Journeys in Asia: an exhibition of new work by Toby Latham
“STEP INTO MY WORLD”
Toby Latham’s work is like no other’s.
His figures drift and glide though richly textured landscapes, looking away from the viewer and into the horizon, their destination only hinted at. Landscapes permeate the dreamlike figures, whose scale plays games with the composition’s perspective. A striking sense of space and place dominates each piece, with clear references to Toby’s journeys in Asia, specifically Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, places with whom he fell in love some years ago and to which he travels as often as he can from his home in Leeds. Monks cross busy roads or walk in single file towards a distant Angkor Wat. Translucent fishermen greet the day on the Mekong Delta. Bathers stand under waterfalls or play on beaches. You won’t get to know the glimpsed but private figures, alone / together in their worlds, but you will get to know their surroundings as you walk into the paintings yourself and feast on the layers of startling colours and textures, light and form.
“My work is somewhere between a print and a painting”, Toby says. “Even when I did pure printing it was always monotype. I now start with a screen-print usually of photographs I have taken, and then work into it with acrylic paints. I have no idea where it will go and when it will end once I start. There is no point telling me “enough”, even I don’t know when enough is enough. What matters most to me are brushwork and a rich surface texture. I’m currently playing with Chinese calligraphic brushes but I know it’s a distraction – I need to get this exhibition ready!” He is prolific, working on many pieces at once, and each can take months before it reaches a point he finds satisfying. His paint-splashed studio – a former cold room for the catering kitchen of previous Temple Works inhabitants, Kay’s Catalogue – features at any given time up to 20 works in progress, some of them pinned up on the huge defunct meal lockers.
His work has become much more painterly and personal in recent years, moving away from his London years and huge earlier over-printed scenes of urban anomie, striking in themselves. After his sell-out degree show where each piece was purchased, and an MA at Camberwell, Toby’s work was much in demand by the corporate world and included clients such as British Telecom, Kiln PC and the FSA. His work is also in many private collections, from London and Berlin to Chicago and Montréal.
At 40, Toby supports his work with a long-term day job in targeted retail marketing, but his discipline is such that he works in his Temple Works meat-locker studio every weekend without fail, from below-zero winter with a single hanging light bulb to the torrid skylit summer months. “I actually look forward to the winter in Temple Works”, he says “because it is so extreme – it means I concentrate very hard on my work with no distractions like personal comfort!” His plan is to spend 6 months of each year in Asia, six in Yorkshire and to do this he has focussed on creating saleable work that not only expresses his own current passions but is accessible visually to a wide range of people.
Toby is a generous collaborator, and mentor to many of Temple Works interns and young residents who have asked for his help on their own printing and photographic work. There is also a strong streak of Asia running through this collaboration, with TW resident Daniel Cunningham’s recent travels to and writings on China and the presence of three Taiwanese interns carrying out Master’s Programmes in cultural studies and policy. Toby is a keen and humorous participant in Temple Works life and wildlife: hoisting furniture, pulling pints, stewarding at many an event from Jamie Reid’s month-long Ragged Kingdom exhibition to a three day Punk and Death Metal festival, via Late Night Lounge Living … his energy fuelled by top-strength Vietnamese coffee and rollies, and a great sense of the pleasure in the random context.
You won’t pass either by his studio – or his paintings – lightly, as he encourages you to step inside his world.
Exhibition preview: Friday September 20, 7:00 pm onward.
Exhibition thereafter: Saturday, September 21, 11:30 am – 5:30 pm and Sunday, September 22, 11:30 am – 5:30 pm.
NOTE: no children under 15 can be admitted owing to current building works.