José Damasceno interview: 'As a child I was fascinated by Hammer House of Horror'

The Rio-based sculptor talks about his new Artangel commission in Holborn

Jose Damasceno at Holborn Library preparing for his Artangel commission

Jose Damasceno at Holborn Library preparing for his Artangel commission Photo: Tom Oldham

The Brazilian artist, José Damasceno spent four years researching locations for his Artangel commission, 'Plot'. He tells Time Out about discovering a forgotten architectural gem at the Holborn Library, using Letraset to make his sculptural interventions and why Peter Cushing is a hero.

Why did it take so long to find the venue for your show?
'It was a process of discovery. I visited many different sites including the incredible BBC studios at White City, an unimpressive office space on Piccadilly and a magnificent building in the City of London that used to be Midland Bank.'

What was it about the Holborn Library that made it stand out?
'The fact this is a library is perfect. You deal with imagining other worlds and possibilities when you read and it’s the same when you look at art.'

What will be in the show?
'There will be work throughout the building. A sculptural figure will occupy a table on the second floor. I’ve used Letraset to create figures that will be displayed on the ceiling of the ground floor. And I’ve created something I’ve never done before by drawing directly on to the exterior façade at the back of the library.'

‘I like the unexpected associations that happen’

© José Damasceno

Did you make any unexpected discoveries in the building?
'Yes, there used to be a cinema and theatre on the fourth floor. It was closed for years and, if I can say, it was kind of mistreated. It was full of furniture and a false ceiling had been installed. But now we are uncovering that architecture and it’s really astonishing to see the possibilities. I wanted to respect the history as the projection room is such a jewel. So we’re bringing it back to life.'

How do you want people to encounter the work?
'Unexpectedly. Like when you go to a bookshop and you suddenly see a book you weren’t looking for. I want to retain an element of strangeness in the experience because I think everything is explained too much these days. Facing the unknown is important.'

Apparently Jonathan Swift and Hammer Horror have been an influence?
‘As a sculptor, one of the attributes most related to my work is scale and Swift’s Gulliver stories look at this. As a child I was fascinated by Hammer House of Horror. Peter Cushing was one of my heroes. Actually the Gothic Film Society used to meet on the fourth floor of Holborn Library to screen horror films – I like the unexpected associations that can happen.’'