TOM GALLANT - CAN PORN BE ART?

Tom Gallant - Can Porn be Art?
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TOM GALLANT - CAN PORN BE ART?



Written by James Read
13 Monday 13th December 2010
Or, more accurately, can porn be used to create art? Tom Gallant thinks so, and using a very sharp knife and an attentive eye that should be long blind, he shapes beautiful cutaway figures out of hardcore smut. The detailed handcut technique is reminiscent of late Victorian illustration, and his subjects often mirror this style with a series on woodland birds, and another on flowers. But William Morris never used high gloss interracial gangbangs as his medium. I had a word with Tom to find out what's up.
 
 
Would it be fair to say that a common strand in your work is surprise porn? 

Fair but not strictly true.  I use pornography as a representation of our visual culture, the underlying ideas are used to connect the motifs and concepts, whether it is the idolotry of youth, flesh, sex or the exploitation of the female and feminine.  Pornography is the medium but not the message.
 
Gold Finch

Some of your work, like the Collector VI series, are a bit like Rorschach patterns, and the only immediately apparent tits are woodland birds, but once you notice the smut it's impossible to unsee. Did you look at a lot of Magic Eye puzzles when you were younger?
 
I could never see the three cubes floating in a fish tank so gave up squinting and turned to porn instead. I remember listening to a Reith Lecture given by a neuro-scientist describing why we are more stimulated by a drawing than a photograph and the relation to early hunters looking for prey as well as watching out for predators in long grasses or through the jungle. It ties in to the language of eroticism and the fact that we are more stimulated by what we search for and when our brain fills in the blanks then the explicit.  This is what I am playing with in context of the audience, both hiding and revealing through deceit.
 
The Archangel Michael, detail

Why do you choose to use hardcore heterosexual porn throughout your work? Is it a conscious choice?
 
It is a very conscious choice.  Basically there are very few gay 'actors' coerced into making porn, there are very few gay men trafficked for sex, there are very few gay men exploited by an industry in a way that reduces them to pieces of meat.  Straight pornography has a history that is far richer and describes man's exploitation of women in a very clear and chronological manner from the dawn of our visual culture.
 
Furthermore, I feel that straight pornography holds far more conceptual layers and in many ways is not about sex but fetishes, whereas gay pornography is an extension of a sexuality that is generally more promiscuous and sex more readily available.  Whilst society is changing and of course the internet has opened up a much larger public to shared fetishes, straight, bi, S&M, swinging etc.. it is still much harder for a straight man for example to get what they want legally and for a woman to act out fantasies in a safe environment.  All of this I feel adds to the ideas contained in straight porn and is then compounded by being cut with surgical blades by a straight white middle class male.  I am not making a statement pro- or anti-porn or pornography, rather using the concepts that it contains.
Honeysuckle

You must have a prodigous collection of pornography to be able to make so many works from it. Is it all mail order, or do you have a special agreement with the newsagent? 
 
Soho Book Shop discount bulk cash buys and for the British Birds I used an intern to get them from newsagents, we are now good friends and she still remembers traipsing around Shoreditch asking for reader's wives but on good paper stock.  I have never walked into a newsagent to buy one and have too much left over suburban repression going on to do so.
His Greed and Stupidity

In your series Collector VII, Folk Tales, you veered away from filth to more traditional and far more austere woodcut pieces. What happened? Catholic guilt? Actually, what's going on in His Greed & Stupidity? Is that a vivisection or a gynaecological examination?
 
It is a collage of an illustration of Gustave Doré for La Fontaine's Fables together with an illustration of a section through a pregnant woman from an 18th century dissection manual.  It was a forlorn man plucking the golden goose now dead and worthless.
 
Actually the work with the Folk Tale was a return to what I studied throughout my degrees.  I focused on the language of the Folk Tale and the transition to literary versions and the feminist theory that has been applied to the tales and the contemporary writings on child psychology and social history connected to this genre.  There is strong sexual nature to the interpretation of the tales and their retellings which continues to this day.  This research led me into the language of pornography from the feminist writers like Angela Carter (Company of Wolves, The Magic Toyshop), Marina Warner (From the Beast to the Blonde), to essayists looking at the industry today, Laura Williams (Hardcore) and Bernard Arcand (The Jaguar and the Anteater) and of course Andrea Dworkin and the Anti-Porn movement of the 60s.
 
FLEUR
 
I am looking forward to returning to this work in greater depth, the next major body of work will begin the path of merging a number of components from my past and recent work.
 
 
 
For more wonderful, beautiful filth, visit www.tom-gallant.com

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