Tom Wilson’s punk expressionist paintings fill City Screen café walls in fundraising show for Medical Aid for Palestinians

Forest Floor By Night, by Tom Wilson, on show at City Screen Picturehouse

YORK punk expressionist artist, designer, playwright, theatre director and tutor Tom Wilson is exhibiting his riots of colour at City Screen Picturehouse for the first time with sale proceeds going to MAP (Medical Aid for Palestinians).

Thirty-five works are on display in the café bar at the Coney Street cinema in York, priced at £175 to £700.

“My art looks like an explosion,” says Wilson, whose dynamic abstract art is influenced by Kandinsky, Max Earnst, Otto Dix, Outsider art, German Expressionism and Rayonism (Russian Expressionism).

“When my last exhibition was on at St Bede’s, in Blossom Street, last September, I got in touch with as many York artists as I could to network with them and to try and raise the awareness of my charity too, with sale proceeds being donated in aid of the Ukrainians now living in York who needed support,” says Tom.

Artist Tom Wilson standing by his exhibiition for Medical Aid For Palestinians in the City Screen Picturehouse café bar in York

“As part of my networking campaign, I went to see some of the art being shown at City Screen and spoke to the manager, Cath Sharp. We fixed a date for me to show my art there too, which was incredible.”

In the lead-up to this summer’s show, Tom attended as many exhibitions at City Screen as he could to garner ideas of how to present and promote his work. “When my time for showing arrived, I decided to donate the funds raised this time to MAP (Medical Aid for Palestinians),” he says.

“It’s a great cause, particularly right now. Harrowing and tragic and barbaric things are going on while the rest of the world looks the other way. It breaks my heart, it really does.”

For his City Screen debut, Tom had 300 bookmark-sized cards printed, along with two 6 by 27-inch banners. “I also decided to paint a banner to cover the central wall in the City Screen café bar, painting it in my own style to really try to grab people’s attention as they eat their couscous and toasted cheese wraps,” he says.

A new work byTom Wilson for his City Screen show

“I’m quite proud of it actually. Needs must and necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, or as Frank Zappa said!”

Tom had first started to paint 20 years, and after a long hiatus, he picked up the brushes once more when his younger brother, Stephen, died. “I’ve been painting for a while now and find it very cathartic and relaxing,” he says.

“I do believe very strongly that art in any form can have a transformative and spiritual power, the power to heal and cultivate emotional awareness, insights, and imbue self- esteem.

“I don’t have a studio, I paint at home, and as a result my kitchen is like a bomb site, but a productive bomb site. Now, as a way of clearing some of my artwork out of my house – I can’t move for paintings and junk – I thought it would be a positive gesture to hang some paintings in this wonderful space at City Screen and donate any monies to Medical Aid for Palestinians, having already held exhibitions for the Haiti Earthquake Disaster Fund and Ukrainians now living in York.”

Tom Wilson’s Art In Aid Of MAP exhibition banner

Tom has been networking latterly with “the fabulous fraternity of artists” a few doors along from City Screen at the Fabrication art shop in Coney Street. “That could well be my next project, showing my art there and making a documentary about this amazing franchise and amalgam of various and diverse artists, all supporting each other and rising from the pandemic like phoenixes from the fire,” he says.

“It’s a real community culture, which in fact has been going for over 12 years now. They have a branch in Leeds and this thriving one in York too.”

Tom is delighted with the response to his City Screen show, which features new works alongside “huge favourites”. “It’s getting lots of attention from other artists and also from cinema and theatregoers alike,” he says.

“It’s on for another few weeks and it would be great to see more and more people visit this warm, friendly and aesthetically pulsating venue.” 

To purchase any of his works, Tom can be contacted on 07570 020694 or by email at

York artist Tom Wilson, pictured when setting up his St Bede’s exhibition last year

Tom Wilson: the back story

ORIGINALLY from Salford, Greater Manchester, Tom has lived and worked in York for 16 years.

Played in a rock’n’roll band for a few years in the 1980s. Studied drama and art at Dartington College of Arts and became a drama teacher after stints of acting. Continues to write and direct for film and theatre, staging his anarchic farce The Local Authority at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, in August 2021.

