Interview 004: Thom Rees
How do you define art?
My understanding of art is that it is a communique between the physical manifestation of an idea produced by an artist and received by a viewer.
How have you developed your career, what gave you the desire and push to create and be an artist?
By keeping a continuous studio practice, as hard as that maybe, and as often as I get pulled away from it, I still have that sanctuary for making “stuff”. I wouldn’t call it a desire, more it feels like a necessity. It just feels like my brain is wired in such that I am always thinking in a specific way that translates into an artistic practice. If I stop then I am missing something. My practice is my anti-depressant.
What does your work aim to say?
It doesn’t aim to say anything. More it tries to create a sense of feeling, an understanding of something other than ourselves. What that other is I don’t know, that’s not for me to know.
How has the Pandemic affected your creativity?
Thinking creatively, not so much, but having my studio closed for a long period of time was frustrating. I took to making work at home, much like everyone else, but the work produced wasn’t anything I was particularly happy about. I guess producing work that I wasn’t happy about got me down as I start to question my authenticity as an artist.
How did you stay focused with each project during the pandemic, were there any elements of your artistic expression you focused on more?
It’s interesting, that kind of ‘art school’ thing where you start to see people making similar work to one another, not because they’re stealing ideas but just by the nature of being close to others and the conversations you have when you make starts to all follow a similar path. Obviously, that’s not everyone, but some. Anyway, I guess this is similar to what happened to making at home. My partner is an artist and was training to become an art psychotherapist so the discussions we were having were very heavy in the field of Psychology and psychoanalytics, I was looking at imagery of this field and found myself coming back to klecksographic drawings. I definitely felt like I went through some personal art therapy in that sense.
How has your art changed/evolved over the years?
I used to make more representative things. Objects that were abstract but definitely had one foot planted in reality. I learnt to let go of that and just make what felt right to me. The conversation usually comes after the work anyway. I’ve learnt that everything I was trying to communicate with my art didn’t need to be said out loud. At first I always fought against it because it was really important to the work, but actually, it’s not. People are smarter than they think and usually, I find, ‘get it’ even if they can’t explain what they get.
How long does it take to make some of your bigger pieces, what is the process like?
It really depends, I can make a big piece in two days, or at the moment I’m making stuff that will take a year, or maybe more. Something is always present in the making though, it’s always chaos. Messy, chaotic, probably dangerous in some sort of way, usually stressful if I’m making something specific for a new show with a deadline. It doesn’t sound like fun, but it is in some kind of masochistic way.
You draw inspiration Eastern Philosophy and Lacanian mirror stage theory what sparked your interest in these topics?
I started making work without understanding the ideas behind it, I wanted that kind of reverence and quietness to the work. Being in the moment, where not much else matters or is cared about. A moment experienced that makes you question what it is you’re experiencing, in turn questioning the idea of self. The more I got into it the more I started to find things in already existing ideologies that absolutely hit the nail on the head with my work. It was like a light bulb being switched on and suddenly seeing so much more. I’m constantly finding more things that speak to me deeper than just an idea. My art is leading my journey.
What do you wish your work would embody/narrate anything to the viewer? If so why and what?
Its that idea of ‘getting’ it but not knowing or being able to communicate what you ‘get’. I don’t want to narrate an idea, because it’s not one it’s a collection of ideas that some viewers will get and some won’t, some will pluck out new ideas from the work that I don’t ‘get’, that’s ok. Kind of exciting. I like the idea that someone who views my work takes that feeling away with them and comes back to it and deciphers it, what ever ‘it’ is. I like the idea of the work being a tool, something that helps someone understand something new or even just a little bit better. Doesn’t matter what, just something.
You explore shape, form and scale, is this important in your practice and if so, why?
Yes it is, it’s my language. It’s how I communicate an idea. It’s the language of a very specific paradigm that I am piecing together from my living experience.
What do you wish your audience to take away after viewing your work?
What ever is relevant to the experience they have had from viewing the work. I don’t want to dictate what they take away, anything, if at all is something, which I think would make the work a success.
How do you feel you'd like to see your works curated?
I’m pretty open to my prints and objects being curated however is seen fit. I think when I produce site specific installations there isn’t much room for outside curation as the space itself becomes the work. Saying that I’m always happy to have the discussions.
Do you feel something needs to change within the arts industry and the ways which exhibitions are curated post-lockdown?
I do, I feel there needs to be a big shift in the arts, less exploitation, more equality, etc etc. But the reality I feel is that the public sector won’t change because there’s never enough money and the commercial sector won’t change because they don’t have to if the money is flowing in. That’s a pretty bleak outlook on the arts but working in the arts sector as well as being an artist you do see it from most angles.
Where do you envision your art to be in future? What is your future with your work?
As long as I exist, I will keep making work, where it will be I do not know. I suppose it’ll forever be changing as I shift through habitual environments and age, but the definite future of my work is probable.
Cast Dyed Jesmonite,
Gestalt forms in black ceramic