Interview by Katy Morrison
Published January 2018
I do not want to stop being seduced; I want to fall in love over and over again.
This is the feeling that hits me with each encounter of Liam Fallon’s work.
I met Liam Fallon in early 2016, a brief encounter during a show at Manchester School of Art with the quick message of “we will be in touch”. A message that soon followed with the opportunity to join COLLAR in New York for a show that would change the course of our collective practice. Since this point, I have avidly followed and supported Fallon’s work, watching a mastery of materials and ideas grow. Recently, COLLAR proudly welcomed him into our newly formed artist studios, and this fed my desire to dig a little bit deeper, further breaking down our professional boundaries to explore the existing, and evolving, ideas in his current and future work.
Our initial conversation / interview was conducted on 26th September 2017 at 19h30 in a noisy, cramped room in The Castle Hotel where we couldn’t hear ourselves think & had to move for a homeless man to play the piano, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. What follows is a conversation manifesting out of a long term back and forth of ideas.
It appears that you have entered into an incredibly exciting new phase in your artistic development through an array of exhibitions, including the Woon Foundation Prize in which you came second place. How have you found all of this coming so soon after graduating, and has it impacted on your current practice?
Yes! The Woon Prize was always at the back of my mind even from the moment I began my BA. Following previous winners and shortlisted artists over the years really indicated just how beneficial the prize was so to have even been shortlisted, then to actually be awarded 2nd place was, and still is an absolute dream come true.
When you graduate there is an unconscious urge to stop and gather your thoughts. As any graduate knows, once you leave an institution such as an art school, you really begin to realize just how machine-like your rate of production is however, for me I have found it beneficial to begin immediately engaging with the art world beyond the institution. Certain shows so far have been an opportunity to really test different elements out, whether that be scale, colour or form and I feel there’s much more freedom in it now. There are certain bits which I’ll be adapting and taking forward to some projects over the next couple of months so at the current position that I find myself in, I feel incredibly grateful to have actually been noticed but I’m also really enjoying the way in which certain opportunities are beginning to cause a morphosis and change in my practice.
Use your muscle, carve it out, work it out, hustle, 2017
Photo Credit: Colin Davidson
Reflection is incredibly important, something that we as COLLAR are embracing in a sort of active evaluation if you will. So utilizing new contexts as research or space for thought(s) whether that be in the form of different exhibitions or even operating from a new studio space – so it is interesting to hear you take on this in a productive way. Experience as a catalyst is something we touched upon in our initial meeting – so let us delve a little bit more into the sentimentality of the work for a second and think about the injection of personal experience in your works. If I had to try to sum it up – I would say they are explicitly private (?)
Sentimentality has been a really important factor that I continually reflect on. I discovered some of Henri Lefebvre’s writing about a year ago on monumentality and in it he regarded that certain sentimental values such as love, loss and sensuality are all elements which can be used to define monumental space and its these sentimental values which I also regard as being apparent in queer social space and as such, they are all areas which I really focus on my work.
Certain events in my life have removed the opportunity for me to engage in such spaces and as such I can’t explicitly make work from a primary point of view. As a result, the work that I make is autobiographical in the sense that the work documents my exploration of other people’s lives, places and events and also my dreams and desires. I can create some sort of fictional space in which by going through the process of researching and making, it’s almost as if I’m actually engaging with these spaces without physically having to do so but it also permits me to warp the reality by playing with characteristics of naivety which is implicated in the cartoon visuals. From a research perspective, there are so many talented artists and writers such as Prem Sahib, Alvin Baltrop and Jean Genet which I continually revisit. I am fascinated with exposing the ways in which the private trespasses the public.
So in a way, by distancing yourself from a certain experience or context, it becomes a coping mechanism of sorts. I remember we spoke about the way in which you title your works, and how this hints towards the relationship between personal knowledge and the alter ego – it’s interesting to see how you have crafted a visual discourse around these complex and extremely personal ideas. Holding something back; eradicating the naivety of wanting to know too much. Obviously experience is a huge driving force in your work, personal and professional alike – so to side step towards how your professional practice has developed I am interested to hear how engaging in international activity has helped your research and in turn practice. This is a personal research interest to me as I don’t feel that it is as accessible as it should or could be to graduates, and grass roots projects.
At the current position that I find myself in, the international shows that I have taken part in have helped to really scope and define my practice in relation to the work but also the spectrum of where it sits. Before I showed at the Sluice art fair in New York, my work was heading in a very different way and I honestly don’t think that I would be in the position that I am now without it. I remember I was already over-faced with different parts of Chelsea in New York because of its relevance and link to queer history with people such as Mapplethorpe and places such as the Chelsea piers and Christopher street. However, when I walked into the Gladstone Gallery and saw Matthew Barneys ‘Facility of decline’ show - it was as if a switch went off in my head and my thinking jolted. I went back to see it about 5 or 6 times in the same day and it is still a show that I continuously draw back on because it was such an important show to see and consequently changed the direction that I was working in.
