Tristan Pigott on painting inanimate objects with agency

Tristan Pigott on painting inanimate objects with agency

We last caught up with Tristan’s work after he launched his solo exhibition Juicy Bits at the Cob Gallery. Looking back to the exhibition, Tristan notes how his paintings depended much more on humour in those days. Now he’s interested in exploring more “elastic” meanings through allegory. In fact, after Juicy Bits the artist admits feeling a bit “frustrated” with his practice. So, on a whim, he decided to take a masters in sculpture at the Royal College of Art.

Studying sculpture got him fascinated by how “paintings operate in space” and now he’s a great lover of putting on exhibitions. He cites his show at the Alice Black Gallery as a particular favourite. The exhibition took place in “an unusual, overpowering space”, he tells us. The building started life as a bakery. Then in the 1920s it became a nightclub before finally ending up as offices. In keeping with the changing historical functions of the space, Tristan put on a show which weaved “different art historical references with moments from popular culture and the internet”.

One of the paintings in the exhibition depicts a cowboy boot being squashed between iron bars. In protest, the leather boot emits a mushroom-shaped cloud of smoke. The piece is a perfect example of how Tristan incorporates allegorical meaning into paintings that at first appear as a simple still life. Naming the painting She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, after a John Wayne cowboy Western film, the cloud of smoke refers to the nuclear testing site near where the film was shot in Utah. The painting also has darker undertones, Tristan tells us, as “John Wayne allegedly died as a result of exposure to the radioactive material”.

If you’re interested in seeing Tristan’s work for yourself, he’ll be exhibiting at the Cylinder Gallery in Seoul in September and has another solo show coming up at the Alice Black Gallery later this year.

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