Both Gavin Wade and Kirsteen Macdonald nominated you for the prize. Have you worked with them before? How do they know your work?
J: Kirsteen lives and works in Glasgow and she knows our work from there. We’ve never yet worked with her on a specific project, but we’ve all very much been part of the same community of artists, curators, writers etc. in Glasgow.
We first worked with Gavin on the 2005 Art Sheffield exhibition and then again with him in 2009, when we did a solo exhibition at Eastside Projects in Birmingham. Eastside Projects was set up by Gavin working with a group of artists and designers in Birmingham to think about curatorial activity as art practice and to think about what a new public space for art in Birmingham could or should be. Our exhibition was fairly soon after Eastside opened and we feel part of an ongoing conversation with Gavin and the organisation. It’s been a very creative relationship, even if we are not always all in agreement.
You have recently moved to Newcastle after spending 20 years in Glasgow. Do you think that that the place where you live influences your work? How?
J: I moved to Glasgow in ‘93 and Tom moved there the year before – both of us went there for the MFA programme at Glasgow School of Art. That was the start of being part of a conversation in the city that has continued to develop and change over those 20 years. The success of a number of artists living in Glasgow or born in Glasgow (and sometimes occasionally both) has, I think, sometimes created simplified narratives about contemporary art in the city. The reality is less tidy and it’s not just about those who win the Turner Prize. It’s about being involved in a something that is small enough to sustain a conversation, but is big enough to allow for movement and change. For me, it’s been a very important factor in why I make the art I do. I wouldn’t use the word influence as the relationship can be more antagonistic than that.
I realise that I’m just talking about making art in relationship to other artists and I suppose you may also be asking if there is something about the city itself that influences the work we make. I think Glasgow is a city that has a very strong sense of itself, it’s a very visual city, with its architecture, its idiosyncratic dereliction and its grid of city streets making for something particular and compelling. This sense of the city is also something that circulates through the art (in the wider sense of the word) that comes out of the city.
What’s the best thing about being nominated for the Northern Art Prize?
J: We haven’t done many exhibitions in the North of England (Art Sheffield with Gavin Wade being one of the few examples), so feels a good way to present our work to a different audience.
What are your initial thoughts about what you might show in the Northern Art Prize exhibition?
J: Although the work we produce often uses things that look like sculptures, we would describe what we do as being about creating situations or events. These works are usually produced in relation to other specific situations or sets of circumstances. Leeds Art Gallery is exactly the kind of situation we like to work with, but the format of the NAP means we have to work more quickly than we would do usually. It’s very important to us that we find a way of making a work that we feel has some relationship or sense of purpose at Leeds, but we’re not quite sure how to do that yet.
What else are you working on at the moment?
J: We’re working on a solo exhibition for Chapter in Cardiff that opens in December The exhibition will be called ‘A tool for the making of signs’ and we’ve set ourselves a series of problems to try and think through. One of these is Welshness and another is thinking about emerging orthodoxies of curatorial practice within contemporary art.
We often find ourselves working on quite different projects at one time and we’ve also just finished designing a rug in collaboration with Dovecot tapestry in Edinburgh.