Doug Foster creates some of the most majestic and memorable installations in the art world today.
A storied visual arts director, Doug took a circuitous route on his journey to become an artist. On gaining a BA in Graphic Design and Animation in 1981, he began a career as a film cameraman at the BBC. Four years later he took on the role of chief lighting cameraman at one of the premier visual effects film studios in London. In 1993 Doug joined the renowned Blink Productions as a commercials director. He made films all over the world and garnered some of the industry’s highest awards, including Silvers and Golds from D&AD, BTAA and Creative Circle.
In 2006 Doug resolved to use the filmmaking skills that he had honed over the years to create work he considered more personal and heartfelt. He left the world of commercials and started using newly available technologies to produce a set of finely crafted film installations which explore the lengths that people will go to when faced with serious challenges. For example, the stereoscopic piece Breather (2006) depicts a woman’s struggle to keep her trapped, underwater lover alive by breathing air into his lungs. Two sets of eye-ports set into a rusting steel-plate box reveal the haunting, cyclical narrative as it unfolds inside. The work was displayed at Doug’s 2011 Lazarides exhibition In the Naughty Chair. Frozen (2007) mimics a service portal looking into a cryogenic preservation chamber, narrowing focus on our desire for immortality and faith in science. Other works employ optical illusions, such as 2011’s Eve, which utilises a specially-built stereoscopic viewer to create a perfectly symmetrical face from two separate photographs. As a former commercials director, Doug is compelled by the innate human attraction to symmetry, as would be evidenced in his major works first shown at Lazarides’ Old Vic Tunnels group shows Hell’s Half Acre, The Minotaur, and Bedlam.
These later, large-scale projection installations aspire to beguile at a more primal level, by imposing perfect symmetry on irregular forms from nature evoking “pseudo-biological” imagery. The Heretics’ Gate (2010), for example, fills a twenty-foot high, arched screen with a fiery vision, inspired by the entrance to the Sixth Circle of Hell as described in Dante’s Inferno. Made entirely with carefully illuminated inks in water, the mirrored flames conjure up demonic faces, and distorted anatomy, which are further reflected by a thirty-foot long pool. Strangely, the resulting effect is both tranquil and mesmerising. Chimera used similar techniques to examine both the genetic and spiritual aspects of creation. The pieces used a soundtrack by the electronic supergroup UNKLE, for whom Doug in turn provides stage visuals.
Doug further evolved his ambitious, immersive installations for Lazarides’ 2012 Bedlam exhibition. The Psychotron used ceiling-mounted projections featuring morphing patterns based on Tibetan mandala. Viewers watched these while lying on a specially-constructed round bed, twelve at a time, positioned so their heads met at the centre of the dais. The Psychotron has been editioned as a framed wall-mounted video installation also. In another major new work, Brainwasher, viewers are stapped to a giant galvanised steel chair for yet another intense immersive experience, inspired by Cold War interrogation techniques.