our own lives. Paradoxically, by taking as the starting point for his multimedia practice a provincial town, Allan is in effect able to create for us a window onto and into the wider world. All roads might not lead to Luton, but the artist is here to let us know that his considerations of Luton might give us no end of food for thought.
After all, the older one gets, the more one becomes involved in multiple processes of remembering how we came to be the people we are: first love, and some of those thereafter, first sexual experience, and some of those thereafter, first pint, first spliff, first football match, school days, home life… In other words, all the things that go to make us who we are, as adults trying to make our way in the world. Perhaps it’s this remembering of adolescence that gives Dominic Allan’s work its depth, its reach, and its maturity, and why so many people can relate to it.
A work such as Yeah!, though featuring confectionary from the present time, pretty much catapults those of us of a certain age, back to childhood. In the work, a variety of chocolate bars are planted into a bed of tiny pink polystyrene balls. We are almost able to transcend the two-dimensional nature of the work, reach in, and pick one or more of these bars of confectionary, so evocative of memories of childhood. Adolescence is perhaps further evoked in a work such as Please, in which a request for a manual act of sexual gratification to be administered is partially rendered through the arranging of drawing pins on a notice board. Schoolboy prank? Earnest request? The work points to perhaps more formal qualities of the abilities of mundane, everyday objects to be put to work in pursuit of art making.
Though we know Dominic Allan to be the maker of the work, Please points to an almost anonymous and unseen hand of the maker. Similar perhaps to some years ago when he painted the words, ‘Dominic From Luton’ on a bank of horizontal wooden beach dividers, aged and worn by the sea. Over a period of time, the seawater, creating an intriguing spectacle for artist and audience alike, broke down and erased the words. Written in water-based paint, the act of gradual erasure very much became part of the work itself, and pointed to a self-deprecating aspect that was in marked contrast to the playful assertions of self that the work simultaneously embodies...
The above extracts are from “Introduction”, in Dominic from Luton, a monograph on the artist Dominic Allan, published by Cornerhouse Publications, 2017.