Artists Jane Pollard and Iain Forsyth on their love/work relationship

The artistic couple on her lending him clothes, their staying up late, and how a student mixtape led them to make a feature film with their hero Nick Cave

HER STORY Jane Pollard, 41, artist

I remember thinking, at Goldsmiths College, that Iain was a bit weird. He made propagandist art and we weren’t in the same circle of friends. But after a day of drinking, we went back to my student house, I loaned him some clothes and we stayed in for about two weeks, just talking and playing music. He was opinionated, unusual, freethinking – I found him fascinating. Eventually when we turned back up at college, we were an item.

He made me dozens of mixtapes and opened me up to a different music world. The first one was called Fuck Art Let’s Dance and it had Nick Cave’s “The Ship Song” on it. It was our song for a long time and was so special to us, particularly the “we talk about it all night long” lyric. Even 20-odd years later there are still nights where we stay up talking and working like we’re students again. It’s a good job we don’t have children because it’s that irresponsible sense of time management – where you just indulge yourself in the moment and where your ideas might go if you don’t cut them short by going to bed.

We were at a Primal Scream gig on the night that Kurt Cobain died. It was then that decided to work together. It felt like everything we had talked about together had more adventure to it than anything we talked about separately.

Your relationship does suffer, though, because it’s hard to separate that kind of connection and make professional decisions.So when we differ in opinion, it’s always an argument. But all collaboration is the belief in each other’s instincts. And if our instincts are aligned then we know we’re going in the right direction. We’ve never had the desire to work separately and I can’t imagine ever having it. I feel like I’m better than two of me with him.

HIS STORY Iain Forsyth, 41, artist

I always feel challenged by our relationship and I always feel motivated to push harder and be better and do more than I would do on my own. The thing that constantly keeps it thrilling and exciting is that there’s always somebody there to go: “Is this really the best we can do? Can we not go a bit further make this more interesting?” You don’t get let off the hook.

The best ideas are always the ones where you can no longer remember which one of you got the idea started. They become something that you own together so quickly, they become part of you, so much so that the point of origin becomes unimportant. I honestly couldn’t remember whose idea it was [to make the feature film 20,000 Days on Earth, with Nick Cave].

The blessing and the curse is that working and living have blended into one – there’s never a point where you turn it off and you go home. Very early on we tried to establish a studio outside our house and quickly realised it doesn’t work, that the idea of separating work and life when the two things are so entwined is impossible. It’s what we do and it feels like it’s the only thing I sort of know how to do.

I think the hardest thing about working collaboratively, though, is that you’ve got to let go of your ego, and that’s tough. Jane has probably struggled with it more than me because she is strong willed – she was into academic success at school and those things weren’t quite as important to me. The only thing that keeps you going is that your shared identity is a more powerful, more necessary and more vibrant thing than your own ego.

20,000 Days on Earth is out now at cinemas nationwide (

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Kate Hutchinson

The GuardianTramp

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