Spent more than 20 years living and working in London with individuals who struggled with drug and alcohol problems. His outreach and project work in the mental health field included rough sleepers, street drinkers and ex-prisoners.

Started painting 20 years ago, doing so obsessively for four years but then stopping. Re-started after the death of his younger brother, Stephen.

Likes Russian Rayonism, Surrealism, Outsider art and the work of Egon Schiele, Paul Klee, Otto Dix, Francis Bacon, Paul Cezanne, Gustave Dore, Wassily Kandinsky, Max Beckmann, George Grosz, Félicien Rops, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Cy Twombly, Gerhard Richter, Richard Dadd and Robert Lenkiewicz.

Tom Wilson’s exhibition runs at City Screen Picturehouse, Coney Street, York, until July 29.

Opening Gambit, by Tom Wilson, from his City Screen exhibition

Punk expressionist Tom Wilson empties kitchen for first exhibition in ten years. Sale proceeds will go to the people of Ukraine

“My art looks like an explosion,” says York artist Tom Wilson

PROMPTED by his friends’ urges  “to do something” with all that artwork filling his small York bungalow, Tom Wilson is to hold his first exhibition in ten years in aid of the people of Ukraine.

From 10.30am to 6.30pm tomorrow (15/9/2022) and Friday, myriad riots of colour by artist, playwright, theatre director and tutor Tom will be on display and for sale at St Bede’s, 21 Blossom Street, York, with free admission.

“I wish to thank the very kind and supportive staff at St Bede’s Pastoral Centre and the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre,” says Tom. “They’ve been so accommodating. Just wonderful!

“There’ll be food and drinks available for all the visitors we’re expecting, and for those who’ll be disappointed they can’t make the exhibition, there’s still an opportunity to browse the work and purchase paintings online at”

In the frame: York artist Tom Wilson with two of his artworks

Originally from Salford, polymath Tom has lived in York for more than 16 years and started painting in 1996 after the loss of a good friend to cancer while living in Roehampton.

“I found it a comforting therapy and a kind of a healing activity,” says Tom, who has held three previous shows, the last one taking place in 2012 at the Friends’ Meeting House, in Friargate, to raise funds for the Haiti Earthquake Foundation.

“Starting to paint helped me to process losing this friend, who died very quickly, at only 50 years old. I did this painting, The Night Form, which was like an apparition, or typically what a kid would think of. Adults can think of things that are scary, but children’s minds go to places where there’s no structure, it’s just endless, so their experience is darker.

“But once you articulate something, get it on to a page or a canvas, it becomes less terrifying. More manageable. That’s how I felt.”

Embroiled, by Tom Wilson

Linking his painting past to his present, The Night Form will be on show at St Bede’s among the newer works.

“After living in London for more than 20 years, York gives me incredible peace of mind,” he says. Peace of mind that leads to Tom’s artistic expression both as an artist and playwright, as witnessed in August last year when council chaos and Covid clashed in his timely anarchic farce The Local Authority, presented by the Naloxone Theatre Ensemble at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre.

He is delighted to be mounting his first exhibition in a decade. “At least if I sell one or two paintings, I’ll be able to find my way in and out of the kitchen without risking life and limb,” says Tom, who is disabled and lives alone with his cat, Pendle. “I’m hoping to sell enough to make a difference by sending proceeds to support the people of Ukraine.

“It’ll definitely help with clearing out my bungalow. I got a new shed but filled that up within a day; I was going to try to use it as studio but that never came off! So I just use whatever space I’ve got, the kitchen mainly, but it’s not ideal. Unless you’re moving work on, there’s no point doing new work as it just clutters the place up.”

The poster for Tom Wilson’s anarchic farce, The Local Authority, premiered at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, in August 2021

His dynamic abstract artwork is influenced by Kandinsky, Max Earnst, Otto Dix, Outsider art, German Expressionism and Rayonism (Russian Expressionism). “Rayonism was like a punk movement, breaking away, to try to paint ‘rays of light’, and I took my ideas from their freedom from convention.

