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Meet The Artist: Patrick Thomas

Graphic artist Patrick Thomas popped by the gallery last week to chat about why creating art makes his heart beat at 100BPM, his love of Berlin, and why his upcoming show at Hang-Up is an absolute must see.

Graphic artist Patrick Thomas popped by the gallery last week to chat about why creating art makes his heart beat at 100BPM, his love of Berlin, and why his upcoming show at Hang-Up is an absolute must see. The exhibition, entitled '100BPM' opens on 1 Feb 2014, just in time for the Feast of Saint Valentines. Read our exclusive interview with the artist, including pictures from inside his Berlin studio, and show some love for 100BPM this Feb!

Photographs © 2014 Robert Charbonnet and via the artist.

You moved to Berlin in 2011, which is where you are now based. Why the move?

It was time to move on from Barcelona where I had been based for years, the cultural scene had been dead for some time and I was feeling a bit restless. I kept hearing good things about Berlin so I thought I'd better get over and have a look. When I got here there was no going back. It is a great city to make art as studio space is cheap and there is so much going on. I'm enjoying the crap weather as well, it helps me focus on work.

This is your first solo show in London since 2008. Why have you decided its time to come back and show here?

Although I haven't lived in the UK since the early nineties it is where my heart resides, it's where my work connects. I visit every couple of months and show work there constantly in art fairs and collectives but thought it was time to show people more of a body of work that I am making in Berlin.

How has your work developed since then?

It has become less self-conscious, more spontaneous--or at least I like to think so.

100 BPM will include a brand new body of work. Can you tell us a bit more about the inspiration behind the show?

The exhibition coincides with the feast of Saint Valentine so I thought it might be a challenge and a bit of fun to make work about the greatest emotion (Love). Since the nineteenth century with the advent of mass-produced cards St. Valentine's day has become steadily more commercial, my aim is to put things back on track. To restore a bit of authenticity.

The heart motif has various different connotations around the world. What does it mean to you?

The heart ideograph is one of the most universally recognised, used and misused symbols particularly by social media. The work I will show at Hang-Up is to remind people that the true meaning of the heart symbol is 'love' not 'like'.

Tell us a bit more about the free-form screenprinting technique you have been investigating over the past 18 months. Have all your prints for 100 BPM been made using this technique?

Free-form silkscreen is a term I use to describe using screens to make work without a press, in a more painterly way. It investigates the grey area that exists between the edition and the original piece, which is something that I am very interested in right now. A chunk of work on show will have been made using this process. It is work in progress.

How did you get into print?

I had been interested as an art student in the relationship between art and society, and was interested in the democratisation of art. This led me towards printmaking as the edition seemed to be the right way for me to achieve this. I got into silkscreen at Saint Martins via linocutting then monoprinting then etching.

This is the first graphic exhibition we've had at Hang-Up, which is very exciting. When did you begin making heavily graphic based work and have you always worked in this medium?

I used to work a lot for the international press, making images for newspapers and magazines, etc. It was a great way of getting my work out there and into people's homes and connecting with people's lives. Ten years ago I decided to stop accepting commissioned work and concentrate on putting out silkscreen editions of my own work as a continuation of this but with me back in control.

Why do you think Hang-Up as a gallery will be a good venue to represent your new show?

I'm interested in showing at galleries that connect with their surroundings and their community. An art gallery on a High Street such as Hang-Up is a fine example of this.

You use found imagery in your works a lot. Is there a particular place you like to source your images?

No, although I have an unwritten rule that whatever I use must be something that I come across physically, not virtually (online). My work embraces and is fed by the everyday, the mundane. I find a lot of my stuff by walking the streets and spend a lot of time at libraries; earlier this week I was at the Special Collections library at Manchester University. It blew my mind.

You were born in Liverpool, then moved to London to study at Saint Martins and the RCA. Which of the two did you feel were more beneficial to the artist you are today?

My studies felt quite seamless, I was left to do my own thing. Saint Martins was where I discovered printmaking and the RCA was where I pursued it. I had great tutors at both colleges--I was very lucky to study where and when I did.

Did you always want to be an artist?

Yes. For me there was/is only art.

The first artist who inspired you?

The first painting that really opened my eyes was a life-sized Portrait of Henry VIII after Hans Holbein by an unknown artist at The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool where I am from. I remember standing in front of it, transfixed, at the age of eight. There and then I decided I wanted to be a painter.

Before you became and artist, did you have any amusing jobs?

I was a bike messenger in London for eighteen months when I left the RCA. It wasn't particularly amusing although it did have its moments. My overall recollection is that of arriving home each night relieved and amazed to still be alive. Apart from that I have always managed to avoid proper jobs.

You've had numerous exhibitions worldwide; which do you feel has been your most successful?

I enjoy them all.

When did your career start to kick off?

A few years ago I had a piece of work in a show at the V&A which got a lot of attention and brought me into contact with my first galleries.

Any tips for aspiring artists out there?

Visit every exhibition, read every article, watch every film. Also, dedicate more time making work than talking about it.

You currently live and work in Berlin, where next?

Berlin as a base feels right for some time to come. I live between here, Barcelona, Stuttgart (where I teach at the Art Academy) and London where I visit every couple of months. I travel constantly. I don't need anywhere else right now.

Favourite Gallery in London?


Favourite Gallery in Berlin?

Kunstraum at Bethanien in Kreuzberg where I have one of my studios is always worth a look. It tends to be a bit hit and miss but when they get it right it makes me happy as its in my 'hood'.

Ultimate gallery to display at?

Anywhere that receives a lot of visitors. I'll show in a shopping mall if needs be.

If you could own one piece of art regardless of price, what would it be?

Anything by Francisco Goya, one of the defining figures of the nineteenth century and one of the most radical artists that ever lived.

Are you a collector of art?

In my studio in Barcelona I have a few bits and bobs, mainly things I've swapped. Nothing of great value, just things I like. My homes are pretty spartan, compared to mine Francis Bacon's flat looked positively cosy.

You've recently moved into a new studio. Are you a messy worker or are you organized?

I've learnt to control the mess, but I find it hard work. Fortunately printing requires a certain amount of order and discipline, otherwise all hell would break loose.

Do you listen to music when you work?

When I am thinking I need silence, or classical music (Purcell, Bach, Schubert...) or jazz (Miles, Bill Evans, Coltrane, etc). When I fire up the silkscreen press (if no-one else is around) I'll play something loud and banging to cover up the noise and swearing.

Do you play an instrument/have any hobbies outside of your practice?

Years ago I played rhythm guitar in a band in Liverpool. Badly. No hobbies. I like cooking but that doesn't really count does it? I run early in the morning but again that is more out of necessity than as a hobby.

What do you want people to come away with after viewing 100 BPM?

A piece of work under their arm for someone they love.

What's next for you?

Just after the opening I'm off to São Paolo for a few days for meetings and to have a look around. Never been, could be fun.