How do you use your studio space?
Roger Hiorns: ‘The space we’re standing in is the old mini market on a housing estate in central London in a very famous piece of Brutalist architecture. I’d lived here for a number of years when it became apparent that the old shop, which had been empty for a long time, was somewhere I could work.
‘A lot of the work I make here is closer to a domestic situation, and is related to the human or the figurative. It feels appropriate that I’m considering the idea of being in a place that’s inhabited: in the summer, the shutters will come up and my son invites children in to play — there’s a transparency.
‘I have another studio on the other side of town, in Deptford, which is a larger, more industrial space. It’s where I make pieces that need more construction, and more consideration in terms of space. I’m very much interested in identifying dominant objects that might be emitting certain types of power — this studio is more related to that.’
Can you talk about your work with crystallisation and how that started?
‘It was a material that I always used — and continue to use — to draw attention to objects. There is a selection, a nomination of an object, and that object then becomes crystallised. It then becomes part of that language of an object moved into the other realm — this realm of crystallisation.’
What about the work that currently hangs in your studio?
‘They were supposed to be these rather dislocated bodies, hanging in space, but animated with this column of foam; I’m kind of reducing the body into a form hanging in the air emitting substance — which I guess is language.
‘I wanted to repeat this over and over again, and I have an installation of around 250 of them. They’re formed of pieces of plastic that became anthropomorphic when I was looking at them; their fleshy, dirty skin tones were interesting.
‘Someone tried breaking in a few months ago — they managed to kick in the door at night, then saw 150 of these and ran away. In the darkness, they must have thought they were some kind of dismembered body parts; the policemen thought it was hysterical.’
Roger Hiorns (b. 1975), Untitled, 2004. Steel and perfume. 58 ¼ x 10 x 0.5in. (148 x 25.5 x 1.2cm.)
Estimate: £10,000 – £15,000
What influenced your work when you started?
‘My brother was slightly older than me. He went to art school too and, when he was at foundation, stole a couple of books and gave them to me as presents. One was on Wolf Vostell, an obscure Fluxus artist, and another was on Joseph Beuys.
‘I think it was interesting to become aware of Beuys at this young stage. The book was basically black and white photographs — endless pages of them — with no description, no translation of what the images might be. You became aware of a sort of ambiguity, which I think was very important.
‘Even though I don’t really think about Joseph Beuys these days, I think at the time it was really important to have an artist like Joseph to test out a certain language — or a non-language — that you weren’t part of, or that you couldn’t quite work out.’
What are your memories of Goldsmiths?
‘From what I remember, the best way of describing it is as a kind of vacuum. It was this kind of place where you were essentially working things out for yourself. Nobody would tell you what it was that you were trying to achieve, or what it was that you were trying to move towards. I thought that it was great that you didn’t have this place that was really prescriptive.’
Which work have you donated to the Christie’s auction to raise money for a new gallery at Goldsmiths?
‘It’s part of a series of works on the idea of the physicality of artworks; the idea that you can actually bring human traits into objects. I have this piece of steel that leans against a wall, and is cut into a very basic form: it’s got a head, and it follows the proportions of the body, but reduced.
‘The area where the genitals would be is sprayed with perfume — as part of an almost quasi-ritualistic process that the owner, or someone who displays the work, has to become involved in. A specific perfume is attributed to each of the works in the series — I think this one’s a Guerlain. It imbues the metal with a certain sense of the human, giving a slice of the rituals we carry out on a day-to-day basis.
‘One thing I also enjoyed about making that work was altering the gender of a certain type of material: it’s a piece of steel that’s very brutish, that might have a specifically male reading. I also had an interest in Richard Serra works: I thought maybe spraying perfume on metal would be a way of negating the terror, the aggression, that this work was proposing.’