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If you could live with just one work of art, what would it be?
When I came to London to study at the RCA in 1999, I wrote my first assignment about Paul Thek at Camden Art Centre. The show made a huge impression on me. The newspaper paintings he made throughout his career are so powerful and moving. I love the informality, the immediacy, and his curious, cryptic language. If I had to pick one, it’s Dust .
Which cultural experience changed the way you see the world?
I grew up in a pub in Essex and no one in my family was really into art or culture. I did A-level art and music, though, and one day our music teacher played us Steve Reich’s early tape works, like “Come Out” and “It’s Gonna Rain”. It was a total revelation. I went to the local library and got out Michael Nyman’s book Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond. Poring over that book, which wasn’t just about music, but Fluxus and that whole New York scene through the 1960s and 70s, opened up another world.
Which writer or poet do you return to the most?
Two years ago, an artist recommended The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again, M. John Harrison’s novel. He’s a science fiction writer, but the work’s got less sci-fi recently and a few months ago, he published what he called an anti-memoir, Wish I Was Here. He’s somebody who I’ve been thinking about a lot over the past few months.
What music or other audio do you listen to as you work?
I listen to two or three hours of music a day, but never while I work. I’d love to put something on in the background, but it distracts me. In terms of recent things, Lonnie Holley, who is doing a show at Camden in July, did a really incredible record this year, Oh Me Oh My.
What are you watching, listening to or following that you would recommend?
As a family, we watch a lot of comedy. There’s a brilliant show which we watched last year, Stath Lets Flats, created by Jamie Demetriou—a sitcom set in north London about a Cypriot estate agency. It’s genius: beautifully written and brilliantly acted.
What is art for?
I used to think art was about communicating the experience of being alive or being human. But now I think art is a way to get closer to the truth, the reality, the condition or the nature of the world. Which sounds grandiose, but it can also be incredibly mundane or modest. It’s a way to think, feel and act with the world, not apart from it. B.L.
• Bloomberg New Contemporaries, Camden Art Centre, London, 19 January-7 April 2024