We spotted Liam’s work on Instagram a few months ago, and was instantly fascinated by his art. These huge, heavy-looking, pop-art like sculptures are filled with subtle meanings and demand your attention. Since leaving Manchester Metropolitan University in 2017, his career has thrived, and his first solo show will be held at The Turnpike, Leigh in the new year. In this interview, find out more about Liam and his show, and what happened at his 9th birthday party which involved Ozzy Osbourne, Freddy Mercury, and what I can only imagine were some pretty awesome dance moves!
Cotton On MCR: How would you describe your work?
Liam Fallon: ‘I’ve been reading a lot of Baudrillard recently, so I was going to say the word ‘simulation’ but I feel that’s too brief. I recently read someone’s interview that said people who make work about their life are ‘self-indulgent and narcissistic’ and I have to completely disagree. I did an interview with iD magazine recently and they asked me if private space, and lived experience, impacts the artist’s work. For me, it informs every single part of it. I try to make the work as honest as possible and as a result, it has a responsibility to not explicitly tell my story, but to create a story that people can relate to and for me, by creating these works and actually going through the process of reliving lived experience, it has helped me to find solace with some really awful stuff when it wasn’t possible to physically process it.’
‘My work focuses on a narrative which is based on lived experience which arguably makes up the skeleton of my work. The flesh is then added to it through critical theory as well as historical archives which document spaces and places of who’s existence was completely temporal and I think I see a parallel relationship between the temporality of the inanimate and also the temporality of the human condition.’
CO: Tell us more about your upcoming exhibition at The Turnpike.
LF: ‘The exhibition is my first solo show and it’s the result of an ongoing conversation I’ve had with Matthew Retallick [the curator] for almost 3 years. I feel that it’s as much Matt’s show as it is mine! Its been really great to work with him.’
‘The Turnpike was opened in the 1970’s as a gallery built for sculpture so it seemed completely apt to have my first solo show there. The first exhibition to be held there was by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth and other artists to have shown there include Picasso, so historically, it has had some really monumental shows.’
‘My solo show at The Turnpike is called ‘Supersymmetry.’ The shows title borrows from a theory in particle physics which states that for every particle/atom has a partner particle/atom. This idea fascinated me and I was interested in how this related to humans and the phenomenology of life – the idea that we are never truly alone and the stages and paths that we go down to find that ‘partner’ but obviously from a more personally informed perspective. The show has an unfolding exploratory narrative entwined within it with each piece of work marking as a beacon for these stages. These stages will explore ideas of voyeurism, encounters, falling in and out of love and then a stage similar to this idea of rejuvenation. It will be a real exploration into this framework that exists for everyone, but more specifically within queer culture and how it unfolds between the binary of private and public.’
CO: We are huge fans of your ‘Use your muscle, carve it out, work it, hustle’. Can you tell us more about that piece?
LF: ‘Yes! That piece was conceived in New York and when I returned, I began testing different elements. The piece itself was also inspired by Jean Genets ‘Un chant d’amour’ which is a love story based on 2 prisoners who fall in love through a small hole in the wall in which they blow smoke through to each other. I’d read Henri Lefebvres writing on monumentality and all of the critical theory he discussed ended up highlighting that love story into so much more than just a love story and that it represented this monumental space to which this story was unfolding. As time went on I started to realise how theatrical and performative the work was becoming and then it seemed important to continue this but to really turn the intensity up. I began borrowing physical attributes associated to these erotically charged social spaces and figuring out how they could be appropriated into the sculptures themselves. Things started to thrust through walls and things peeling back into bananas. It was important for it to be incredibly sexual but I didn’t want it to be explicit – more tongue-in-cheek or a bit of subtle nudge to what I was meaning but completely juvenile in its approach, and this is something which will be continued into the new work.’
CO: Do you have a favourite piece of work/one you are most proud of?
LF: ‘Obviously the degree show piece will always be a major part of my artistic identity because it represents such a monumental stage within my practice and it went onto do things for me that I never anticipated happening. However, the bar stool piece which was the first piece I made in 1st year is, for me, the most special. It was the first piece of work that I made that truly dealt with something personal and enabled me to relate emotionally to the sites of interest that I focused on within the realm of queer culture and as such, it definitely left traces to which are being explored as part of the solo show. It also represented a big step being taken in terms of new materials which now kind of make up a recipe for most works.’
CO: What do you think of Manchester’s art scene?
LF: ‘If I’m being completely honest, I think it’s quite difficult to get a ‘seat at the table’ so to speak. Like every city does, there tends to be certain governing body and with that comes a lot of responsibility and power.’
‘However, since moving to Manchester 4 years ago, there has been a huge amount of change with new spaces opening as well as some sadly closing. The city is in a weird state of change that everyone is aware of, really valuable art spaces are being closed and redeveloped into residential areas. However, with the sites that are still alive and kicking, I think there are some really valuable projects taking place in Manchester and definitely some examples to be followed.’
