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Submit Response is a weblog by Jack Mottram, a journalist who lives in Glasgow, Scotland. There are 1308 posts in the archives. You can subscribe to a feed. This post was made on and belongs in the art, interviews category. The previous post was , and the next post is .

Toby Paterson

Toby Paterson won the Becks Futures prize for his paintings and sculptures, which are informed by Modernist Architecture.

I think I should start by asking about the permanent work you’re doing for the show at the CCA. It sounds interesting…

There’s a few things like that coming up that I’m doing. It’s something that I thought of right at the beginning of the process, as something it would be quite nice to do. It’s going to be very low key, hidden away in a corner on the top level of the CCA. It’s going to be quite a simple thing. It relates to various things I’ve been looking at over the last couple of years, not least the big wall painting I did at the ICA last year. It’s essentially taking decorative, or apparently decorative, facade treatments from buildings and turning them… specifically ones designed by Berthold Lebetkin, who’s best known for the Penguin Pool at London Zoo. For example, the one that I used at the ICA, I was interested in the way it was a hybrid , originally coming from decorative designs that he remembered from his childhood in Russia, Caucasian rugs and things like that, so you had that cultural and historical dimension there, and that was then translated through his interest in architecture as a tool of social renewal, and invested with a lot of ideas of contemporary art at the time, then manifests itself as this quite striking facade treatment on a building. At the time it was criticised as being too frivolous, and is now the sort of thing that is criticised for being banal, in terms of architecture, but actually has this rich history behind it. So I’m looking at these kind of s and turning them back into abstracts, taking into account that history, but kind of hiding it and turning it into something quite delicate again. Oh God, sorry – I just had to write a thing about it just then, for more money, so my head is full of shite about it!

I’m not sure yet which specific building I’m going to work with, and there are other people I’m looking at, people like Irwin Goldfinger as well, stuff that Victor Passmore did at a New Town called Peterlee in the North East of England. The form that they’re going to take uses these interesting sort of lightwells up in the top space in the CCA, and I’ve taken a bit of a Le Corbusier cue from this building called La Tourette, which is a monastery he built, and there are these little chapels there that are lit with natural light, but diffused down these tubes, so you get this very nice diffused natural light in these small spaces, and he painted colour inside the tubes. So, that was where the initial idea came from. It’s going to be quite unusual in that space which is so monochromatic, there are going to be these intense spots of bright colour, with more detailed areas worked up in the manner I’ve been talking about.

Given that your work is so informed by architecture, is it interesting to be having a more direct impact on a building, rather than putting work in a gallery?

Yeah. It’s funny, the works are never really site-specific, to use that hoary old term. Obviously whatever you do, whether it’s in a gallery space or a public work or whatever, you have to take account of your surroundings. But you’re right, this is interesting for me, because it’s a response to something I came across in that building. It’s not actually a building I like that much, so whatever good little bits I find in it, it’s nice to work with them.

So you’re highlighting the places in the CCA you’ve responded to?

Yeah. The other side of the coin is a piece for the temporary exhibition — I was just up in Maryhill watching it being constructed — which is going to be in CCA1, the foyer space. This piece is a response to that space. What I’m doing is building this sort of massive sculptural wall thing right the way through the middle of the space, and that was a response to my feelings about that space, an attempt to activate it in some way, and also to provide something to prevent the CCA looking like an empty shop window from the street. That’s something that Belinda Goody did really well with her project a couple of months ago.

As for the rest of the show, is it mostly new work or…?

It’s all new.

Goodness me!

Yeah, I’m feeling pretty wiped out at the moment. I’m not sure what the final count is going to be. I’m going in there to install on Monday, and I’m doing three wall paintings in there, and somewhere between twenty and thirty works going in there as well, all from the past year.

Right. Is there anything in there that will surprise people? Any new strands coming through?

Well, there’s a watercolour painting in there!

That’s certainly new!

That’s kind of a fun thing. It’s funny, I think the new strands will come out once this show is up. Things are changing quite a lot, when it comes to the work, because I’ve had an intensive period of doing things, and not had as much time as I would like to actually keep pushing things forward. Not that I feel like I’m treading water, but it feels like this is going to be a cut off point for things that i feel i’ve dealt with and I can then move off in a couple of new directions.

