Tom Gallant was one of the many artists featured in our EK TOP 100 Artists of 2010. Incredible art, deep interview, Top 100. Below, below, below you should go.
How did you come up with the idea to marry incredible intricate and stylistic cut patterns and pornography? What is your favorite source for subject material?
The source of my ideas came from research into the language of Folk and Fairy Tales. This lead me into writings on sexuality, feminist literature and then books on pornography. The patterns originate from the wallpaper designs by William Morris and are a motif of Victorian society together with the nature of the Collector. I use a wide variety of subject material and have no particular favourites, though I have a small collection of Dover Publications and Hustler XXX.
Can you explain your thoughts on the juxtaposition of victorian style design and pornography? What do you hope/imagine your viewers take away after seeing your work?
Both relate to industry and how it has shaped our collective visual culture and society. I hope the viewer has enough space to question the individual motifs and their meanings as well as question the use of pornography rather then see it as a shock tactic or a gimmick, other than that I can’t imagine what they think other than sadness at the length of time spent cutting paper.
Do you think your work should be available to kids? Why or why not? Do you think that it can be considered censorship if you’re prohibiting minors from viewing your work? Or not even necessarily minors, say kids under the (arbitrarily chosen) age of 13?
It is available to kids, through houses of collectors as well as public shows. I see no reason to censor, it is up to the guardians to educate or ignore it and/or focus on the details or the craft rather than the pornography. As a parent I think it is necessary to inform ones children of the images they will encounter on a daily basis in order that they feel able to discuss those images they may find shocking or obscene, or not as the case may well be. Whether it is death or sex, it should be a conversation rather then a speech.
Can you tell us about your artistic process from beginning to end? Do you look at a photo and then construct a piece around it or vice versa or what?
On a practical level the works are designed on the computer before the elements are printed and then composed on the magazines and then cut through. Nearly always the works are thought through before I choose the magazine paper. However, there have been some recent works where the magazine photo has been the inspiration, see Collector VIII-101 Views. The process for the ideas is a constant one driven by the past and continuing research.
You said that the scalpels you work with seem to be fetishistic objects, do you find that to be fitting in regards to your work with pornography, which is in itself incredible fetishized?
It is fitting, as is the obsessive nature of making the work but this acts only as a surface layer for interpretation. However, it feeds into most of the work I do whether using religious iconography or making sculpture. Clearly the physical nature of a magazine has created a fetish for paper which feeds directly into what I make.
How did your art change while getting your BA? How did it change while you were working for you MA? What did you learn about art and about your own art during those separate experiences?
Working backwards, I started having a clearer idea that I wanted to be an artist during a period after studies when I was working with artists. This was the most informative period. Very dull and parentlike but… I learnt during my BA that it is all about hard work and for me research, during my MA that it is not about Printmaking and during the Fellowship that it is not about London or hard work. Overall I learnt that it is all relevant you just have to filter what is important for that particular moment.
How much and in what ways has your work changed since you got your BA? Since your MFA?
In many ways I don’t think it has changed since A-levels. I was so informed by analysis of literature and the importance of research in forming concept through a design process and fundamentally this is still the way that I work. However, I have seen the self imposed restrictions this creates and am freeing myself of these constraints. A case of judge me in the future.
Do you think having a formal art education is important? How have you benefited from your education?
I think having an education is important though not necessarily an art one and not necessarily a formal one. I have benefited from having talented teachers at the right place and right time, a case of luck. These people from as far back as primary school instilled a love of reading and reading between the lines.
Can you tell us about some of the artists who have influenced you? How can has their work affected yours?
The list is long but the condensed version is Hokusai – love of drawing, nature of being prolific and creator of amazingly shocking pornography, even now, Christopher Le Brun – stunning interpretation of music and love of printmaking and John Isaacs – a polymath and the first person to make me realise I could be an artist.
What’s next for you? What are your plans for the upcoming year(s)?
I am working on a new direction that doesn’t involve knives and pornography rather brushes and ink but with an idea I have wanted to explore for a long time. With this I am hoping to have a solo this year, tbc… next year I am hoping to have a show focusing entirely on sculpture and installation. In the meantime I am watching my one year old son evolving, starting with walking and then the fascinating process of talking in two languages.