Frame 61

Thomas Garnon

Frame 61
Thomas Garnon
 

“From very early on I’ve been interested in ambiguous mark making, both in terms of its ability to hover between abstraction and reality…”

 

Interview by: Jillian Knipe

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Where did you study?

I was born in Pembrokeshire, Wales, and moved to London in 2010 to begin my BA at Central Saint Martin’s. Growing up I was always making props and objects that I saw in films; more often than not, my parents would find me in the shed, half way through ruining one of my dad’s favourite tools, attempting to make a lightsaber or something else. I could never sit through a film unless I had something tactile that would help link me to the movie in my hands. It’s something that I think has moved with me into my adulthood, trying to relate to my surroundings through the objects I make. It’s funny, but I’ve never really connected the dots until now.

After graduating, I didn’t have a studio space, so spent most of my time in a nomadic state of making, moving between residencies both in the UK and Europe.

There was a freedom in making site specific work at that time because I didn’t have to worry about bringing a lot of materials with me or having to store it afterwards. I could simply make something in situ and walk away and let it live its life after I’d gone.

In 2016, I was offered a yearlong studio with Sarabande: The Lee Alexander McQueen Foundation. That was a really interesting year because I had to rethink my whole method of making, and bring my practice back to a studio environment again. More recently, in August I finished a 3-month residency at Unit 1 Gallery Workshop. That residency was a really fun experience because it was the first time I stepped into semi performative territory, brining the public to the forefront of the work, allowing them to add their own physical narrative to my work. 

  (L) 'Corn on the cob' (M) 'Squash' (R) 'Chopped carrots', 2018

(L) 'Corn on the cob' (M) 'Squash' (R) 'Chopped carrots', 2018

Across your work, the idea of ‘gesture’ and ‘gesturing’ seem to resonate. Perhaps you could expand on how and why you leave things loose and the narrative unfixed?

From very early on I’ve been interested in ambiguous mark making, both in terms of its ability to hover between abstraction and reality, and as a way of opening a neutral dialogue between the viewer and myself. Leaving a narrative unfinished allows for it to occupy a state of flux; not being considered as a finished object but rather one that can evolve alongside you through conversation. There’s also an element of serendipity that I like about making gestural marks. For example, the curve of a line might hint at something that looks like a mouth and then the whole composition of the gesture falls into place. I like to think of my gestural work as occupying a lot of different narrative possibilities, instead of just one. I also tend to leave a lot of my titles ambiguous, because I don't want to give anything away in terms of how people react with the work.

During my last solo show ‘Rogue Parsley’ at Unit 1 Gallery Workshop, I installed a site-specific drawing made from a series of large squiggles that ran across the gallery walls. I invited studio visitors to actively engage in the work and write down their own thoughts on the wall of what the marks looked like to them. I would later ask them to cross out their word leaving a ghost like narrative to unfold for the next participant to read and add their own mark to.

It was fascinating to witness the extent of references that people were drawing from to describe these seemingly abstract marks: video games, movies, sounds, to the natural world, and beyond. Seeing that narrative come together over the course of that show was really fascinating. It was also really great watching people react to the descriptions, seeing them laugh while they were walking around. Humour is a really important quality to me, because I think it allows for a more generous reading of the work.

  'Tap', 2018

'Tap', 2018

  'Fizzy', 2018

'Fizzy', 2018

With your use of everyday materials, you mentioned you are ‘removing the conceptual hierarchy of the artist material’. Therefore, can you talk about your work in the context of accessibility and value?

Accessibility is a really important part of my practice. I’m really passionate about my work being seen on an equal playing field. That’s why I choose materials like: cardboard, wood, tissue paper, and chalk, because they’re all materials we can relate to on a very basic level. Everyone has held a piece of cardboard or scrunched up some paper, and it’s precisely that physical familiarity that then allows for the work to move past its material limitations and become something new. Paper creases and wood warps, but these are all characteristics that help the work breathe and add a new dimension in terms of its artistic lifespan.

I don’t ever have a specific material in mind when I make a piece of work; if I see something that interests me I’ll use it. When it comes to material value, I see a piece of cardboard as having the same artistic integrity as the more traditional papers and oil pastels I use. Cardboard is a really interesting material because it’s often overlooked as being cheap or frivolous, but it is actually a really great substance to work with. It has a certain aesthetic quality that seems to play with light and weight, but also has an unforgiving tendency to it too. If you make a mistake when cutting you can’t rub it out, you have to live with it and allow for the material to have its own voice, and this is something that I like to play around with.

  'Hare Peach', 2018

'Hare Peach', 2018

  'Settled', 2018, installation view from Rogue Parsley

'Settled', 2018, installation view from Rogue Parsley

  Untitled, 2017

Untitled, 2017

Tell us a bit about how you spend your day / studio routine? What is your studio like?

I’m in between residencies at the moment, and looking forward to moving into a new studio in October. But first things first - my morning always starts with coffee. Most of the ideas I get come from my journey to and from the studio. I love taking the bus, and looking out the window. I tend to work in a very clean environment. People are always saying how organised my studio space is, but I can’t concentrate if I don’t have some kind of order around me. I also need a lot of space to be able to look at the works as I’m making them. There are times when I feel like I need to loosen up, and I usually do that by playing around with new materials, getting a feel of how I can use it and making a mess. That’s always a good day.

I have a tendency to work very quickly when I get an idea, I want to have it finished that same day. I like to think that the energy I put into my work in these moments of making comes through and keeps the work feeling energised. I also like to look at a new body of work for a while after I’ve made it. I think it’s really important to live with new work and see if it keeps my interest and it’s own freshness.

Your drawings extend to include their frames, your sculptures their plinths and props. Can you describe your intention here?

I really wanted to highlight the intermediary nature of these drawings and sculptures. By making the frames, plinths, and sculptures, out of cardboard (a material that is often overlooked as merely a resource for packaging and protecting finished artworks) and having them propped on the floor against the walls, I wanted to flip the idea of an exhibition space being a means of showing finalized ideas on its head, and say these works were still open for change.

What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?

The most memorable show I’ve seen in a long time was the Joan Jonas retrospective at Tate Modern. I remember coming out and feeling completely blown away by it. I really enjoyed the way the works felt; they seemed to be made at the exact point the idea first came to her head, and she grabbed whatever materials were around her to make these performances, sculptures, and drawings, right then and there. There’s also a genuine playfulness in what she does - it made me smile.

Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?

I’m actually in the middle of planning my travel to Norfolk. I’m going to be spending the next two weeks as artist in residence at the High House Artist Residency, run by the Antony Gormley estate. I’m really looking forward to spending some time back in the countryside and seeing what I make with only a handful of materials.

www.thomasgarnon.com

Publish date: 02/10/2018
All Images are courtesy of the artist