Toby Ziegler, sculptor: 'There is a dialogue between the sculpture and the painting'


Karen Wright
Thursday 10 July 2014 16:00

Artist Toby Ziegler's studio overlooks the large Victorian cemetery in Willesden, north London. I tease him about his quiet neighbours and he admits it can be bizarre seeing a burial nearby. The light today is flooding in through the many-paned windows and there is a flurry of activity as the finishing touches are put on work soon to leave the studio.

Born in London in 1972, Ziegler has been in this studio for six years and has eight part-time assistants, all practising artists, some of whom have been with him for 10 years. He recently bought the building and has moved in above the shop so that "I do not have to leave the area much."

His forthcoming exhibition at the Roche Court Sculpture Park is the first time that he has shown sculpture in a bucolic setting, and he admits: "It was the first time that I felt confident about putting a lump on a lawn." He is only showing sculpture in this exhibition, although he usually shows his paintings alongside the sculptures – he works on them simultaneously and "always feels there is a dialogue between the sculpture and the painting".

Around the studio hang paintings in progress. Ziegler mines his images from the internet; in this case, the series relates to Gainsborough landscapes. Ziegler eschews canvas and here has used polished aluminium sheets, painted on the image and used an angle grinder to sand off much of it, leaving as much information as he feels is necessary to "evacuate" the image. Ziegler says that "painting is slow to look at, and in some ways Gainsborough is a springboard. It is not about landscape or Gainsborough, but more about painting."

Ziegler is using the forms of Gainsborough to embody ideas but it is not about narrative but "often ends up being autobiographical". We sit in front of the computer together and he shows me the process, and its transformation. "This is the Gainsborough painting that I've doctored but it's still a digital file. Every time you change it – it becomes something else."

The sculptures he is making currently, as with much of Ziegler's work, are built up of faceted forms composed of multiple cells. He is using a new material, thin aluminium sheets, which he has been experimenting with. "The quest was to find a material that was malleable yet rigid." Currently, he is making sculptures in pairs. Carefully crafted, semi-abstracted and then in some cases filled with resin to make them more robust while others are crushed. He says, "It takes weeks to make and seconds to crush."

I am in a painter's and a sculptor's studio but we are not studying the scintillating works themselves or looking at historical images in a books but peering together at a computer screen examining virtual spaces and images mined from Google. It is a completely new language in a sense. Ziegler puts it in perspective "It's another tool. It's completely revolutionized the way we relate to images and relate to actual space as well."

Toby Ziegler, New Art Centre, Salisbury (01980 862244) today to 7 September; Hepworth Wakefield (01924 247360) 1 October to 20 January

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