Contemporary art often seems to operate according to a set of unspoken rules. Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan’s work explores such conventions by exposing them, breaking them or sometimes sticking with them to the point of absurdity. Working together since 1995, they produce sculptures, performance, drawings and photographs, written works, exhibitions and events. They often make and remake their artworks in new forms and places so they act as sets or props, which can be arranged and rearranged to draw attention to what art does and how it works.
In recent years Tatham and O’Sullivan have extended their work to curating projects and events that focus attention on their contexts. DOES THE IT FIT with CIRCA Projects, Newcastle upon Tyne took place at the Stephenson Works, a building once at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and now at the centre of an area of urban redevelopment. The project brought their works together with that of other artists including Chris Evans and John Smith.
For GENERATION, Tatham and O’Sullivan have worked with ATLAS Arts to make a new work that spans the neighbouring islands of Skye and North Uist. In Portree, the artists have created a sculptural construction around the folly on the hill where the annual Skye Games take place. At Taigh Chearsabhagh Arts Centre on North Uist they are showing photographs of public sculptures from both Uist and Loughborough University campus. These presentations exist alongside a programme of events that, taken as a whole, will call attention to the role of art in place and in public and question how it can be expected to engage with issues of cultural identity and access.
At Tramway their work revisits HK, their 2001 exhibition at that venue. Large black sculptural letters spelt out the words ‘Heroin Kills’, an apparently simple statement, that like many of Tatham and O’Sullivan’s works was anything but. Rather it presented the unresolved tensions and questions surrounding the making and exhibiting of art. The new work considers the context of GENERATION and this earlier work, drawing attention to the mechanisms of myth-making within and through art.