Simon Periton was born in London and studied at St Martin’s School of Art in London.
In an interview with Stephen Hepworth for the British Council exhibition Tailsliding in 2001, Periton described his work
"When I first started doing the doilies, it was like revisiting childhood. Sitting at home on a rainy Sunday afternoon, with bits of paper folded into four, which I’d cut out and open up. I didn’t really know what I was going to get until I opened them out. On the one hand it’s an odd state of wonderment, but off-set against the sense that you know exactly what you're doing. You can't just take your scalpel for a walk without being aware at least on some level of positive and negative. On the one hand it's about control, and on the other hand it's about what you can't control.
I think in decorative terms, something becomes beautiful through repetition whether it's bad or it's good. You're seduced into something by the way that it's made and put together, whether it be your involvement in a bizarre cult or standing transfixed in front of a Tiffany vase. It's to do with the seduction rather than with the beauty. There probably isn't really a thing that's actually ‘beautiful’ – you simply get caught up in it or you don't. Early on I started to look at Islamic architectural screens. They're completely amazing, lots of strange eastern tantric patterns. It's not a very big step for me to go from being interested in something like that to Aubrey Beardsley and the high eroticism of a frustrated Tuberculosis riddled artist. There's a very quick jump between the two for me.
I got into doing 3D pieces when I realised that I was working with something decorative. I started thinking of the most literal meanings behind the word decoration. Quite literally, the most obvious decoration I could think of were Christmas decorations. In a similar way, the dodecahedron spheres are derived from a 1970’s lampshade kit. This shade is a very simple, popular geometric form made out of the sort of material I work with. The spheres are not a great geometric system art thing, which is how people often approach them, although I guess, in a way, there’s a corruption of a geometric form so it plays with both halves. It could be a high-art, low-art trade-off, but it’s the simplicity of the way that these things slot together that always appeals to me. In a doily, the repeat of the pattern creates the complexity. So the idea of these twelve-sided things, every side exactly the same and slotted together creates far more levels of complexity than is immediately apparent. It's a kind of game, you know, a game of images. I quite liked that idea that you would be seduced into the pattern before you'd actually realised the content of what you're looking at.
I suppose in a way I'm quite interested in how far those arguments could go - where something still retains some guts and doesn't just become a stylistic thing. Though at the same time, I don’t want to deny that we’re all actually interested in the seduction of the style. It’s a contradiction. In many ways there's a high camp element in a lot of what I do - riot police spinning around Busby Berkeley fashion, banging into each other in something resembling a doily. The idea of having the most absurd things in a quaint decorative piece of work, like barbed wire made out of paper. There's a certain uselessness to them and an absurdity which appeals to me. I remember going to see my grandmother when I was about fifteen and I had an anarchy armband on. She opened the door to me and said ‘what's that on your arm’? I said ‘well, it's an A in a circle’. And she said ‘what's that for’? And I said, ‘it means anarchy’. And she looked defiantly at me and went ‘that's nice dear, would you like a cup of tea’? In a funny sort of way if I think back on it, that was more punk than my attempt at being punk. I suppose I got interested in an idea of the twee English assimilation of everything radical and it being sort of more radical in that quaint English style.
I knew things were going to be loaded whatever happened because of the things I was using - even if I just used the stuff that I found in the street like photographs from newspapers, they all have a weight to them. But I tried to choose things that didn't really seem to go together. At the same time I was aware that I was interested in sets of specific things. It's very difficult to resist looking at these images and trying to figure out if there are any connections. I saw this Iggy Pop picture and I was so struck by it. It was from one of the last Iggy albums, maybe a Corrine Day photo or something, but he's so gaunt and harrowed looking. I flipped it on a photocopier into negative and it looked instantly like a Turin shroud image. The image has this religious quality to it. My work has changed a lot I think, in quite an odd way really, with slightly harsher imagery, terrorists and stuff. I’ve ended up approaching very different subjects, the decorative and the violent and marrying them together in different ways.
There was always an idea that I wanted them to be quite awkward, when I think about it. Awkward to look at, awkward to classify in art terms, and awkward to look after, obviously. And yet I think it has to be quite simple somehow, there's a lot of complicated mess within that simplicity. I suppose with a pattern or a repeat pattern of any decorative nature, that's what the very essence is: a simple idea made complicated, which is a kind of back-to-front way of looking at it. Sometimes, using imagery is just a way of making that point. The choice involved in picking a source for a work can be very important to me at times, whilst at others it's completely irrelevant.
I never really thought that I would continue with making stuff out of paper. When I first started it was more of a means to get to somewhere that I wasn't before. And possibly not even to show them but just to get away from something else that I was making, an attempt for some sort of freedom in making things. Every time I think I'm going to make the last one, then I think of something else that I haven't done yet. I just seem to be caught up in it myself, in a way."
Tailsliding, The British Council, London, 2001