TOM GIDLEY- INTERVIEW WITH A (SLIGHTLY) CRACKED PLATE
May 20, 2010, Mousse Magazine
An interview with Tom Gidley realized on the occasion of his solo show at Log, Bergamo
I want to start by saying there is clearly always a lot more going on in your work that what we see ‚Äď a psychological aspect. Looking at your work can feel like analysis to me.
That depends on your personal disposition, how much you are looking for when looking at something but yes I would hope the individual things are a starting point for the viewer. I‚Äôm interested in the mental connections we make that make up the shape of whowe think we are, and how we see ourselves in relation to others. Who am I, what part of me is the fundamental essence of ‚Äėme‚Äô ‚Äď or am I simply an idea. Those are the questions that keep coming back. The work may take different physical forms, but that‚Äôs partly the point. It takes very little to shift for our concepts of self to be completely fragmented.
Can you tell me a bit about the show at LOG ‚Äď the title of which is The Shape Kept Changing.
The title is very simple but has different potential meanings; it suggests something morphing, in constant transition but might also describe an attempt to grasp the meaning of something or solve a problem that remains elusive. To me, it‚Äôs about relationships ‚Äď between people, between things. The shape of a personal relationship, always changing. As they always do.
In the last paintings I saw of yours the imagery was drawn from photographs of wounded servicemen ‚Äď soldiers and pilots with missing or reconstructed faces. This new body of work is different. The show suggests some unspecified ritual taking place.
Most of the reference material I‚Äôve been looking at lately is documentation of performance art events from the 1970s. The imagery was still very charged to me, but the original meaning had changed because while these brief, intentionally transient moments had been preserved, we view them through the lens of our own time and everything inbetween. Some of them are like photos of an alien world, it‚Äôs so hard to relate to what the people in them are doing or why.
There is something romantic about much of it.
It‚Äôs totally romantic, and very earnest; this desire to communicate through primal means, a search for ‚Äėrealness‚Äô, question accepted modes of social behaviour and gender roles and so on. And so much of it about love, personal relationships. But because they were interested in these primal behavioural aspects of our nature there is something left which still impinges on us.
I half recognise where images in your work come from, and this is a quality with the sculpture as well as painting. Is this half recognition, glimpsing qualityan intended quality?
It‚Äôs very much intentional. That interests me a lot, the things which resonate ‚Äď what we instinctively recognise or sense without fully knowing. Psychological triggers.
April 2004, by Andrew Hunt, Frieze
Tom Gidley was recently described somewhat ironically as a visionary artist. First impressions of this recent solo outing suggest the statement may not be too far from the truth. Gidley‚Äôs first narrative-base video and the show‚Äôs centrepiece, In the Trees (2003), was projected onto Store‚Äôs far wall. It describes a scenario in which a solitary man in a forest hears a voice warning him that, unless he changes his ways, he is assured a horrific and desolate future. Strangely it transpires that this omnipotent presence emanates from a sparrow in a nearby tree. Is the voice an interior form of self-doubt? Does this all-seeing bird represent a form of psychosis? Or is the artist simply having us on? Shown on a loop, it takes a few attempts to figure out certain things.
The man, in his early 30s and dressed in a German army jacket, appears hungover. Out for a brief walk, he contemplates his life and his imminent marriage to his unfaithful girlfriend; he is by turns nervous, despondent and irritable. Rather than facing an incontestable future, as is suggested in the exhibition‚Äôs interpretative text, Gidley‚Äôs character is given an opportunity to steer things in a favourable direction. With a slight West Midlands accent, the young man sits in opposition to the sparrow, who cajoles and taunts him with a voice that is older and much more authoritative. ‚ÄėYou can do one small thing that may go about redeeming matters ... I‚Äôm offering you a last chance ... there are small windows of opportunity that open without announcement and then close again just as swiftly.‚Äô The mild authority of this benign ‚Äėnatural‚Äô voice is greeted by the man with a stubborn refusal. ‚ÄėThe future‚Äôs not fixed, I can do whatever I like.‚Äô Gidley‚Äôs character is eventually condemned to his fate as a future alcoholic who subsequently fails to take an opportunity to save his son Wayne from a similarly desperate life. Because of his lack of confidence in his tormentor - perhaps his own inner voice - he fails, and a small glimmer of hope disappears.
Despite the gloom, In the Trees is startling in its complexity. It ends with the man slumped in despair against an enormous tree stump while the invisible narrator describes his fate: ‚ÄėYou fell foul of your follies years ago ... and then you find yourself here, unaware that it‚Äôs all about to start again.‚Äô Employing the illusory gap between the character‚Äôs internal and external worlds, Gidley quite deliberately skews ideas of time; not only has this man been forced to live a life of misery, but he‚Äôs asked to live it twofold. Importantly the film also reveals a certain brutality as it muses on issues of authority and self-determination. As the sparrow or the man‚Äôs own self-defeating psyche paradoxically tells him, ‚Äėself-determination is a myth.‚Äô
AN INTERVIEW BETWEEN RYAN GANDER AND TOM GIDLEY
February 2007, by Ryan Gander and Tom Gidley, Associates Gallery
RG: I‚Äôll start. When were you last in the studio?
RG: How was it? How long were you there for?
TG: Very good thank you. Not that long, about 5 hours.
RG: When did you get your studio that you‚Äôre in now?
TG: I began renting this particular studio exactly a year ago this week.
RG: And before that when was the last time you had a studio?
TG: Between ‚Äô97-2000. I was making films and videos then so it wasn‚Äôt so important to use it as a studio and I ended up living there, it became a domestic space. So you could say that this is the first time I‚Äôve ever had a specifically work-based studio.
RG: I went to your studio and something has changed between your practise before and now...
TG: You said that you felt that everything has changed . That‚Äôs understandable, coming into the studio and seeing the work en mass, but it‚Äôs been a very gradual process. It‚Äôs a development and continuation of previous ideas but the big change was that at a certain point I became interested in materials again, in making things. Physically the works is very different; painting, sculptures, clay objects.
RG: Jas you done a painting before you went into this realm of practise this time /
TG: There was a moment, half way through 2005, when I was preparing for a small group show with some friends, people like Ed Underwood and Steve Claydon. I was working in a way which suited film. Where I would plan work before it was executed, but it would only be executed when there was an exhibition to show it in. In the course of thinking about this I found myself making a painting. I finished it but wasn‚Äôt quite sure what had happened, then Ed came round an saw the painting and said ‚Äúthat‚Äôs a piece for the show‚ÄĚ. I already knew it, but it was so different to what I‚Äôd been doing before. It sort of opened the flood gates.