Rough ride

Bareback is a random sampler of personal projects from members of the Tomato stable. Matthew Valentine has trouble reading between the lines

Perhaps the chief reason to be envious of members of Tomato, the creative collective famous for its Trainspotting posters, is the personal projects undertaken by its members.

A couple of years ago some of them showed off personal film projects at a lecture at the offices of retail design group BDG McColl, letting slip that the work – done for fun, of course – had led to the possibility of a commission to develop an animated series for Japanese TV. Which was nice.

Bareback, Tomato’s latest publication, is a collection of personal projects. No credits are given as to who produced what, and the projects seem to run in no particular order.

This lack of context makes the book difficult to read – although that may be the point. The contents ranges from typographic experiments with poems, off-set by geometric patterns, to random photographs overlaid with text: in one case a first-person account of being shot. It doesn’t say if this account is fact or fiction, and with no more information to work with, it is difficult to feel any empathy for the victim.

There are also a number of handwritten streams of consciousness: “Sittin’ here watchin it…I haven’t got a clue what’s really going on but there’s something keeping me here, glued to it, like nothin’ else mattersä” Personally, this kind of thing starts making me wish for another eclipse so that everything goes dark.

The geometric patterns seem to be the one constant theme of the book: graph paper and a pair of compasses have been heavily employed. “I think it’s a bunch of artists trying to make sense of mathematics,” suggests one observer. There does seem to be a fascination with science and its boundaries with art at work. The book asks directly where the edges of clouds, thoughts and spoken words are.

There don’t appear to be any answers, though.

Bareback. A Tomato Project is published by Laurence King Publishing, price £25

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