Interview with Thomas Isom

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INTERVIEW

PR: How and why did you become an artist?

Thom Isom: I never had any specific intentions to become an artist. My practice as a designer over the years has led me to collaborate with a variety of people in different practices – arts, music and film. As time has gone by I’ve found my ideas as a designer expanded into these different areas. Calling myself an artist is just an easy way to describe what I do.

PR: Do you have a favourite medium in which to work?

TI: Typography, illustration, video and animation. I’ve found a lot of cross over with these different mediums and feel each complement one another well.

PR: Can you tell me about your approach to making the publication for the exhibition?

TI: Conversation has been key in the production of the publication. I started with meeting and chatting to each of the artists in person or over Skype. Rather than just request their images and pick and choose my favourites to put into the publication I wanted to learn about the process, methods and stories behind their work.

After several conversations it was clear a new format was needed to present the work. Rather than imitating the photos in gallery and prescribing the order I decided to create a format that encouraged play and self curation. This is when I decided to produce a box with prints, introducing materials that reflect the work and ideas each of the artists explore.

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PR: What has been most difficult in collaborating with other artists? What have been the best aspects of collaborating?

TI: Trying to establish a format and outcome that best worked with each of the artists ideas has been the most difficult part of this project. Although themes and ideas are similar the artists intentions differ. The best aspect of collaborating on this project was learning about these different intentions and approaches to photography.

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Poem linked to Thom Isom’s publication: The Little Box Vasko Popa

 

ESSAY

Pieces of You, the exhibition publication, was designed by Thom Isom. Thom is a Liverpool based designer who is a little reluctant to be described as an artist. He says:

I never had any intentions to become an artist. My practice as a designer over the years has led me to collaborate with a variety of people in different practices – arts, music and film. As time has gone by I’ve found my ideas as a designer expanded into these different areas. Calling myself an artist is just an easy way to describe what I do.

Thom premiered work with Syndrome Arts Lab and FutureEverything Manchester (2015) with Kepla. He has also designed The Skinny since 2013 and is the Director of Liverpool-based Deep Hedonia, a group (formed in 2012) who collaborate to produce innovative work in music, live performance, video, audio-visuals and other media: their aim is to celebrate “the boundless creativity of Manchester and Liverpool.”

His publication Pieces of You is not a book but rather is itself in pieces, held together in an A5-size slim black cardboard box that slides open in two parts. It is slightly bigger than a DVD case, more like a double CD (if the CDs are side by side). Inside the box is a collection of items starting with an information card that explains the idea behind the publication:

Rather than prescribing the order of images or imitating a gallery, this  publication encourages you to restructure and create new narratives and connections, each copy a tool to explore the artist’s work. There is no bound order or separation of image, of subject, of artist.

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The contents include a series of photographs from the exhibition (some with transparencies), a sheet of metal that is opaque on one side and mirror-like on the other, a silver card that is white on one side. These images and items can be rearranged by the viewer and carried away as a portable exhibition. There is a simple code that helps us to identify which image belong to which artist.

This is an imaginative introduction and memento that gives us some insight into the decisions that form and inform an exhibition.

How would we order theses images? Thom Isom’s black box invites us to experiment and to contemplate the process that must be considered in the making and placing of an exhibition.

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Pauline Rowe

With thanks to Thom and The Open Eye Gallery  who provided the opportunity for this interview through their Pieces of You exhibition (2016) and the LiNK placement with the University of Liverpool.

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