We first featured the work of Joseph Gough just after he graduated from Brighton last year. Now a year on, we thought it’d be interesting to have a chat with him again and get a genuine perspective on life after graduation.
As he answers a few questions, we take a look at a recent project, ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” We like how his work has continued to develop since last year. He has built upon his natural talent for haunting atmosphere. The darks are darker and the shadows all that little bit eerier. The clever compositions and the use of light create a beautiful sense of silence that we really like.
We first spoke with you after you’d just graduated last year. How has no longer being in the university studio affected your work?
Well, I jumped in at the deep end and moved straight to London after leaving Brighton where I studied. It was tough at first but I now live with three friends from my course and fellow Illustrators, Harry Bloom, Will Finlay and Paul Layzell so its like a little island of studio life in the weirdness of Deptford. Its good to surround yourself with people who you can talk to about your work when your becoming insular and convinced that it’s genius and the world is wrong.
Not having a studio isn’t ideal and working from your room can become very claustrophobic but you make do. I can see how it can be hard having to rely totally upon yourself and not having a brief to work to but I’ve always got personal projects that I want to do so it keeps me busy.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind, ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?’ and the material it was based on, if any?
I was working on designs for matchbook covers as a promotional thing (something I still want to do when I get the money) so I was heavily into that world of motels, road-side diners and truckstops in western states like Texas, New Mexico, Nevada etc. and I thought that theres something in this. So, I wanted to fully flesh out that world of the desert and life on the road but I didn’t really have an idea for a narrative.
Then I was listening to that song, ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?’, which I know by the Leadbelly version. Theres something really haunting about that song and his delivery on that record is like a low wind howling across a dark landscape. And the line, “My husband was a hard working man. Killed a mile and a half from here. His head was found in a driving wheel. But his body was never found”, that sealed the deal and this thing became about a murderous jealously.
It’s probably fair to say the series is very atmospheric, what were you trying to achieve in terms of mood?
All that stuff I was just going on about low winds howling and dark lanscapes? Something like that. What I hope people will take away from it is the feeling that this place is somewhere that is still wild and dangerous and can’t be tamed. If you lost your way or took a wrong turn you could be in real trouble. And, I wanted to convey the sense of people trapped in these transitional spaces embroiled in bad situations.
It seems like the compositions were carefully considered, was the way you approached layout and cropping inspired by anything in particular?
I like the square format like polaroids or something akin to the 4:3 aspect ratio that old films are shot in and I was trying to achieve a cinematic quality so I would compose images in that way; establishing shots, close-ups, cut-ins, wide panoramic shots etc.
You mentioned last time that you were working on a project based on Italian horror films and this project has quite a cinematic quality to it. Does film still inspire your work?
Took the words out of my mouth! Yes, very much so. Around this project I was watching a lot of road movies, anything from Monte Hellman’s, ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’, David Lynch’s ‘Wild at Heart’ to Robert Harmon’s ‘The Hitcher’, which you should watch just for the best performance Rutger Hauer gives outside of Blade Runner alone.
Giallo horror movies are still my love though, I’m very much looking forward to ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ this month.
What have you got planned for the rest of the year?
Yes, it’s going by fast. I’m looking forward to winter, watching too many movies and the high and lows of a part-time job in retail. I haven’t got any commissions on at the moment but plenty of personal projects that I want to do so I’m going to keep plying my trade and see if anything bites. So, stay tuned to my website and blog for exciting things to come!
Joseph Gough, 2012