Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Interview with Tom Mason

q)Please introduce yourself.

a)Hello, my name is Tom Mason.

q) Where do you live and work?

a)Currently Berlin, Germany. I’ve lived here for periods during the last ten years. Like anywhere it has its pros and cons. I’ve lived and worked previously in Amsterdam and London (I’m English), amongst stints in one or two other places. Right now I have a very cheap sublet studio- my first real studio.

q) How would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it?

a)A lot of small works that mix drawing with collage in varying ratios. Sometimes just drawing, other times just collage. A little paint here, some coloured paper there. Sometimes words and lyrical pieces. Often figurative. Often groups of related pieces or a work series. In exhibition I sometimes enlarge on works as befits scale and installation possibilities. Humour and absurdity are key elements, its effect obviously depending on the viewer. As a colleague once noted, there is something in my work that mocks, kicks against, and makes creative use of vanity and self-aggrandisement -of most everyone, myself included.

q) How did you start in the arts? How/when did you realize you were an artist?

a)Drawing was the thing I was best at as a child. The thing I was noticed for in school. People said I could be an artist. It’s what I’ve always done. I’ve never had an awakening/rebirth moment.

q) What are your favorite art materials and why?

a)Pens, pencils, scissors/knife/glue/tape, words, magazines. I periodically try and get into paint more, with varying degrees of success.

q) What/who influences you most?

a)It’s hard to boil life, work, the experience of everyday and the creative products of all that down to a major influences or two. I’ve been more influenced by things outside visual art than in it: My two oldest friends, our experiences and the humour we developed growing up in a small town. My close friends made since then. Music and related artwork. A collaborative drawing group I was in circa 2002. People in general, my surroundings, mass media. Leaving England. Going back. Leaving again. Probably going back again one day near or far. Art every now and then.

q) Describe a typical day of art making for you.

a)I go through phases, and it depends what else is going on and what my workspace situation is. Recently: I get up, drink coffee, read news and emails, bike or walk to studio, listen to news on radio whilst eat/drinking something to appease stomach, then get started. The practice of making work depends on what work it is I’m making. I can go from a few minutes to hours to late into the evening. As it is for other people, starting is the hardest part.

q) Do you have goals, specific things you want to achieve with your art or in your career as an artist?

a)I’m not sure, as I take things one-step at a time. Of course I’d like to have good shows here, there and everywhere. Also to have the chance to meet and perhaps collaborate with others whose work I like and relate to. I would really like to have a book/books published i.e. good size, full colour if necessary, and well distributed. My ambitions are as much publishing related as exhibition related- I love books and printed matter.

q) What contemporary artists or developments in art interest you?

a)A lot of stuff interests me, though that might not mean I like it or it’s to my taste. I do like the development of interest in small pieces and works on paper, however it’s a busy area now so there’s pros and cons. I like the feel of something like Black Dice where music and visual art are really well combined, though it’s quite dissimilar to what I’m doing. I like the work of my friend Tom Huber, a Swiss artist who I knew in Amsterdam and worked with on both art and music. I like Andreus Höfer, Mark Gonzales, Jim Shaw. I have to mention early Sigmar Polke drawings, despite their not being contemporary they predate a hell of a lot. Likewise Paul Klee.

q) How long does it typically take you to finish a piece?

a)Depends what the piece is. Seeing as a note in a jotter can be of equal importance to me as anything else -a matter of seconds to a matter of hours. A series can take days/weeks. I’m quite the perfectionist, but at the same time I’d say the results retain immediacy.

q) Do you enjoy selling your pieces, or are you emotionally attached to them?

a)I’m certainly emotionally attached, and used to see the work as akin to diary pages (still do I guess). But I have to be realistic –I’m no longer a 20something squatter and I don’t want to spend my days doing a job I hate so I don’t have to sell my pieces, which would anyway mean they just sit in piles, files, boxes and drawers.

q) Is music important to you? If so, what are some things you're listening to now?

a)Very, though in terms of working, I can’t relax/concentrate with insistent vocals going on in the background or anything too harsh/grating. My listening tastes vary depending on mood, season, locale etc. I guess in terms of names; I’m a long-time Beck fan, (and his relation to and use of visual artists’ work is great, similar to that of Sonic Youth). I have a Fall period a couple of times a year, usually preferring the mid 80s - mid 90s stuff to the earlier post-punk era stuff. 808 State. Squarepusher. Ceephax. The Rebel -I was lucky enough to have a mutual friend who copied me a load of his unreleased music. The first Cobra Killer records. The Faust Tapes was/is a big thing to me. I like some dub music, ‘library music,’ novelty music, titbits of electronic music, 60s acid-punk stuff, lots of non-loud oriented stuff, various things that would come under the ‘experimental’ label. Random pickings from charity shops and my dad’s record collection were quite an influence, such as Hawaiian music, kids songs, 70s M.O.R. stuff that is truly odd if you can bumrush it from other angles- many evenings of wild hilarity have been had in the grip of such fare. There’s a lot more of course, odds and sods that are too many to mention and crop up on my occasional mixtapes and DJ sets. My oldest friend is in two guitar-based bands I like a lot- The Sticks, and The Pheromoans. I sometimes make music with others, or on my own. However my solo recording set-up is… lo-fi to say the least.

