An interview between
Alice Channer, Ryan Gander & Rebecca May Marston, 6th June 2007.
An interview between Ryan Gander, Rebecca May Marston and Adam Thomas,
19th April 2007.
RG: Can I go first? What’s more important, questions or answers?
RG: Right. Correct… Do questions function without answers?
AT: Yes. Should I have answered that question?
RMM: You know how you do all these different jobs which are within the
art world, like Zoo Art Fair and David Risley, how does that affect your
AT: I’m really happy about that and I’m really lucky to spend
every day involved with art, especially at Zoo Art Fair, I end up researching
so many galleries and artists.
RMM: Does that make you optimistic about art?
AT: Yeah, it’s not the opposite of optimistic. It’s good just
to spend the whole day looking at art, talking about art, trying to see
how it can function and how to support it. Plus, because I just graduated
it gives me a sense of what’s going on.
RG: So what art school did you go to?
RG: Did you learn anything? Was it sculpture?
AT: No, multidisciplinary. I did pick up a few things but it’s not
really taught. When I first got there it was all self-directed study…
but I went for a lot of tutorials.
RG: Why did you make the decision to study in London rather than South
AT: I find myself in different situations and I never remember of how
I got there, like studying in London. When studying on foundation you
haven’t got a clue of the art world or of anything that’s
going on, you just want to make work…
RG: You once told me a story that nearly made me weep about when you were
thinking of moving back to Wales. You said it really matter-of-fact but
it was like a romantic ideal of an artist’s life.
AT: That’s the way it started… After finishing university
I moved into London with my friends who were a couple, not a good idea.
We cut the tenancy short and I was very poor, working in a coffee shop
where they taxed me a ridiculous amount. I had loads of things on the
go doing internships, which was really fun but no pay, and I started working
self–employed so I didn’t have a secure income. It kind of
all came together; in two weeks I wouldn’t have a house and I had
to figure out if I could stay in London or not. Then it all went amazing.
RMM: Ryan, why did you call Adam, Young Adam Thomas?
AT: It sounds like a folk singer.
RG: Yeah, it sounds like a folk singer or a bit like Robin Hood or Friar
AT: …But I was unsure about calling the show my own name.
RG: As soon as it becomes The Young Adam Thomas Show on the invitation
you can choose a hat, like a character. It becomes about myth-making…
And erm… Are there other artists showing at Associates that you
have an affinity with? Because with me, some of the artists that have
shown at Associates I don’t really like their work. I know that
it’s good art but there’s only a couple of the artists whose
work I like, as in ‘I like it.’ Which ones do you have an
AT: Affinity in a practicing sense? I saw Matthew Smith’s show and
I thought it was very brave and I think Sean Edwards’ work has got
a nice logic to it. That in a sculptural way but I think my practice at
the moment is shifting a lot away from sculpture due to the fact I didn’t
get into Royal College or the residencies and other things. Also because
I have to move out of my house.
RG: Can you explain the bit about bravery?
AT: Bravery? I can explain the relation to my own practice. I once made
plasticine work and to ask of the audience to see it as a material like
bronze was, I thought, quite brave. Matthew Smith’s work’s
really brave. Especially the nectarine one. I didn’t like it at
first because I thought it was a bit…
RG: Do you think there is a similarity between cockiness and bravery?
Can they be confused?
AT: Yes, it can shift, you never have one idea in your mind.
RMM: Both things, bravery and arrogance, they both come from being scared
so obviously you would confuse them, wouldn’t you?
RG: Yeah, you’re right… And you said the ‘squat’
AT: It’s not a squat, it’s not a squat… The landlord
sold the property for redevelopment.
RMM: And your studio in the basement, when was the last time you were
working in there?
AT: Probably back in January or February, it has been difficult…
I decided to turn it into a gallery… I haven’t really been
making, I’ve been doing a lot of writing, reading and thinking.
I feel weird to commit to sculpture when I can’t invest the time
it needs. I’m trying to think of the ideas behind a piece of work
RMM: Do you feel under pressure to adapt your work because of this situation
of not having the materials, space and time?
AT: I do need to adapt my work, but I’m not very precious about
the art-making, just precious about being engaged with my practice.
RG: Err… Tell me about the spastic arrow.
AT: The Dumb Arrow? It was included in my BA show, it was a good prop.