CO: What was the best exhibition you have been to and why?
LF: ‘It is without a doubt Matthew Barney’s first solo show ‘Facility of Decline’. I remember walking through the door and just gasping. I couldn’t get my head around how quickly something just clicked for me and my thinking just shifted, and like magic I just started writing down ideas and drawing and that’s where I drew the preliminary sketches for what would be the ‘use your muscle, carve it out, work it, hustle’ piece from my degree show. I think it’s so easy to go to a show and believe in the making of the work and in the level of craft, but to go and believe the concept as well as the making is a completely different ball game and I just believed every single part of it. He believed wholeheartedly about the positioning, materiality, colour and the relationship that they created. I also sensed that he didn’t have a single drop of doubt as to how to navigate 2D and 3D works – everything was just exactly as it was, and I think that taught me a lot and I still think back to that. I feel to have that level of artistic integrity and to completely OWN it and to be able to push 2D work alongside 3D works instead of making something sculptural for the titles sake of ‘sculptor’ is a really valuable skill to have and is something that I think takes a lot of balls.’
CO: What other artists/creatives do you admire/follow?
LF: ‘There are so many people who I admire but I naturally take a shining to people whose work really emphasises making qualities and materiality such as Richard Artschwagger, Dan Colen, Matthew Barney, Thomas Rentmeister, Shahryar Nashat, Cady Noland, Richard Woods, Alex Da Corte, Mika Rottenberg, Robert Gober, Magali Reus and then I’m also obsessed with the theatre director Robert Wilson. This ability of taking something mundane because of its continuous utilisation in contemporary society and then shining a big bright light on it and bringing it to the forefront, deciphering its unexpected and unexplainable connections just blows my mind.’
‘There are also people who I have met along the way who’ve helped me considerably over the past 2 years that I keep up to date with such as Oli Epp, Richie Culver, Claus Risvig, Natasha Arselan, UKYA etc. I also keep in touch with artist Kevin Hunt who gave me tutorials in my 3rd year at Manchester School of Art. He gave me the BIGGEST kick up the backside in 3rd year and really made me believe in myself, I opened up a lot to him and tutorials that were scheduled for 15 minutes would turn into a 2 hour tutorial. He’s great!’
CO: ‘You have 5 people (dead or alive) to invite to a dinner party – who would they be and why?’
LF: ‘To be honest I just want to have a good time, the deep meaningful chat is going to come at some point through the party (preferably at the end) so probably Louis Theroux because I just think he could literally calm down any situation.’
‘The others are going to be a good mix. I’m obsessed with tv personalities and how their lives are lived on Instagram. So for the selfies, Kim Kardashian and to just talk absolute rubbish to and maybe see if she can bring one of those carefully curated glass biscuit jars that they all have in their kitchens – they look amazing.’
‘Freddie Mercury would be the next invited guest as he’s just the definition of my childhood. I was literally so obsessed with Queen when I was younger and at my 9th birthday party we had a family friend DJ for the night and he asked what music I wanted to be played, and I had Queen’s greatest hits played from start to finish. Can you imagine what everyone’s faces looked like after a 9-year-old boy dressed as Ozzy Osbourne had stopped gyrating on the floor for a 2 hour Queen set? Iconic. I think he would have loved it.’
‘The next person I want to invite is Robert Mapplethorpe. The photo of him with the bullwhip in his ass is so audacious and for that reason alone I think he would really spice up the party…but maybe keep the whip at home.’
‘Finally, from the videos of her own dinner parties, I think Nigella would be pretty good to have there. I think she’d bring a decent bottle of red and probably help with the cleaning up too which I’m all about.’
CO: You have only finished your degree in recent years. What challenges have you faced since leaving uni?
LF: ‘Well I can definitely say that I have learnt more on the year out than I did over the entire 3 years. I found it hard at first to balance work and studio work and my social life but I think I’ve found a good mix now. Other challenges have been just general conversations with my work – being able to maintain professional relationships and also dealing with rejection. I started making work for a show which then got cancelled without me knowing it and it’s been valuable to experience that, as it really shook some reality into me. It wasn’t anything personal, it’s just business so this rejection is definitely bitter-sweet but a valuable lesson to have learnt.’
CO: What advice would you give for current uni students?
LF: ‘The best advice I got was to not compare yourself and your own creative output to that of others. People find themselves in all different situations which influences their means of production, whether the rate of or lack of and that is completely fine. Things dip and dive and if you experience a wave you’ve just got to go with it for as long as you can.’
CO: If you could live in any painting/artwork, which would it be?
LF: ‘Elmgreen and Dragset for me make amazing shows so maybe I’d live in one of their exhibitions. If not though, I saw the Agnes Martin show at the Guggenheim and all of the work is really serene so maybe I would live in one of her paintings? To be honest I think I’d rather live in Looney tunes or Bedrock from the Flintstones.’
You can find out more about Liam’s work on his website and keep your eyes peeled for dates of the solo exhibition at The Turnpike.