Aesthetica Art Prize Interview: Damien O’Mara

The Aesthetica Art Prize is a celebration of excellence in art from across the world and offers artists the opportunity to showcase their work to wider audiences and further their involvement in the international art world. Previous finalists include Julia Vogl, who was shortlisted for New Sensations – Saatchi Gallery and Channel 4′s Prize – and has exhibited at Zabludowicz Collection; Marcus Jansen, a leading modern expressionist who joined a legacy of artists by featuring in Absolut Vodka’s artistic campaigns, and Bernat Millet, also shortlisted for National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize. The 100 longlisted artists are published in the Aesthetica Art Prize Annual and the shortlisted artists will appear in an exhibition at York St Mary’s from 8 March until 28 April. We spend some time with shortlisted artist, Damien O’Mara. The photographer will be exhibiting from The Trespasser series, which depicts suited men in places that are “off-limits” or “out-of-bounds” to people in corporate roles.

A: How do you find photography fits your artistic expression?
DO: The thing I find daunting about photography is its prevalence in contemporary culture. People today are inundated with images, particularly online and in social media. On one hand, the challenge is in making an image that stands out; but on the other hand, the frequency of the still image in everyday life has resulted in a general public that’s very sophisticated in regard to analysing and understanding photographic images. Contemporary audiences are so used to interpreting aesthetic choices that it provides the photographer with a heightened ability to communicate through photographic convention. People interpret meaning from aesthetic choices every day; it’s become second nature and almost seems to bypass the conscious mind. I think that’s what makes photography special, that there are so many subtle ways to communicate your ideas in a very specific way.

A: Do you work with other mediums aside from photography?
DO: I actually went to film school rather than art school and started out making documentaries. From there I began making video and projection art and only progressed to photography recently. I’d love to spend the next few years doing both stills and video works.

A: Can you remember the first photo you took?
DO: I honestly have no idea. I don’t think I really took it seriously until my mid 20’s. I remember buying a DSLR before I went backpacking in 2006 and spent the next year snapping away at everything I saw. That’s probably when I started to fall in love with it.

A: Which photographers have had an impact on you?
DO: I love Jeff Wall (Canada) and Gregory Crewdson (USA). Also, Australian artists Shaun Gladwell and Polexini Papapetrou are big influences.

A: How does it feel to be part of the Aesthetica Art Prize?
DO: It’s fantastic. Just looking through works from previous years prizes makes me feel very humbled to be included. Any opportunity to show your work outside of Australia is incredibly rare and valuable, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity.

A: What do you have planned for the future?
DO: I want to continue to investigate individuals who reject conventional paths or social norms in some way. That’s really what motivates me at this point. I see this as a generation where technological and social changes are freeing individuals up to redefine their lives and I’m really keen to continue to look at that in various media.

Damien O’Mara: The Trespasser, The Aesthetica Art Prize, 8 March until 28 April, York St Mary’s, York.

1. Airport, The Trespasser, courtesy of Damien O’Mara and Aesthetica.
2. Excavator, The Trespasser, courtesy of Damien O’Mara and Aesthetica.