United Kingdom

Dawn Woolley



Dawn Woolley (b. 1980) was born at RAF Wegburg in Germany, she currently lives and works in Cardiff, UK.

She originally trained as a fine art printmaker and has since developed a photography-based practice that encompasses digital video, installation and performance as well as photo-based installations. In 2008 she completed an MA in Photography at the Royal College of Art. Woolley is currently undertaking a PhD by project at the Royal College of Art.

Recent exhibitions have included; Basically.Forever, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; Recollection, Ruimte Morguen Gallery, Antwerp (2014); Wasteland, Greenlease Gallery, Kansas City (2013); Look Attractive, UMKC Gallery of Art, Kansas City (2012); Expo et Reflexions sur les Stereotypes Sexistes, College des Bourg Mestre et Echevins de Schaerbeek, Brussels; Objects of Desire, The Freud Museum, London (2011); Portmanteau Halle 14, Leipzig (curated by G39 Cardiff); My World: Visions of 21st Century Feminism in the European Women’s Lobby, Brussels (2010). Solo exhibitions include; “Visual Pleasure”, Hippolyte Photography Gallery, Helsinki, Finland (2013); “Visual Pleasure”, Vilniaus Fotografijos Galerija, Lithuania (2012); Visual Pleasure at Ffotogallery in Cardiff (2011).

Her artwork is held in a number of collections including; The Royal College of Art, London, the Museum of Photographic Arts in Kiyosato, Japan and in The Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA.

Her book 'Consuming the Body: Capitalism, Social Media and Commodification' will be published by I B Tauris.



Robert Crawford, a political economist, says that capitalism has two contradictory demands: "On one hand we must repress desires for immediate gratification and cultivate a work ethic, on the other, as consumers we must display a boundless capacity to capitulate to desire and indulge in impulse; we must hunger for constant and immediate satisfaction. The regulation of desire thus becomes an ongoing problem, constantly besieged by temptation, while socially condemned for overindulgence". (1984, p.92)

In a contemporary consumer culture, I am required to delay gratification and demonstrate a strong work ethic in order to fulfil the need for production and achieve a slender body ideal. I am simultaneously impelled to consume to excess and to the hedonist incitement to ‘treat myself’ in order to fulfil the need for consumption and capitalist growth. Diet foods are commodities par excellence; they conform to the dictum of self-denial without contradicting the imperative to consume. They are simultaneously restrained and indulgent.

Lure focuses on this contradiction. The objects in Lure, made from cakes, sweets, diet product packaging, fishing hooks, and lures, resemble fetishes or talisman, votive objects worn on the body to protect from illness or bad luck. They seem to offer protection against the effect of eating sugary treats, but the fishing equipment also suggests a trap and equivalence between duped prey and a consumer dazzled by an advertising image.


The Substitute

My artwork forms an enquiry into the act of looking and being looked at. I use photographs of objects and people to question issues of artificiality and idealisation. Referring to psychoanalysis, phenomenology and feminism I examine my own experience of becoming an object of sight and also consider the experience the viewer has when looking at me as a female, and a photographic object.

Primarily my artwork is self-portraiture, but not in the traditional sense. In the work I create a photographic copy of myself and place it in the real world instead of me. By creating artwork that establishes me as an object it could be argued that I produce images that reinforce stereotypical images of the female body, but with apparent exhibitionism I create a substitute that renders my real body invisible. There is a suspension of disbelief taking place in the viewing public, as they want to see image and body simultaneously. This wilful delusion is inherent to the medium of photography – the desire to look at a 2-dimensional photograph and believe in the integrity of the 3-dimensional objects that are suggested by the surface.