YORK punk expressionist artist Tom Wilson has donated £500 to aid the people of Ukraine now living in York from last month’s exhibition at St Bede’s, Blossom Street, York.
“We managed to sell more than £800 worth of art over the two days, which reached my target of making a substantial donation,” he says. “Once I took out my overheads, I was able to provide £500 towards helping them get on their feet after they get their own accommodation.
“I was really pleased with the footfall too. We even had a visit from Rachael Maskell [York Central MP], which was a real boost for everyone’s morale.”
Prompted by his friends’ urges “to do something” with all the artwork filling his small York bungalow, artist, playwright, theatre director and tutor Tom held his first exhibition in ten years on September 14 and 15.
“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,” said Tom ahead of the show. “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! Instead, 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.”
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,” says Tom.
“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.”
Tom makes a surprising assertion: “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!” he says.
“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.”
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’.”