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The Studio: Tom Waring, MFA Fine Art

Blute Mantel detail 1 landscape
Blute Mantel detail 1 landscape

Written by
Sophie Kassay
Published date
25 May 2017

Tom Waring is one of our talented final year MFA Fine Art students who is exhibiting his work at the Undergraduate and MFA Fine Art Summer Show this year.

We spoke to Tom about his experience of the MFA Fine Art course, his current painting practice and the works he will be exhibiting at the Summer Show.

Can you describe your practice for us?

I focus all my time into making paintings and I’ve never really used another medium. My practice is really about the process of painting, and how we relate to, and read images. What I do has always been underpinned by painting and I’ve never needed to digress from it.

I think of my work as a form of meta-painting, or to put it another way, the pictorialising of making images with paint. I use the many tropes sampled from the history of painting as a vocabulary. This includes the illusion of 3D space on a 2D surface through use of light and dark, Trompe-l’œil, properties of pigments and the representation of things in the world.

I start each painting with a few marks and gestures and find references to things within these marks as they build up. This process slowly starts to map out the transition of the painting as an object, an apparatus of wood and canvas, into an image. Using this vocabulary as one would language in spoken word, I follow references as they appear before they change tangent and morph into one another. This creates a lyrical constellation of references that, although painted in a highly representational manner, never fully merge into a proper and obvious image of a thing. This is echoed in the titles of my paintings; they are made up and never become proper nouns or verbs, but evoke words suggested by the form in the image. They hang in a space that unpicks the mechanisms and pictorial devices of images we see around us today.

'Phunke' by Tom Waring (detail)

‘Phunke’ by Tom Waring (detail)

How do you think your practice has developed or changed over the course of the MFA?

The exposure to other artists has helped everything about my work mature a great deal. You just absorb things, often without realising it. Through a kind of spongy physic osmosis you pick up on nuances of things that people say and things you see, and this feeds into your work. This is something that’s very exciting to see when you realise it wouldn’t happen without the proximity to other people you can relate to. I hope that the same thing happens for other people, I assume it does to some degree, and so perhaps many of us learn more from just being together than actually being formally ‘taught’ in the traditional way.

What have you enjoyed most about studying at Wimbledon?

Art school is a very strange and ephemeral thing, and perhaps to somebody from another discipline doesn’t look like a school at all. Rarely are people taught in the conventional sense of the term, with a teacher and a blackboard explaining what to do and not to do. The important part of any art school I think, are the conversations and experiences you have when you’re there and that is the part that I have enjoyed most. I love the conversations where you realise you share an interest or feeling about something you have seen or heard, or where somebody challenges your previous assumptions and reforms the way you look at something. Other people are great at stripping you down and telling you what you’re really doing or not doing.

'Blute Mantel' by Tom Waring (detail)

‘Blute Mantel’ by Tom Waring (detail)

What has been the most challenging part of the course?

I was really bad at condensing information into sensibly sized statements which is something I think I’ve become much better at, or perhaps just more aware of. When you’ve read about big, abstract concepts and ideas I found it so hard to communicate these ideas in coherent sentences. Sometimes I’d find myself speaking, and then forgetting what I was originally addressing because I’d jumped around too many thoughts! I really admire others who so eloquently thread ideas and thoughts together that it feels like they had pre-written their conversation through multiple drafts. It’s been one of the most challenging things to master.

What are you planning to exhibit at the Summer Show?

A series of three large paintings that had been the key in formulating my practice and my ideas. Each one is, I feel, a more advanced version of the previous, which were produced as I grew more confident in the process I’ve developed over the MFA.

What made you decide to do an MFA and why did you choose to study at Wimbledon?

People often ask me why did I not do an MA in Painting, and my answer is that I wanted to encounter people who worked in other mediums. Painting can be very insular I think, people painting about painting, and I am no exception, but when applying to Wimbledon two years ago I was very apprehensive about not having contact with sculptors and video-makers etc. Now I feel I’m much shrewder to a larger chunk of the art world as a result of my contact with a wider medley of artists.

'Phunke' by Tom Waring (detail)

‘Phunke’ by Tom Waring (detail)

Something that is particular to University of the Arts London (UAL) is access to each library for the six UAL campuses and books can be exchanged between libraries very easily. Particular to Wimbledon would be the community like atmosphere, generated by the small size of the campus, which makes college life a lot more pleasant and bucolic than the inner city metropolis of other campuses.

Do you have anything else coming up that you’d like us to know about?

Many of my peers and I have a show we’re organising in Hackney straight after the degree show. The idea behind it is that we all have a body of work we’ve spent a lot of time on and we want that work to work harder for us in the form of another show. It’s being curated by a mutual friend of many of us on the course, Charley Peters, an artist living in London and Senior Lecturer at London College of Communication. The show will be called ‘Signal to Noise’ and held at Artbeit Studios from 26 June to the 1 July.

You can find out more about Tom and his practice by visiting his website and following him on Instagram.

Learn more about studying MFA Fine Art at Wimbledon College of Arts.

We hope you can join us at our Undergraduate and MFA Summer Show this year! Click here to find out more.