Mark Making, 2019, Action, reaction and the space in-between

Ibrahim Azab (Revolv Collective) spoke to the artist Tom Beck about his ideas, creative practice and thoughts on photography. The following conversation spins around the material within the digital world, the freedom of unseeing and the properties of experimentation.

Thomas Beck (b.1996) is a photographic artist currently based in Dorset and a graduate of Arts University Bournemouth 2019. His work often discusses how the perception of an image shapes our reality. He has exhibited in The Truman Brewery and Seventeen Gallery in London and was a finalist for the South West Graduate Photography Prize 2019.

Blue Lasso, 2019

IA - I would like to start off with your relationship to nostalgia and memory within your process of image making. As seen in your work, you use rural environments to set the scene for these uncanny still lives. Could you expand more on why these spaces are important to you ?

TB - The rural surroundings that are shown are the fields below my family home. After initial experimentation in the studio, I realised I was drawn to materials that existed within the location itself. Thereafter I wondered how this could be applied to familiar sites. Our fields offered a location where there has been little change since my childhood; many of the objects have been laying disused for years. Through my interactions, there was new potential in these objects and interruption to my familiar surroundings. On reflection, these images add to the ongoing relationship I have with this special place.

IA - That’s interesting, how you are returning back to a point of memory in space and constructing within it.  These still lives appear to be supernatural in a sense, in some of which the objects defy rules of physics but still look as if found. They also gave a surreal digital quality to them, which isn’t obvious at first, allowing the viewer to ‘believe’? How would you say the post production of images is part of your practice, photography and your way of thinking?

TB - Post production offered a new area to add to an existing image. Initially it was a way to improve upon an image I wasn’t particularly happy with, but then it became far more than a means to recycle. I began to compose images with the full intention of revisiting them in the digital space, just as I had revisited my home physically. Much of the post production is intuitive and I work on several versions at a time, rather like in painting. However in some I draw before shooting if the idea is clear to me. I started to make a trope digitally, which I played on with some straight images to create a subtle dialogue. After listening to the way Jeff Wall spoke of his images, I began to question the way we experience images. Why can’t they be a place to imagine rather than disentangle? Why shouldn’t there be crossovers between digital and physical in the same way it occurs in film.

Offcuts, 2019

IA - As you said post production offered a new space within existing images, particularly within the last 10 years we have seen a surge of digital production within photography and even so in painting and sculpture. Do you feel the object and material are still important within your practice and how relevant do you feel painting and sculpture are to your current practice ?

TB - The physicality of the object and material is of great importance. It is through playing with materials that I learn their qualities. This intuition then educates decisions in post-production, achieving a believability which I would struggle to attain if I didn't have this trial and error period. I think that process started from reading about post-minimalist sculptures and the idea of 'anti-form' by Robert Morris, where there was a focus on the materials’ unique qualities and the effects of external force. Jackson Pollock's paintings were a catalyst for Morris' ideas, so there is a link between mark-making and material which I began to mimic and subtly extend beyond its reality on the computer.

IA -  That’s interesting, you mention mark making and material/ immaterial whilst using digital software processes in photography. This brings up an interesting question about existence or the super natural within reality. As much as seeing goes, how important do you feel unseeing or rather de-materialising your subject is to understanding your environment?

Growth, 2019

TB - In a way to de-materialise could be seen to counter the idea of understanding whilst I'm in the location. However, I think it creates distance and space between myself, the object and the landscape which changes my awareness of the environment. Consciously framing images in order to take-apart, completely changed my relationship to place and process. Instead of: "will this make an image that conveys my concept?" It becomes "I wonder where this leads to?". There is a lot of freedom in unseeing and an openness to a change of understanding throughout the duration of making.

IA - You explore the idea of process itself within photography, like an epistemology almost for your own understanding, like forming your own language in a way. How do you feel photography can help the viewer ‘understand‘ the abstract within their own experiences/ relationships to objects, material, images, places, people, politics, etc.?

TB - I think we are so used to photography as a language that perhaps viewers can relate it to their own experience more so than in other mediums. However, it is all about context. In an art gallery, the viewer has a different approach to looking that pushes them to think differently and be aware of their views and relationships to those topics divulged in the image, which may otherwise be overlooked in a different environment.

Bed Sheet Oil Rag, 2019

  All images used in the article are by Tom Beck, part of the series Construction in progress, 2019; or Mark Making, 2019, Action, reaction and the space in-between.

     ︎    © Revolv Collective 2024 
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