“However, it’s also important to find your own voice and your own style,” he says, after being excited and motivated by seeing multiple visceral and dramatic pieces of art.

“I tend to use lots or orange and green in my work, and I think it’s all about the volume, not as in ‘amount’, but as in ‘turning up the amp’, like Jimi Hendrix did with his guitar, so the volume goes up.”

To achieve that Hendrix hum in his art, Tom favours painting on black boards, applying orange, Irish green and turquoise, mystical colours that “conjure up a feeling of vibrations”.

“There’s a lot of happy accidents with my stuff,” says Tom Wilson

“I’ve been using Sennelier crayons, oil crayons rather than wax ones, that are very soft, almost like lipstick, and not easy to work with. Picasso first commissioned them; they were made just for him, when he was struggling to find exactly what he wanted.

“A studio said to him, ‘you tell us what you want, we’ll make it for you’, and if it was good enough for Pablo Picasso, then it’ll do for me!”

Describing his artistic style, Tom says: “There’s a lot of happy accidents with my stuff. Some of it is manipulated experiments, like putting paint on one canvas, then putting another canvas on top of that and then pulling them apart like layers of skin.

“Sometimes it’s about ‘unlearning’ something that you loved or remembered in a painting and just going for it.”

“It’s all about the volume, not as in ‘amount’, but as in ‘turning up the amp’, like Jimi Hendrix did with his guitar,” says Tom Wilson of his painting style

In a moment of sudden candour, Tom says: “I can’t paint! My art looks like an explosion. I’ll be honest, I think I’m a chancer, not a natural-born painter. I can’t even draw. I’ll draw a dog and it looks like a dinosaur…an angry dog!

“But it’s important to have that freedom. Art isn’t a competition; it’s the way you articulate something. That’s the essence of creativity.

“Painting is like a voyage of discovery for me. Maybe other artists start with a painting they loved, maybe a seascape, but I’ll start without a plan. I’ll start with a mood, then make a shape, maybe a curve, and start following it, like jazz musicians improvising. It’s about the vibe, just as it is with jazz.

“Again, rather like music, I can do ten paintings to arrive at the one I want, so those ten paintings are like a rehearsal to get to where I need to be. You don’t show people the departure point; you show them the arrival.”

“I start with a mood, then make a shape, maybe a curve, and start following it, like jazz musicians improvising,” says Tom Wilson

He makes a further comparison with the jazz world. “Ask Ornette Coleman or Thelonious Monk what they’re going to play, and they’d say, ‘I don’t know’ and then start playing. It’s the same with one of my paintings,” says Tom.

“On top of that, I think it’s about expressing an anarchic humour, like John Lennon, Salvador Dali, Picasso.

“What happens is you go into an inner-child mentality, almost like writing with the opposite hand, and you find an area to explore and then the adult takes over to say, ‘right, we’ll take it this final point’.”

Tom loves applying boldness in his work; he can go four days without painting then suddenly have a flurry of six in two days, rampant with all those orange and green outbursts, and even applying Tippex, but not to correct faults! “No, it’s because it’s always ultra-white, almost like false teeth, whereas white paint can go grey,” he clarifies.

A profusion of orange, green and turquoise bursts out of a Tom Wilson artwork

The challenge with each painting is “knowing when to stop, that cut-off point”. “That’s one of those lessons I’m still learning. Don’t keep going back to it. Don’t be the ‘Tinker Man’, like Claudio Ranieri!” says Tom.

As for size, in the absence of a studio, in the confines of his kitchen, he tends to use A3 or A4. “But I’d love to be like Rothko, lobbing paint around a big studio!”

In the meantime, Tom’s rather more compact jazzy paintings at St Bede’s will be priced from £60 to £400. “But for those who can’t afford some of the artwork, there’s an alternative way to support the plight of the people in the Ukraine, by buying one of the T-shirts on sale,” he says. “They feature images of my art and very fine they look too.”

The banner for Tom Wilson’s exhibition at St Bede’s, York