In The Studio: Douglas Gordon, artist
'I've always loved fire. But it does get out of control at times...'
Saturday 15 December 2012
At one point during my conversation with Douglas Gordon he queries, half seriously, "I wonder what to do with the stuff I am digging up through my psychoanalysis. What do you do when you dig something up – do you put it back, or do you display it? Because if you display it, there would be a hole where it has been."
Walking into Gordon's spacious Berlin studio, I pass a half-burnt portrait of Andy Warhol lying next to some white candles. Despite having been here for five years, Gordon tells me that this will be his last interview in this studio, as he is moving to a house complete with studio. His windows look into his former space, previously a sound stage. "In the middle of winter I would smoke out of the window and hope to catch a ghost. That is one of the things that I find fascinating about Berlin, that there is a ghost around every corner."
In 1996 Gordon was the first to win the Turner Prize as a video artist, although to label him as such could be misleading, as he works across several other mediums, including text, photography and feature film. He studied at the Glasgow School of Art. His course – environmental studies – was not held in the famous Rennie Mackintosh building, but in a former girls' school. "Just as well," he says, as he once set his space on fire.
He has been obsessed with fire for all of his life: "We had a gas fire, but my cousins had a coal fire and I always loved the coal fire. I would sit and watch the fire when others would watch the telly."
When making his burnt portraits, he also almost set the Gagosian Gallery in New York alight. "It does get out of control at some times."
After college, Gordon began working in Glasgow on his video works, including 24 Hour Psycho, in which he slowed down Hitchcock's film to fill 24 hours. "I was working in bed, and would watch a movie again and again and again. I had pictures of John Wayne and Anthony Perkins around my bed, and I woke up in the middle of the night and saw them all looking at me. So I cut their eyes out. Hundreds of blind stars."
Marrying this with his love of fire, he held the blind stars over a candle. "And that became interesting."
I feel I know Gordon through his work and ask if that is because much of it includes himself. "Most artists would say that everything becomes a huge self-portrait. I don't know if that would be accurate.
"Half your time you are trying to hide things and half your time you are trying to make things explicit." In the end, it is all about "psychological archaeology".
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