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Ask an Artist: Deborah Pill

20 July 2023

Commissioned as part of our summer programme, Boundary Encounters, Deborah Pill’s Table Talk revisits past encounters from Modern Art Oxford’s Creative Space. Pill elevates the conversations, exchanges and time spent there with others into our Upper Gallery. Table Talk responds to the energy, flow and power of words that emerge from this discursive environment.

Here, Pill explains some of the themes and inspirations behind the work.

Can you explain the meaning behind the title of your commission, Table Talk?

Sometimes being in the creative space, sat at the table, it can be like holding a dinner party around which conversation flows, so this is where the title Table Talk (2023) comes from. It just seemed to be a natural fit. Having the work in the Upper Gallery allows and shows how conversations, around the table and in the creative space, go beyond their boundaries. 

For your new commission, you’ve revisited past encounters from Modern Art Oxford’s Creative Space. Can you tell us more about how this discursive space has inspired your new work?

The table has been a huge part of the success of the Creative Space, the material, cork, from which it is made absorbs sound and therefore I wanted to show a few of the conversations that have been had around it and embedded them in the work. It is my interpretation of the Creative Space through conversation, observation and notes, and then making them tangible. I wanted the work to be ambiguous but with a personal element, my own handwriting, which is fast and automatic when I make notes with both spelling and grammar mistakes!

There is no hierarchy around this table, it retains marks, conversation, and memories, it is a sociable meeting point and a living document of its own history (Sarah Wills Brown 2023, Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino).

Conversation is an important part of your practice. How do you feel it continues to influence and shape the development of your work?

Before becoming an artist, I was a hairdresser and although I talked all day I hadn’t realised how important conversation could be. The continuous flow and exchange of conversation around the table has been beneficial to my own practice. I am now beginning to realise how socially engaged my practice is whether that’s with visitors, friends, fellow artists or the material I’m using. Although the conversation can be fleeting, it can leave an imprint on both the building and visitor. I find I consolidate my own thinking through conversation.

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