Matrix of dreams and reality in Dorcas Casey’s sculpture


© Dorcas Casey

Augustė Chocianaitė meets Dorcas Casey

Dreams have been surrounded by myths and beliefs within different cultures since time immemorial. Young sculpture artist, Dorcas Casey harnesses the power of dreams by using them as the main source of inspiration for her surreal and unearthly works of art.

The great Pablo Picasso once said that everything we can imagine is real. Dorcas’ work is a perfect example of the matrix between the illusive and the actual.IMG_0712

“Almost all of my sculptures come from images in my dreams, which have an overlay of strange emotions. What appears as an animal can mean a lot of other things.   They might be menacing and frightening, they might just appear or escape, depending on the creature,” admits Casey.

Depicting creatures as vividly and accurately as Dorcas Casey does is not something one can learn in one day. The artist gets detailed instructions of animal anatomy from books and, obviously, the mighty Internet. However, her piece ‘Familiar’ which won her a ‘Public Speaks’ award at the Broomhill National Sculpture Prize in 2013 was inspired by indigenous ritual garments Dorcas came across when visiting an ethnographic museum in Poland: “They had these amazing old animal heads with folk costumes, which were hanging up really high, articulated to move, and looking slightly menacing. After seeing them I wanted to recreate that, to make those high-up animal heads look down as if people were hiding inside them. I made them out of bedding, blankets and jumpers – familiar, comforting materials, but with a sinister appearance.”


© Dorcas Casey

Challenging the ‘normal’ has always seemed appealing to contemporary artists of all epochs. Dorcas Casey is no exception. With high admiration for Berlinde de Bruyckere’s and Louise Bourgeoise’s sculptures, she uses jesmonite, resin, fabric, and a sewing machine in order to create her otherworldly and immensely earthly beings. To emphasise the contrast between the real and the imaginary she uses found objects in the installation of her work, “I make the animal and I play around with objects, usually a piece of furniture. Sometimes it helps me to resolve the piece. When I made my pig sculpture I found a bulbous, squat, ugly chair which reminded me of the pigs from my dreams.”

By creating a tension in the sculptures’ origins: protagonist or antagonist, the artist encourages spectators to create stories of their own. “Mainly I am trying to preserve the kind of weird ambiguity you get in dream images,” she explains, “without trying to over-analyse what makes it powerful. I want to recreate that strange, uncanny feeling in real life. You can try to interpret dreams, but I think that deadens them and turns them into a rational language”.

American author Rick Riordan said that asking an artist to explain their art, or demanding a poet explains their poetry defeats the purpose of their work. Dorcas Casey admits to the same opinion.


At this year’s Open Studios, Dorcas will be installing her work in our fabulous old lift shaft. Built in the early 1900s, the lift at the studios no longer works, but is a beautiful feature of the building. Dorcas’ sculpture will be placed in the void, to be seen as visitors ascend the stairs to the studios.

Open Studios: Friday 19 June, 7-10pm; Sat and Sun 20 and 21 June, 11am – 5pm.

Dorcas Casey on the Jamaica Street wesite


About jamaicastreetartists

Jamaica Street Artists is one of the largest artist-lead studios outside of London and has been established for over 15 years. The studio is housed in a grade ii listed former carriageworks, an iconic landmark in Bristol. Jamaica Street Artists is a unique and ambitious collective, holding an annual Open Studio and planning an exciting programme for the year ahead. In the past we have held group exhibitions at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery and St George's, Bristol, and individual artists continue to find success exhibiting across the UK and abroad. Over the past year Jamaica Street Artists has run a dynamic fundraising campaign to safeguard our future, a new lease has now been secured, but the long-term aim remains to purchase the building in partnership. Looking towards the future Jamaica Street Artists plan to build on their success, continuing to contribute to Bristol's creative and cultural reputation and promoting the work of its artists.

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