q) Books?

a)I generally prefer biographies, interviews, non-fiction etc, to novels. I’d like to be able to afford more art books. I’m really hoping a couple of writing-based friends will be published one day. ‘In Youth Is Pleasure’ by Denton Welch is a favourite. Jane Bowles is amazing. JG Ballard (RIP). I really like these odd books that are more compilations of short things, such as Harmony Korine’s ‘A Crack-up At The Race Riots’ (though it’s a while since I read it). I know this should’ve gone in the above question, but Kool Keith’s work is great writing, on a level with Burroughs in my opinion. It requires concentration, perhaps similar to that of audio books. His literary value has also been pointed out by B.R. Wallers (The Rebel/Country Teasers).

q) What theories or beliefs do you have regarding creativity or the creative process?

a)Hmm.. perhaps that it’s essentially beyond words? It feels necessary, at least to me. (Saying that, my closest friends are highly creative people -not just in their work but also their outlook, use of language, etc). I don’t think I’d be out molesting children, or a stumbling, bumbling, alcoholic birds-nest -if I wasn’t an artist. But I’ve little idea what I’d be doing if not something that involves utilising creativity. For someone who has no nameable religion or belief system (yet?), it feels central and grounding, while at the same time providing the vehicle with which to explore the everyday, the past, the projections. My art making and studio work is mostly a solitary experience, so I’m glad I’ve developed in a game that requires me being essentially happy on my own for long periods of the day. Here the line between art and life blurs, as I feel this is both a life lesson and necessary to much creative practice. However, sporadic collaborative activities can counterweight all the solo and self-directed trains of thought and work, which in turn benefits my own practice.

q) What do you do (or what do you enjoy doing) when you're not creating?

a)I don’t do much that isn’t involved with the creating! If I go out the door I always have a notebook on me. If I go to libraries and bookshops the same applies, and I’m looking for input, making notes and jottings, etc. When I was in London making music was an integral element in my closer social meetings. Otherwise: stroke cats, listen to music, watch screens, eat and drink. Sauna is great but it’s rare I go. More physical exercise would be a good idea. I’d like to get out into the countryside more again.

q) Do you have any projects or shows coming up that you are particularly excited about?

a)I have a London show pencilled in but the date is yet to be confirmed. Some work was just published by the Peeping Tom people in Paris, in a digest about artists in or related to Berlin. They launched the publication in the great ‘Motto’ store here. I have a couple of self-publications on the go, after a hiatus concerning that kind of thing.

q) Do you follow contemporary art scenes? If so, how? What websites, magazines, galleries do you prefer?

a)I find it hard to get myself to openings unless there’s a personal connection. I see more stuff on the web, but I don’t think there’s any one site I frequent more than others. I certainly don’t (read- can’t) buy art magazines, though occasionally I might want to. I follow some blogs; Momus’ Click Opera and Mutant Sounds amongst others, though they’re different to what you’re asking about. I would often go to the ‘Tannenbaum’ –a music and arts space here in Berlin run by a couple of Dutch friends, though they’re currently in the process of finding another venue.

q) Ask yourself a question you'd like to answer, and answer it.


Q: What question would you like to ask yourself, and therefore answer? A: If I’m honest with you, I’ve no idea. Something nice, easy, sweet even, practical and with an air of pleasantness: Q: Is it time for tea? A: Why, yes. I’ll be right back…

q) Any advice for aspiring artists?

a)Not sure I’m a good example! I’m an old fashioned type of artist (loner, waiting to be discovered, beret), and I think people just a few years younger than me have a very different way of looking at things. (Likewise I see the economic crisis creating another way of looking at things for those younger than our current 20somethings). I’d probably offer something general and clichéd like ‘don’t follow the herd,’ but then the art ‘world’ of today is stomping ground for its fair share of herds, so… Anyway the work itself is what it all boils down to, whether you’re Damien Hirst or Art Kerplunkel.

q) Where can we see more of your work online?


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