In The Studio: Nathan Coley, artist

'I have no problem coming up with ideas, but I have a problem with good ones'

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The Independent Culture

Nathan Coley's space in the Glasgow Sculpture Studios, dominated by a light box reading "Heaven is a Place Where Nothing Ever Happens", is surprisingly modest. I have realised, however, that the size of a studio bears no relation to an artist's success. Coley tells me there are 50 tenants in the studio complex, among whom are household names such as David Shrigley, while a further 110 members often come to use the facilities.

He keeps his computer – and all access to the internet – at home, where he starts his day reading emails. "Most of my day, if I am in Glasgow, is [spent] trying to get here." I ask about the scale of the space. "I have gone from making work on my kitchen table, to having a studio six times the size of this, to now having this."

A Glasgow native, Coley was shortlisted for the 2007 Turner Prize with a work that literally tripped me up as I entered the gallery. He laughs, saying: "I like the idea that commentators are being tripped up by my work."

It has been a few years since his last slogan-based work. "I don't have a problem with coming up with ideas," he says, "but I have a problem with coming up with good ones, and there were a few mis-starts." His salvation, so to speak, was when he was in bed listening to Radio 4 last year on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. He recalls various commentators talking about their experiences a week or so after the attack, among them a woman on a New York subway train who witnessed the mindless cruelty of passengers to a Sikh. She said the only way the great city would recover from the attack was to be "a place beyond belief". He laughs: "I jumped out of bed and ran down the hall saying, 'That's it, that's it.'"

The six-metre-squared billboard will be the centrepiece of his forthcoming show in London and then will travel to a square in Pristina, Kosovo. "They are trying to identify where they are," says Coley. "The work will have many meanings depending on where it is shown."

Will he translate the work into Albanian? "I don't translate texts. The difficulty and the success is that I am never the author. The texts always come from the world so they have to be truthful to the origin. You have to keep that power."

Touched by the idea of a slogan born out of 9/11, I ask if any others are in the pipeline. He points at his "ideas wall", where a slogan reads "The Brain is my Boss", and laughs. "Hannah, my daughter, brought this back from school last week. I thought: 'Yes!'"

'Nathan Coley: A Place Beyond Belief', Haunch of Venison Gallery, London W1 (haunchofvenison.com) to 3 October

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