It’s made of rod steel sprayed black, and is just a simple line
drawing of an arrow…
RG: It looks like a line drawing but in space, a physical drawing in three
AT: That’s what I like about sculpture… if I have the facilities
to make something I draw and draw and draw and these works start to grow
out of it. I get a sense of what materials I want to use, like for the
BA show I had rod steel, angular steel and sheet metal – good materials
to work with. The ideas behind the work in that show were about the process
of drawing ideas and committing something to paper. I like the potential
that is held in it. But the Dumb Arrow… it’s been in flight
and it’s landed back.
RG: That work you made for your degree show seemed like a set to me, something
really theatrical. It seemed like the spectator would only ever see it
from one perspective.
AT: I did build it up into one face but it allows for the mechanics of
it when you walk around it. I like the idea of the bit in the Michael
Fried text, when it says that theatre is the antithesis of art, which
I don’t believe. I think that text is wrong.
RG: But isn’t this idea about ‘the theatre’ about the
approachability between the spectator and the performer? The business
of a fixed perspective… when you’re making a drawing the spectator
can’t turn the page sideways on and look down it.
AT: That’s why I like to translate my drawings into sculptures,
I like the mechanics behind presentation.
RG: Can you say something about the way you use materials, like you use
a lot of that papîer maché pulp mix. It’s like you
have an ownership over the materials you use. If materials are your colour
palette can you give me five examples of the colours on your palette?
AT: Metal, it’s easy to use in it’s material form when it
hasn’t had much processed; colour, it’s one of those things,
degree show was black; papîer maché; found objects…
RMM: You asked us to make two interviews, one now and one later. Why are
we doing that?
AT: I originally asked you if I could use this interview as an element
in the exhibition in it’s audio format, …
RG: What will we discover in the second interview that is at the moment
AT: Next time I might have some things up my sleeve, a way of approaching
RMM: I wanted to ask you something about this being the last show, whether
it made any difference? Like if we were a band and it was the last gig
it might make you feel different.
AT: Yeah. That adds to scariness. Can I ask a question? How does it feel
to have me as the last person showing?
RMM: Really good. We started off with Ryan in a Time Out interview saying
‘Matthew Smith is my studio assistant’ and we were like, ‘that’s
terrible.’ And then we asked you and we’ve worked with you
in that way and you’re a bit younger than the others and it feels
good because it really confirms that Associates is about relationships
of trust and good shows for good people… Anything else?
AT: No. I think I’m done.
RG: Are you bitter?
AT: No, I’m really happy. I’m always happy.
An interview between
Ryan Gander, Rebecca May Marston & Adam Thomas, 26th August 2007.
RG: Go… You’ve decided that these recordings, which normally
are only used for transcriptions that manifest themselves as text, have
become a work unto themselves, which is quite worrying. Do you want to
say a bit about that?
AT: Not just yet.
RMM: Ok. After we finished the last one we talked about things that we
really wished we’d said, one of them was about the fact that you
speak so quietly. Let’s talk about that.
AT: Well, I don’t know, I just don’t speak so loud.
RMM: Since you were a kid?
AT: Yeah. I had speech problems, when I was young I had a stutter, which
RG: Resolved by a speech therapist?
AT: Yes. And before I came to London I had elocution lessons, to help
me speak more clearly, but it actually didn’t work so well. It was
nice because I got interested in speech and language through that. I enjoyed
being taught how to speak properly.
RG: The idea of a recording of a conversation, to set something in stone
for eternity, it’s like a heavy legacy. And for someone who knows
about having speech problems… well I guess if it was me I’d
have some fear about that.
AT: No, yeah, I’m a bit scared.
RG: Is that why you’re choosing this? Is it trying to force something?
AT: Yeah. I like to challenge myself with different things.
RG: It’s kind of easy to be an artist that just stutters, not verbally
but in their work, when they just stick to what they do and rehash it
and rehash it. It’s nice to put yourself in that place that is unfamiliar
and the place that makes you scared a bit.
AT: Yeah and something nice comes out of it. It’s good, the stress.
RMM: Have you put yourself in that position with the other works in the
AT: Yes, i’m not rested on any laurels. I’m trying out different
RG: I thought it was all going to be metal.
AT: I expected the metal too but then it branched out into different elements.
RG: There’s a lot of print-based stuff in it now, and it’s
moved into the realms of collaboration, which is quite interesting.
AT: That’s something I really enjoyed, the collaboration.
RG: So how many people are you working with now? The piece at Zoo is with
Richard Rhys? And the print based stuff is with Work for Work? And who
AT: Ummm, it’s my brother and my mum and dad.