I agree in some ways that a particular type of artistic activity isn’t as accessible or available as it could be but for the opportunities that are, I have found them to hold an immense amount of importance. I think I will always find the term ‘international’ a little uncomfortable to discuss because of how charged the term generally is - it is often associated to someone 15 years down the line with an MA/MFA but in reality, there are artist led spaces and other organizations that are providing emerging artists with similar opportunities. These more accessible opportunities disrupt your self-awareness of where, contextually and aesthetically, your work sits within either your city or country. It places it somewhere which is completely alien to you and from the most recent show in Korea I found that it can be rewarding to identify where your work sits away from your comfort zone regardless of whether it’s successful or not.
I'll keep dancing on my own, 2016
I completely agree, to place yourself in a new cultural experience – however uncomfortable – really awakens a new sense of self-awareness. We found it to be the turning point in our way of thinking about the production and dissemination of ideas – the conversations differed between New York, Brussels and Manchester, but for us the importance lies in bringing these experiences back with us as tools for further investigation. There’s always that turning point with research that goes on to affect the substantive and aesthetic choices in your approach to making, - experiencing that, and discovering the varying avenues of understanding becomes fundamental to your development. Let me pull us back to my opening sentiment,
“I do not want to stop being seduced.
I want to fall in love over and over again.”
What are your thoughts on seduction, love and desire? These are big questions for us at present, as we enter into a season of conversation. Reinterpreting traditionally poetic subjects in a new language, and in a new light. With a keen interested in the individual mythology, your work very much seeks to expose (even if just a little) a very personal understanding of something bigger?
I find myself continually listening and watching interviews online of musicians either at award ceremonies or in a recording studio talking about a video or a new song or a new album- one that
I recently watched was one with Adele and she just happens to define that the work that she makes has a narrative of life, whether that be love, loss, sex etc. and this just so happens to be what is really fundamental to me and I mean that in the least egotistical way possible.
I’m very much so interested in the more traditional notions and experimentations with space, light, weight and material but also sentimental values and how, when combined, they interact and bounce off of each other; making their own narratives despite my input. My work obviously explores a certain narrative and naturally certain emotions are going to come with it and it is these which I really try to exercise within the pieces. On varying levels I’m seeking a discussion into the phenomenology of life and I feel that to ignore these accompanying sentiments would maybe be a little ignorant. The works and the way that I have started to work mean that I can, as discussed earlier, experience and live this alter ego and experience varying avenues of sentimentality and of my own life through dreams and desires without physically having to do so.
It’s been great to see how your ideas and practice have progressed since graduating. We welcomed you into our newly formed studios earlier in the year – along with seven other artists, most of whom you studied with at Manchester School of Art. We understand the importance in nurturing this kind of peer support network, but it’s exciting to hear that it is going beyond that of a studio group… Which would be a perfect point to introduce Rhino Collective. Now, I’m incredibly excited to hear more about this…
Since graduating it has been really beneficial to begin exploring different avenues alongside my practice in a bid to completely immerse myself in this new experience. There was quite a lot of talk amongst a few of us about wanting to create some sort of collective once we had graduated, and after a couple of us ended up sharing a studio at COLLAR that it seemed a sensible idea to take it from there. Rhino Collective is made up of myself, Tulani Hlalo, Meghan Smith and Emily Chapman and we were all in the same year group and studio space at Manchester School of Art. We are officially launching the collective in February at Castlefield Gallery with a really great list of artists that we have admired for a really long time. We really wanted our first show to be something which was completely free of anything political and instead wanted to focus on the more regressive state of childhood and how in turn it begins to prompt nostalgia and creates this abstract sense of reality which is void of the political and social issues that we find ourselves continuously immersed in today.
Boys keep swinging, 2017
That’s an incredibly interesting position to take, as we seemingly cannot escape the on-going foray of issues – do you think as artists you are interested in taking the curatorial reins in a bid to regain a sense of control, attempting to (re)define the parameters of the ‘space’ that you operate in be that the gallery, the studio or otherwise?
In some ways yes, but also because there are institutions that we feel are completely overshadowing the discourses that emerging artists are bringing to the table. I think all of us in the collective are seemingly more aware of our contemporaries because they are in many ways our competition. It was such an exciting time leading up to the degree shows across the country because slowly but surely new works were beginning to leak out into the social sphere which really excited us more so than the majority of the works being shown in the big institutions. As to whether I have an avid interest in taking the curatorial reigns, I am unsure, I strongly believe that if you have something to say or you see something worth highlighting then always do it and use whichever way suitable to do so. I am currently making new works and also organising the exhibition due to launch at Castlefield Gallery in February, so as soon as the exhibition winds down I shall be diving straight back into making again for a few projects later in 2018.
Liam Fallon lives and works in Manchester. Recent exhibitions include Placement and Displacement, Seojung Arts Centre, Seoul, South Korea, On Plein Air, 12Ø Collective, London, The Worst Seats In The House, ITS KIND OF HARD TO EXPLAIN, SET Capston House, London, Bish, Bash, Bosh, We The North, The Royal Standard, Liverpool and Queering Minimalism- You're reading into it, Vane Gallery, Newcastle Upon Tyne.
If you like this why not read our interview with Emma Charles
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