An interview between
Ryan Gander and Tom Gidley, 25th February, 2007.
RG: I’ll 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’re 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’d had a studio?
TG: Between ’97-2000. I was making films and videos then so it wasn’t
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’ve
ever had a specifically work-based studio.
RG: I went to your studio and something has changed between your practice
before and now…
TG: You said that you felt that everything had changed. That’s understandable,
coming into the studio and seeing the work en mass, but it’s been
a very gradual process. It’s 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 work is very different;
painting, sculptures, clay objects.
RG: Had you done a painting before you went into this realm of practice
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 I wasn’t quite
sure what had happened, then Ed came round and saw the painting and said
“that’s a piece for the show.” I already knew it, but
it was so different to what I’d been doing before. It sort of opened
RG: What was it of?
TG: It might even be in the show. It’s a painting of a mummified,
skeletal figure crouched in a corner. She has a full head of braided hair,
which is made out of veneer. So the only thing that’s ‘living’
in the picture is the shape of her hair, which is the thing that survives
death and decay. It’s called ‘The Librarian’.
RG: Where’s the painting now?
TG: In my studio on the wall.
RG: How had it changed between you making it and looking at it?
TG: For about the next 6 months after making it I was working from home
and I found myself in a natural rhythm of making pictures, considering
them and realising that there was another picture that I wanted to make.
I took on a studio and the first thing I did was neatly hang all the little
paintings that I’d made at home. Then I realised that I needed to
take all those off the walls and start work. It upped the ante, you know?
RG: The weird thing about coming to your studio was that you said it was
very ordered so I expected a logical, systematic studio but…
TG: But no. If you’re engaged in a physical practice involving making
things and all the experimentation and the failure that implies, what
to me seems like quite an ordered room, to you is like a world of chaos.
RG: It’s like a cabinet of curiosity.
TG: I suppose that’s why a lot of people enjoy visiting artists’
studios, because you’re entering a person’s headspace.
RG: I think there’s a direct relationship between the installation,
which will be in the window of Hoxton Hall and your studio. In that feeling
that I got that I was peeking into something which was ordered to you
but chaotic and curious to others.
TG: Absolutely. I’m very pleased that’s happening because
there is an ongoing body of small clay work which will benefit from being
seen in a voyeuristic setting like that.
RG: You said something before about failure. I don’t think your
work used to incorporate failure because everything seemed to be a success
and it all very logically bounced off another thing. This sort of trajectory
through ideas now is really spastic. The links between these works now
are more ambiguous.
TG: I think it’s a very natural process if you give somebody the
time and the space. I’m allowing things to rise to the surface and
be influences on the work in a way that perhaps wasn’t possible
RG: Would you say there’s something between your practice as it
used to be and your practice as it is now, something about it used to
be for a spectator in mind and now it’s for you, for your own pleasure
TG: It’s very much for me, but then there’s the point at which
I choose the things I want to show together - it’s intentional that
the works play off each other and perhaps even jar but there is an overall
atmosphere or potential story going on too.
RG: When you make work do you concentrate on a single work or the whole
practice or are you consciously producing a sculpture that will go with
TG: I have a very low boredom threshold. I’m not the kind of artist
who has one idea and pursues that for a number of works before moving
onto the next idea. There are several series or types of work in progress,
all happening consecutively. I’m not interested in developing a
single signature style. Artists who interest me have a signature way of
thinking and singular perspective on the world and they will work in whatever
medium is appropriate.
RG: There seems to be something in these newer works to do with the unknown
and unattainable. It feels like you’re trying to put the spectator
in a position of privilege and discovery.
TG: I would say all the work is in a psychological landscape. The way
in which we construct our own identities is really interesting, we have
this map of who we are which is made up from everything we’ve seen
and done. It’s a very fragile construction, which each of us has
to make in order to feel that we are who we are. I think that’s
where the work is, in a state of limbo.
RG: I have to ask my questions that I always ask. Where did you go to
TG: When I was 16, I went to Bournville College of Art, Birmingham.
TG: Yes, next door to the chocolate factory. When I was 18 I went to St.
RG: And how do you find living in London?
TG: Well I’ve been here more than half my life. I’ve seen
London change dramatically. I’ve seen the art world change beyond
RG: What’s the worst thing about it?
TG: It’s insular nature. But I think that is common to any city
that becomes an important hub of activity. People come together to discuss
what they do and be influenced by other people around them but end up
with an atmosphere that’s provincial and claustrophobic, on a gigantic
RG: What was the last show you saw?
TG: It was the Anselm Kiefer show at the new White Cube space in town.
RG: Any good?
TG: It was interesting to see the new space. Err… also because –
we’re not going to put this in are we? – it was Kiefer who’s
got to be one of the artists our generation finds very troublesome. Well
no, he doesn’t impinge on us at all, in fact.
RG: Do you surprise yourself more now than you did three years ago making
TG: To be honest I always surprised myself, and wanted to, but I’d
become very focussed on only working in one medium and resources and time
didn’t allow me to make more than perhaps one film or video per
year at the most. And so it was very difficult to keep up a sense of progress
and any rhythm of thinking. There was development but it was staggered.
What I really enjoy now is immersing myself in studio practice - it is
a daily process of surprise and failure and contradiction and it’s
RG: That’s really nice. That’s the bit to end on.
Tom Gidley was born 1968 in Birmingham. He gained both his BA (1990).
and MA (1991) at Central St Martins School of Art, London. He has exhibited
in group and solo shows internationally since 1992. In 2005 his first
novel ‘Stunning Lofts’ was published by Metronome Press.
We would like to thank Ellie Doney and all at Hoxton Hall for helping
us to realize this exhibition.