So happy to chat with recent graduate Tom Witherick, whose small-scale sculptures are captivating in their subtle hues, textures, and choice of materials -- mostly because he looks at his work from a perspective of painting, while the works become more sculptural. Links below!
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Can you introduce yourself?
Hello, my name is Tom Witherick I live in London and have just recently finished my BA in Painting at Wimbledon College of Art.
How has the experience of BA been?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at Wimbledon. At times it’s been challenging but I suppose that’s the point. The course is great with a real emphasis on getting down to work in the studio and experimenting as well as encouraging a very open minded outlook towards “painting” which is quite liberating.
Do you think you’ll head to an MA/MFA eventually?
I plan to (hopefully) in the future, maybe in a few years. I feel it’s something I need to give a lot of thought to and I don’t feel ready now straight after BA.
What first interested you in making art?
I’m not sure what first interested me to be honest, there was no religious moment in front of an artwork or anything like that. I’ve always drawn throughout my life and enjoyed art and music at school and as I got older I couldn’t see myself going on to study anything else. I think it was just more of a natural progression kind of thing, it’s just something I’ve always done in one form or another and I’ve stuck with it and gradually began to take it more seriously.
Your practice is largely sculptural but also crosses over into work that could be considered closer to painting. Do you feel that your work oscillates between the two, or do you find one side to have more of a pull?
My practice is partly concerned with the object of painting and how it functions and so a lot of my work takes on a more physical/sculptural presence rather than a pictorial/painterly one. I feel they’re closer to paintings than what I’d consider sculpture because I started off making paintings and they’ve developed into this more object based work. Also having studied on a painting course I feel I approach them from a painters perspective, they’re almost sculptures about painting. A lot of what I think about and look at when making work is related to painting.
Can you tell me a bit about your practice?
Well at the moment my practice departs from looking at painting or rather the object of painting as a container for primarily an image but also more generally for a representation of some kind. By adhering to paintings object hood I aim to set up parallels between the art object and the functionality of domestic objects and so a lot of my work makes explicit the idea of an inside and outside and forms of presentation and placement. In essence they are physical objects operating as visual metaphors.
I’m interested in the role of metaphor in our day to day lives, especially in terms of structuring our cognition and how we conceptualise our lives and our experience of the world. A lot of our literal language is based on these conceptual metaphors.
What is your process like?
I tend to start new works by doing a lot of drawing, making lots of variations of a design. Sometimes I’ll write as well, words and language often get the ball rolling in terms of how a work will look and the sort of presence it will have. I’m really thinking of the sensuous qualities of material more than anything else when making work and often I’ll stumble upon something interesting discarded in a skip on the street and this will give me an idea for a new work.
Once I have a general idea of what it is I’m making it tends to get made pretty quickly. Sometimes I’m happy with it the first time but more often than not the initial form will change or become part of a new work, I have a tendency to go back to finished pieces and update them. The situation of works in space is also very much a big part of my practice and so a lot of play is had moving things around in the studio.
How would you describe your studio or workspace?
Organised clutter. At university three of us shared a box like space in the studio and as the year went on we began to see less and less of the floor and walls, it was as if they were closing in on us at the end. I have to be working on more than one thing at a time so there’s always works in progress lying about or on the walls.
Do you have a favorite tool or object in the studio that you couldn’t live without?
I’m not sure I’ve got a favorite, a hammer and a saw are pretty damn useful. I seem to get through a hell of a lot of sand paper so I suppose that could be seen as my favorite or at least the thing I use most.
What is the best advice you’ve received so far?
A tutor once gave us a kind of recipe for a good work of art in a crit once during my second year that has always stuck with me, it was something like ”an artwork needs three things, Tension, an economy of production and the sense that this is the only way it could be”. I’m not sure if it carries any truth or not but they seemed to make a good point at the time. Other than that I think trust your intuition has been pretty solid advice.
How would you define “success”?
I think there’s many different ways one could define success although I think the success of an artist is largely defined by the responses of others towards his/her work. Personally I’d define success as an artist as achieving respect and recognition by making the work you want to make. Of course money is a great measure of success but I think there always need to be a more moral ground to whether someone or something is successful.
What do you feel is the most challenging and daunting thing about making and pursuing art either creatively or professionally?
Creatively speaking there’s always a risk of getting too comfortable and losing momentum so to speak. Professionally there’s the challenge of establishing yourself as a professional artist, finding an audience and getting yourself out there. At times it can seem quite over whelming especially as a young artist but at the end of the day its part of the job, getting to where you want to be is half the fun.
What are you working on right now?
At the moment I’m working on a bunch of small objects made from found materials that sit on these shelf like things that I’m making. I’ve also got a couple of ideas for some larger scale box pieces that I’m hoping to get started on soon.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for having me on the site!
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