In terms of what’s happening with the rest of the show, CCA2 is going to be really shut down and dark and museumy. I’ve lowered the ceiling further, so it’s going to be quite claustrophobic. In there I’m showing works relating to the Glasgow architects Gillespie, Kidd & Coia, who are best known for the seminary down at Cardross. It’s the jewel in the crown of Scottish Modernism, allegedly, and it’s now completely derelict. They were working between the mid-50s and the mid-70s, and I’ve been working with their archive at the Mackintosh School of Art, and the situation with them is that they mainly built churches and schools, for the Catholic Church, and loads and loads of their buildings have been demolished, or unsympathetically altered, or left to rot. It’s quite an incredible situation, in that they’re Scotland’s most innovative architects, of their time, and now their buildings have been brutalised. In a way, I’m presenting quite straight-up s that I work with a lot, these things that fall between the drawing board and reality, so I’m re-presenting, as it were, s of these buildings that are no longer there, or are derelict.

Then in CCA3, I’m doing a big chaotic abstract wall painting that stretches all the way around the space, with lots of other stuff dotted around it. I don’t know if you saw that CMYK show at Tramway last year?


It’s kind of like the piece I had in that, these big sort of assemblage things. These big awkward slightly lumpen things. That kind of treatment, but using the whole space. The work relates to two different sites, one of which still exists, one which doesn’t, one being the Festival of Britain site on the South Bank, from the 1951 festival, and the other being this incredible place in Silesia in Poland, which is a park of recreation and culture that’s still there but semi-derelict. Both are sort of odd utopian propaganda exercises, and what I’m doing is sort of jamming the two together to make a hybrid festival park, a sort of manifestation of culture through architecture… that sort of idea.

This is your biggest show to date, yeah? How is it dealing with a big solo thing like this. You’ve said how much work it is, but… how do you feel about it?

It’s weird, because it’s in my home city. I’ve done solo things , but they’ve been smaller, projecty things. It sort of fluctuates between sort of vague confidence and blind terror. Because I’ve been trying to get so many individual pieces of work done, it’s been a bit of a headlong rush and I don’t have anything of a life. I feel quite weird now, just being in the house. It is exciting, and it’s definitely the show I’ve been most nervous about — I don’t normally get nervous about these things — it’s going to be a bit weird. I don’t know how people are going to take it. The CCA is a bit of a contentious place, and my decision to do this show wasn’t taken lightly. I really want to do something good there. There’s a lot of pressure is what I’m trying to say.

Isn’t pressure sort of semi-permanent after the Beck’s thing? Did that lump quite a lot of pressure on you?

I don’t know. There are nice things cropping up now. I was talking to Roddy Buchannan about this, and said that nothing will change at first, and that I’d get a flood of annoying trivial things immediately, but then in a year or so things will start happening that make you think, ‘Oh, this is because of the Becks.’ That’s starting to happen, and in a really nice way. It’s less exhibition orientated, less people trying to get you into group shows. There are a couple of things like that coming up. There’s a piece from the Becks show, a small perspex painting of a primary school designed by Dennis Lasden, and they’ve asked me to work out a permanent piece of work to be made along with the education department of that school. That’s a really incredible thing for me, to have been working with a building that I was intrigued by, then a year later I’m being asked to make a thing there. This is really the way I’d like things to go. As you were saying earlier, relating directly to a building is definitely interesting.

The main thing like that that you’ve done was the Royston Road thing?

Yeah, that was a really strange thing, because it came to me early on. I think that led on to other public things. Now things are getting more interesting, because there’s more of an overlap with my usual studio-based practice.

It kind of strikes me, looking at what you do from the outside, that this is a sort of natural direction for you to be taking, given the nature of your studio work.

Absolutely. If these projects come off, I’ll be really lucky. If you make work like mine, it’s very hard to translate that beyond gallery spaces. I’ll be pinching myself when these things are up and running.

Posted at 6pm on 01/04/03 by Jack Mottram to the art, interviews category.
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  1. This is interesting stuff. I’m particularly interested in what you say about Victor Passmore and his work in Peterlee. I’m from that part of the world and my daughter lives there now. She has been getting involved with the local council’s arts department. They are interested in doing a bit more to promote his work, in particular the large piece of architechture in Oakerside Drive. A major problem they have encountered, it seems, is that the local population seem to hate it. Can anyone point me in the direction of any literature/websites that can provide her with some information about Passmore’s work that she could use to try to convince people of his worth. I have been able to find virually nothing about him when I looked.

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