RMM: That’s more like they’re producing stuff for you, but
with Richard you’re actually collaborating, like you’re inviting
him to curate the patterns and stuff aren’t you?
AT: I haven’t really gone into it with any of them and said ‘do
this.’ I’ve said my bit and we talked it through and discussed
it, which is actually a nice way of developing an idea, and it added a
little bit for each project. Like they exist past what I wanted them to.
RMM: Have you enjoyed collaborating?
RG: Is this show based on you delivering red herrings? Conceptually?
AT: Conceptual red herrings?
RG: I mean, I like red herrings, I think they’re really good in
work. I’m asking because the final diagram on the wall that you’re
showing, is a very logical looking diagram. It looks like your system
of logic and the spectator will make links between that diagram as a description
of the way that the rest of the show works, but actually it’s an
appropriated system of logic that you then patched into something it’s
not really related to. Do you want to say what the diagram is? Or not?
If you do say it’s in the show obviously.
AT: It’s a diagram of grammatical structures.
RMM: These interviews are becoming the wall texts.
RG: The wall text? What do you mean?
RMM: I mean that you’re asking him what the work is and he’s
explaining it and the interview then becomes the wall text.
RG: That’s quite nice, because it means that… I mean, if you
don’t put the wall text it’s a significantly different work.
AT: Yeah. It’s a nice element to include this interview within the
show because, everything in all of the other objects is appropriation
and abstraction, kind of hashing things together. This interview sits
in relation with the whole show with more immediacy… Everything
is going to have a bit of history which needs decoding or editing together.
RG: The thing about contemporary art is that nothing exists in isolation.
RMM: He’s ripping off Liam Gillick… You know how you said
before about you applying to all those residences to have a concentrated
period of time to get everything right for the show? It was like you thought
that was an ideal of how to make work, but it hasn’t happened like
that, the collaborations you’re doing with Richard, and Robert,
Rasmus and those guys they’ve all come about from going to the pub.
AT: Absolutely. I like the way this show started piecing bits together
over time, through conversations, situations, moving places, that kind
RG: What do you think a residency would have achieved, that this hasn’t?
AT: I don’t know but I think that with a residency the show would
have been pretty different, probably more about sculptures.
RG: I think it was a blessing because now you have the force, not like
Star Wars, the force of having to do, but residencies make people dwell
a bit too much.
RMM: Have you conceived of it as a total show or as different works?
AT: A total show.
RG: And how do the things exist in isolation? Is it necessary that they
AT: Each work is different; the newspaper article is really for the show
and only exists within this show, whereas the publications are to take
away for free, so they exist outside the show…
RG: And the poster that you’re placing outside of the gallery setting,
in the advertising space, a bit guerrilla, what does it say again?
AT: “An ideal for which I am prepared to die”
RG: Where is that from?
AT: That’s from one of the books, the Guardian speech books that
i’ve edited together for the publication. That poster came along
in developing the project. It’s like where an idea comes to a wall
and has to be changed. It’s weird, I can’t change the show,
in any element, so it’s like “an ideal for which I am prepared
to die” is the show. I wouldn’t show anything else, I don’t
care if I shoot myself in the foot or if my career in art ends. I’d
rather make the show about what really matters to myself.
RG: You’re making me sad. Not sad but…
RMM: Do you think we’ve done something wrong though, asking you
when you literally just left your BA, do you think it is forcing a development
AT: No because you gave me lots of time.
RG: But you are the young Adam. You are the youngest by about 7 years.
AT: Really? Seriously?
RG: Yeah. You don’t really realise… you just want to open
a space and have a nice time and do good shows and do something good and
you don’t think about the implications of what you do, it’s
different for the different artists, but us asking them to do it has changed
people in different ways and that meant they look at things in different
ways. I don’t know… There’s kind of a responsibility
there but I don’t think we envisioned this when we started out,
RMM: But that’s because you had an idea of the gallery that you
wanted to happen, that the artists would be associates and do it themselves
and it hasn’t been like that. It’s been much more like a representational
RG: Yes. Is that it then? 22 minutes.
AT: Thank you.
Adam Thomas was born
in Swansea in 1984. He gained his BA Fine Art from Kingston University,
London, in 2006. In 2004 he completed a residency in Zemca Tattoo Parlour,
For more information
contact Rebecca May Marston at email@example.com or +44
(0) 207 729 8173 or see www.associatesgallery.co.uk