Edinburgh Art Festival 2015: Interview with Toby Paterson

Edinburgh Art Festival 2015 gave us the perfect opportunity to meet some of the most interesting artists featured in this year’s programme. After we presented you the work of Canadian artist Derek Besant, we now want to introduce you to Toby Paterson’s world of art. His “Thresholds” exhibition is a major part of the festival, so this gave us the perfect reason to talk to him in more detail about his work and experience. Here is what he shared with us…

1. Tell us more about yourself – where were you born, where do you live now, and what is your educational background?

I was born in Glasgow. I’ve escaped on numerous occasions but it’s where I now live and work for the foreseeable future. I studied painting at Glasgow School of Art and the peers I met there continue to help define what I accept and what I reject.

2. How did you get into sculpture and art in general?

Initially through supportive and open-minded parents and some grandparents who had form. Then music, skateboarding and luck crystallised things for me.

Toby Paterson, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Installation view, Courtesy the artist #4

“Thresholds” exhibition, Edinburgh Art Festival, Toby Paterson

3.  Tell us more about your collaboration with Edinburgh Art Festival and your latest project called “Thresholds”?

This is a project inspired and supported by Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres that takes as its basis a series of site visits to their extraordinary buildings throughout Scotland. Curator Judith Winter secured funding from Creative Scotland and we travelled to engage with the places and people that make Maggie’s the unique organisation it is.

The works I’ve made came out of a response to these experiences and are being presented at Edinburgh Scuplture Workshop during the EAF. As an organisation focused on process and production ESW is a perfect venue as it emphasises that this is work in progress, one that will only be complete when the seven diminutive aluminium reliefs arrive at the Centres that inspired their making.

Toby Paterson, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Installation view, Courtesy the artist #2

Thresholds” exhibition, Edinburgh Art Festival, Toby Paterson

4. Being a very active artist and showcasing your work around the UK, how do you see the art scene in the country in general?

Perhaps inevitably I think it’s undervalued and misunderstood by policymakers, yet I’m constantly heartened by the ever growing size and diversity of audiences for contemporary art. Those who have made a professional commitment to it seem to display an irrepressible resourcefulness and I think that always wins through. In terms of what artists specifically are doing, I think things are exciting in the way that they are perpetually responding to challenges of all sorts.

5.  You have worked in a variety of art forms – from large-scale architectural wall-painting to small paintings and constructions. How long did it take you to find your identity? Can you tell us more about your style in general…?

All of my work derives from encounters with architecture and the built environment and can manifest itself in various two and three dimensional ways, whether in galleries and museums or in public spaces.

Externally it may seem that the identity of the work is well established but despite having ploughed this furrow for over two decades I’m not entirely sure that’s the case. I’m primarily engaged in trying to work out why certain particular places fascinate me, so in that sense the work is a collage of my own personal aesthetics and those of the context I’m responding to.

Toby Paterson, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Installation view, Courtesy of the artist #1

Thresholds” exhibition, Edinburgh Art Festival, Toby Paterson

6. What would be a top tip that you would give to someone who is starting their career in a similar field as you?

Prioritise your work over everything else and don’t get slack.

7. What do you regard as your biggest success so far?

That on occasion someone will react to my work with enthusiasm. Beyond that, staying vaguely solvent feels like a significant achievement.

8.  Based on your experience, what are some of the challenges contemporary artists face when trying to secure exhibition spaces?

My experience is that where there’s a will, there’s a way. The ability of artists to be amazingly resourceful lateral thinkers is often overlooked and I’ve yet to find anyone who is committed to their work yet unable to find an outlet for it. That’s not to say I wouldn’t be much happier if there weren’t more straightforward solutions to accompany all the innovation…

Toby Paterson, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Installation view, Courtesy the artist #3

Thresholds” exhibition, Edinburgh Art Festival, Toby Paterson

9.  Are there any particular projects you would like to tackle?

Very, very few artists get to just pick and choose in an unconditional way, regardless of what they might say. That said, I’d like to make something   that, as Robert Smithson says, could ‘rise into ruins.’

10. What project(s) are you working on at the moment?

I’m mainly working on public commissions in Glasgow and London this year but will shortly be making a large wall painting at GoMA in Glasgow. As ever, studio work carries on in parallel with all this.

11. Which artists have influenced you most in your work?

Just for starters… the aforementioned Robert Smithson, Victor Pasmore, Mary Martin, Anthony Hill, Ed Ruscha, Donald Judd, Joseph Albers, Robert Morris, Jean Gorin, Michael Andrews, Richard Wright, Elsworth Kelly, Constant Nieuwenhuys, Theo van Doesburg, Simon Starling, Ben Nicholson, Blinky Palermo, Isa Genzken, Jan Dibbets, Richard Hamilton, Jane and Louise Wilson, Dan Graham, El Lissitzsky, Manfred Pernice, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Paul Klee, Matisse in a way and Duchamp is inescapable.

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Toby Paterson’s exhibition as part of Edinburgh Art Festival 2015 will be on display at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop between 31st July and 29th August.

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