Back to the future - Toby Paterson interview

Back to the future - Toby Paterson interview

Toby Paterson’s exhibition at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket charts his development as an artist over the past ten years, finds Neil Cooper

It’s amazing what you find when you’re clearing up old debris. While rummaging through materials for his forthcoming retrospective alongside new work at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery, former Beck’s Futures winner Toby Paterson discovered a Super 8 film that opened a window on his own development as an artist.

The film, made for a project with fellow artist Scott Myles, had never been seen, having been presumed lost in the post. Watching this undiscovered gem from his archive with the distance of time was an eye-opening experience for its creator.

‘It was film of a set of abandoned buildings,’ says Paterson, ‘but because it was lost in the post it was never used. It was interesting, because at the time I don’t think I ever really understood what I was looking at. I didn’t get it. So if there’s any kind of thread running through my work in the Fruitmarket show, it’s about me getting better at looking at things. From a super objective point of view it’ll be interesting to see how my ways of looking have developed.’

Paterson’s Fruitmarket exhibition will reflect his long-standing fascination for architectural spaces that has resulted in a smorgasbord of public artworks. The artist will house more than 50 works in an installation located in the Fruitmarket’s downstairs gallery, while the upstairs space will showcase the premier of a major new commission. Even as Paterson looks back on his career to date, then, something brand new emerges.

‘I was initially quite reluctant to show that much existing work,’ he says, ‘but that’s exactly what I’ve ended up doing, and it fits in both with how the Fruitmarket space works, and with where I’m at right now. It’s quite funny going back over the last six years’ work, because while there is an element of taking a backward glance, I’m generally repositioning where I’m at.’

Beyond the Fruitmarket, this year Paterson will be completing a public work in London’s east end for the extension of Docklands Light Railway as part of the 2012 Olympic Games. This will be followed by extended studio time that will allow him space to take stock.

‘I’m hoping there’s enough in terms of areas unexplored,’ he says, ‘and I’ll have more space to explore things that have no destination, or just to be able to take the time to read a book and not feel guilty about it. I’ve been at this hammer and tongs for ten years now, and it feels like a good time to step back from the pace things have been going at for the last ten years.’

Toby Paterson, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Sat 30 Jan–Sun 28 Mar.

Toby Paterson

  • 5 stars

Delineating the planes, forms and brightly-coloured politics of postwar modernist architecture, Paterson's accomplished works reference a montage of idealised and reconfigured structures.

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