ABSINTHE §2 Interview – Thomas Langley Originally published in the ABSINTHE §2 Catalogue, published by Side Quest, produced to accompany ABSINTHE §2, curated by Billy Fraser, Charlie Mills and James Capper, 18.05.19 – 17.08.19, Spit and Sawdust Pub, Elephant and Castle. May 2019
Hector Campbell : As an interdisciplinary artist you work across a wide range of artistic mediums, including painting, drawing, sculpture and installation. How do you approach the matching of concept and medium?
Thomas Langley : I’ve always been interested in the inherent values of both materials and objects. I seek to hunt these down and work with them as a complete package, I’m not sure the concept and the material are entirely separable.
H.C : The use of text as a visual device, a tradition that incorporates graffiti, sign painting and advertising/political slogans, has been evident in your work now for quite some time, how do you develop the visual language and phrases that appear within your works?
T.L : Often my placement of text takes into consideration several contexts, both the painting field/plane and the wider space in which that occupies, be it a gallery, a shop, an institution, a pub or a corridor – playing with the site is as important for me as spacial formal decisions like composition. Having said that I also drive for rhythm, balance and presence in the making of a painting.
H.C : Many of your mantras become repeated across many works, including ‘Make It Better, ‘Kill Me Now’ and most noticeably ‘Buy Mum A House’, what effect are you looking to create with this use of repetition?
T.L : I think a lot about the transference of labour, the hammering of the grind or hard graft, and making multiples highlights this notion of work.
I also like to make collections of works in order to create a larger context. Within the coupling of sculpture and wall-based work or a series of paintings individual works can function as modular components of a wider narrative or sentiment.
H.C : Your ‘Mummy’s Boy’ series recently culminated in a solo exhibition at Cob Gallery, presented in collaboration with five of London’s best contemporary art galleries. The show felt much like a retrospective, with the press release noting the series end. Is that the last we’ll see of ‘Buy Mum A House’? And if so how does it feel to close the door on such a body of work?
T.L : It’s been a heavy load, setting it down for a breather feels good at the moment.
H.C : The Cob Gallery exhibition also marked the debut outing for your representational landscape pieces, devoid of any statements and slogans, are you enjoying expanding into that genre of painting?
T.L : Absolutely, there is so much I want to explore further. Although it’s all object making, text-based and image-based slogans function in much the same way for me.
H.C : You’ve spoken in the past about your plans to work a Do-It-Yourself masters programme had you not been invited to attend the renowned Royal Academy Schools. Since leaving with your post-graduate diploma last year, how are you finding the transition from art school to the wider art world?
T.L : I actually made and went through with my own almost fictional masters program, based on a hybrid of traditional craft guild attitudes towards mastery coupled with a lot of influence from Henry David Thoreau’s memoir ‘Walden’ (in which the author takes on a similar venture). I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some great opportunities post-RA, and it’s been great working with new faces these last 12 months.