"One of the aims is to explore the potential that lies within seemingly basic materials, structures and bodily movement."
Unseen Platform: Your practice sits at the intersection of photography, performance and sculpture. How and when did these themes converge?
Tom Lovelace: I began making sculptures when I was studying photography. My influences were quickly reaching outside of photographic history and as a result, I began to assemble and build with my hands, instead of only taking photographs. Though it is now quite a common practice, when I graduated in 2003 I remember being questioned about whether I was on the right course and whether I viewed myself as a “photographer” or “sculptor”. Performance entered a few years later when I started working with the curator Guy Robertson, who pushed and pulled my practice in new ways that did not always exist within the frame of the photograph.
Interval is a continuation of an ongoing series, the Assembly Works. How do these recent projects move past older iterations?
For a sustained period, I worked separately with the media mentioned above. I would be involved with photography exhibitions but only make and exhibit photographs. The same went for sculpture and performance. Then in 2017 I realised that I needed to meld them together in singular displays, rather than considering them as separate endeavours. Curator Tim Clark wrote about this development, stating that my work ‘Investigates the conditions and concerns of temporality. Pleasure is present, with anarchic energy, and these images reveal an alternative view of constructed photography while at the same time offering a strange reversal or mash up of the dynamics between artwork, physical presence and audience’. This perfectly touches upon the ideas at the forefront of my mind.
Can you tell us about the concept of the Poor Theatre and how you incorporated it into this project?
Poor Theatre was a set of ideas developed by the theatre practitioner Jerzy Grotowski throughout the 1960s and 70s. It was theatre without the dramatic frills. Grotowski experimented with removing the excesses of theatre; minimal props and simple utilitarian materials were given new roles within the context of performance. This raw approach to space, architecture and materials has shaped my current work and exhibition, Interval. One of the aims is to explore the potential that lies within seemingly basic materials, structures and bodily movement.
Your projects are nearly always site-specific. From their conception, how do these projects tend to develop?
Site specificity occurs at two stages within my work. Firstly, in the making of my pictures. The “studio” for me does not necessarily represent a classic photographic studio. It is simply wherever I am at that moment, whether it be my home, a factory or up a mountain. Secondly, I like to be heavily involved in the design and curation of my exhibitions. I am not necessarily interested in simply sending framed photographs off to be exhibited. This is sometimes necessary but if possible, I desire to create exhibitions that respond to architecture, time and place.
Despite manifesting itself in unique ways, there is an underlying thread in your visual language of structural forms and a considered use of materials. How conscious are you of this visual style and how does this inform your process?
The world and the materials that frame it are complex and I think my practice reflects this. I need a methodology that is somewhat malleable but at the same time, I hope my artistic activities are connected by a refined visual language. I think this should be developed naturally and shaped only by the artist. There also seems to be an expectation, especially for younger artists, to develop a ‘visual identity’; people in the industry find this helpful when describing an artist’s practice or when positioning them within contemporary art, but artists need to be careful of not restricting one’s creative output to a set of expectations.