CR talks to to UK graphic artist Patrick Thomas, about free-form screenprinting, co-founding multidisciplinary studio laVista, and his upcoming Valentine’s show at Hang-Up Gallery …
Described as an ‘iconographiste’, Patrick Thomas’s work combines and re-purposes iconic imagery to create bold, conceptual prints and editions, which aim to provoke and question, but with ambiguity still playing a part. He is interested in process, typography, art and image-making, and seeks to avoid creating work that fits into categories.
Liverpool-born Thomas co-founded multidisciplinary studio laVista in 1997 after relocating to Barcelona, and he now splits his between there and Berlin, printing, exhibiting and contributing to publications such as the New York Times Book Review.
His first publication, the now sold out Black & White (2005), from his own laVista Imprints, compiles much of his editorial work for Dinero, the financial supplement from Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia. The second, Protest Stencil Toolkit (2011), published by Laurence King, includes stencils with various symbols, graphics and a bespoke typeface to create your own visual statements of protest.
Last year, for part of his show Multiples at Galarlie T in Düsseldorf, Thomas found inspiration from the urban detritus and everyday ephemera that surrounded him, and recycled discarded cardboard to create multiple artworks with multiple meanings. For Thomas, part of the appeal of creating multiples, or editions, is that he see it as a more democratic process, meaning that the work can reach more people, be more accessible and more affordable.
Later this month, Hang-Up Gallery in Stoke Newington, London, hosts his new exhibition, 100 BPM. As the exhibition fell at the same time as the Feast of St. Valentine, the work on show plays with traditional heart ideograms and symbols of love, combining free-form screenprinting, found images and collage.
CR: Can you tell me about your background – how did you first get into graphic art and printmaking?
PT: I’ve been printmaking on and off for about thirty years now. On my foundation course in Liverpool I discovered editioning via linocutting, which later on at Saint Martins evolved into monoprinting, etching and finally silkscreen which is my preferred medium.
I wrote my thesis about constructivist philosophy and the democratisation of art, which convinced me that printmaking, was the right way for me to go.
CR: Who were your earliest creative influences and interests?
PT: Apart from the artists and designers of the Russian avant-garde, William Hogarth, Robert Rauschenberg and Eduardo Paolozzi were and remain very important to me.
CR: Can you tell me more about Studio laVista?
PT: I co-founded Studio laVista in Barcelona in 1997. It is housed on the top floor of a warehouse in the old manufacturing district, Poblenou, and is my silkscreen press, archive, work studio, and it’s where I stay when I’m in town. It’s run by my assistant who keeps an eye on things, deals with clients and sends out orders to galleries etc. I try to get over to there once a month from Berlin, where I am currently based, not only to work but also because Barcelona is such a wonderful city.
CR: Where do you look for inspiration?
PT: I work with the everyday, the mundane. A walk around the block wherever I am is usually enough to get an idea or two. Also I spend a lot of time travelling, mainly between Berlin (live/work), Barcelona (work/archive), London (galleries) and Stuttgart (where I recently started teaching at the Art Academy). Ideas just come.
CR: What piece of work are you most proud of?
PT: Several of them marked important moments in my evolution but I don’t have a favourite piece, I like them all equally. If I didn’t I wouldn’t release them.
CR: What is the best thing about being a graphic artist? And the worst?
PT: The great thing about making editions is the ‘reach’ it gives your work. To date I have released 150 editions or so each with an average print run of 100 which means that there are 15,000 out there somewhere; it is a very democratic process.
The only vaguely negative thing I can think of would be on a technical note: that some of the inks I use are a slightly toxic whilst they are drying, but they are always the most beautiful colours and finishes, so what are you going to do? Giclée is not an option for me.
CR: Could you tell us more about your next show, 100 BPM at Hang-Up Gallery in London?
PT: 100 beats per minute is the rate of an accelerated heartbeat, for example that of someone in love. The show coincides with the Feast of Saint Valentine so I thought it would be a challenge to take a subject that is traditionally treated in a sentimental, commercial way and give it a bit of oomph.
It is 90% new work: small silkscreen print runs with a few one-off pieces that I make using what I call free-form screenprinting, something that I am very interested in right now: investigating the grey area between multiples and unique pieces. Like a Georgian print-shop, I’m going to hang it tight and pack ’em in.