gordon young at the comedy carpet, blackpool, UK
gordon young is a british artist who focuses on creating art for the public domain. his work ranges from sculptures to typographic pavements for places as disrelated as government headquarters and village squares. the common denominator for all projects is the basis of relevance to the surroundings.
DB: how did you come to work on projects for the public domain?
GY: growing up in cumbria I was always interested in things I’d come across in the environment the wonderful neolithic sites of castlerigg and long meg and her daughters stone circles, there’s the roman wall and in carlisle castle ‘the saddest stone in england’. it fascinated me how people had shaped places and made them special for all different kinds of purposes. I had an art education at a very specific time, what was going on both inside and outside the colleges socially shaped what I did. in a certain context sculpture seemed a suitable vehicle to do things and engage with a wider audience.
comedy carpet, blackpool – project details
DB: which has been your most significant and satisfying project to date?
GY: the most ‘significant’ is hard to say, it always seems like the last or the current work. I thought the eric morecambe area was interesting place making and a lot of people seemed to think it was a decent job. the wall of wishes I thought a fascinating insight into a community and carried out with modest means. the cursing stone and reiver pavement projects were important because of working on home soil, which made them particularly satisfying but so was the realised insanity of the comedy carpet.
climbing towers, blackpool, UK – project details
DB: is there a particular material you enjoy working with more than others?
GY: I think wood is a interesting material which is important in the built environment and our lives. the crawley library pillars brought up some issues with text and wood that hasn’t been fully explored. stainless steel and glass are the most difficult materials to use well, they are both so ‘hard’ and instantly perfect and yet the issues of ageing face them too, not sure if stainless especially does that well.
DB: what do you think is the key to a good collaboration?
GY: empathy, you just cannot collaborate with just anyone, large numbers yes but there has to be some sort of empathy and respect. add in humour and your in with a chance. the other thing is you cannot predict from the guise of people, age, shape, size, skills, talent, etc. who you can or cannot work with. it’s best to assume everyone’s potentially a good collaborator (in a broad context but generally there’s some sort of parameters) and then a process starts.
DB: how did your collaboration with why not associates start?
GY: we meet in hull many years ago, they were doing the graphic’s for the art’s festival, I was doing a fish pavement. it seemed there was a shared culture, the north, football, fun, even aspects of education. they were very generous in many ways and it seemed as if they didn’t care much where the edges, if there were any, of their profession lay. we shared an interest in certain artists and designers so there was some shared points of reference. I knew and cared about stuff, scale issues of permanence. they knew about typography, technology and design but most importantly were open and intelligent even if with andy altmann he pretends he cannot be arsed to think, occasionally he can and does! they’ve also employed over the years a diverse trail of talented young characters often dafter and as invaluable as themselves. mark molloy, gustavo fernades, malin wallen, geoff wiiliamson spring to mind but there’s more. what we do on every occasion just seems ‘natural’, I make a lot of noise and a relay race begins.
typographic trees, crawley library, UK – project details
DB: what are the most common limitations of producing art for public spaces?
GY: public art is not only about ideas and concepts, it is also about delivering on time, in budget and of the highest quality. the limitations are the budget and time and the faith and trust of the client.
DB: besides your professional work – what do you have a passion for and why?
GY: I have a long, mad, sad passion for leeds united, I love them. also my family.
cursing stone and reiver pavement – project details
DB: what lessons have you learned from a project that has changed your outlook on life?
GY: any preconceptions about how human talent is wrapped, given human form is stretched by the next place the next people. I started by being more interested in place than people, now I am more interested in people than place, that’s probably the big lesson. but I also savour solitude more too!
road to the isles – project details
walk of art – yorkshire sculpture park – project details
DB: what is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
GY: early on a well know sculptor said to me the best advice for a young artist was ‘don’t borrow money’.
DB: what is the worst piece of advice you have ever been given?
GY: either ‘you should get a pension-how about the equitable life’ or ‘you should consider voting lib-dem’ it’s been said that I don’t listen, but there’s evidence to suggest I do!