09 Sep 2014 • Contemporary Art
Interview with Tom Price for DSM 10 Year Anniversary
Dover Street Market's 10 Year Anniversary celebrations have seen artists install their works across the store's interior. One of the most mesmerizing is Tom Price's 'PP Tree', a structure made from industrial material that manages to exude an intense quietude often associated only with nature. We spoke with Tom about his work with DSM, the influence of chance, and what the future might hold.
What is the installation titled, and why?
The installation is titled 'PP Tree'. It evolved from a large body of work that I have been developing over the past few years using utilitarian plastic products. I like to find ways to manipulate materials in order to reveal something unexpected and unfamiliar in otherwise very mundane industrial products. I wanted the titles of these pieces to refer to the materials from which they are made as a way of giving them a degree of authorship, as it is fundamentally the materials that inform and influence the development and appearance of the work. In this case, PP is the chemical term for Polypropylene, from which the tree is made.
You say that chance is very important in your work. How did chance influence the making of the installation?
The canopy of the tree is made from thousands of individually cut sections of pipe that have been partially melted on one side to form perforated sheets. The arrangement of the pipes is largely random, so each sheet is unique. The tubes that are used to make the branches are also individually bent and twisted with heat without any particular design in mind. When they are joined together they twist around each other and bifurcate, ultimately defining the shape of the branches depending on the direction of the bends and how closely matched they are. Installing the work involves seeing how the shapes of the branches interact with the space and deciding on the best arrangement at that moment. Arranging the canopy is almost like drystone walling - you could spend days trying to decide on the best piece for each section, but normally you just have to grab what first comes to hand and attach it in the most appropriate place.
This set of works seem to present the natural and industrial, forged in a way that exudes a surprising tranquility. What sense do you think the trees emit?
I like your interpretation. I also find the trees tranquil and contemplative. I am primarily interested in the potential of the material. I love the way it interacts with light, allowing it to filter and seep through, exposing the natural translucence of the pipe. I am fascinated by the way such a banal and often problematic material may be considered beautiful and tranquil just by virtue of the way it is arranged and presented.
How does the environment - in this case the jewellery space at DSM - affect the work's meaning, if it does at all?
This is interesting. To be honest I hadn't given this relationship much thought until now. I had primarily been focused on the form of the tree in relation to the architecture of the space and how light would filter down to the jewellery cases. But now you mention it I do find the juxtaposition of the tree - made from very low-brow materials - and the very intricate nature and preciousness of the jewellery fascinating. I think the pairing works extremely well and it is interesting to observe how works on such different scales can elicit similar feelings of lightness and delicacy.
In the spirit of the occasion, what does the next 10 years hold for you?
Wow, that's a big question. This year has been the busiest I have ever experienced. It almost feels like I had been in hibernation over the past a year as I was working fervently on the development of several brand new bodies of work. Then suddenly everything erupted this summer with a solo show of new work at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, a large semi-public bronze sculpture in central London, an installation in Dubai, this commission for Dover Street Market, and in the midst of it all, the arrival of our baby daughter! So in many ways this feels like the beginning of several new roots which I hope will develop and grow over the next decade to bear stimulating and nourishing fruits.