Art and design fairs / Clifton Fine Art

Interview: Tom White

By jack bray, Thursday Aug 24, 2017

Bristol artist Tom White will be one of the many talents showing and selling work at The Other Art Fair Bristol, at Arnolfini from September 1-3.

With his accomplished manipulation of light and shadow and his refined brushwork, Tom shows that the beauty and spirit of a city can be found everywhere: in its graffiti, pubs, rusting bridges, shopfronts and on its street corners. His painted snapshots of urban life highlight the otherwise overlooked details of a passing moment and celebrate the ever-changing façades of some of our best loved cities.

Here in Bristol, Tom has focused his attention on Stokes Croft, St  Paul’s, St Werburgh’s and other areas of central and east Bristol that might not normally find their way onto painters’ canvasses – but which, under Tom’s beautiful eye for detail and expert play of light and shadows (Vauxhall Bridge, detail, pictured), are shown to have their own unique qualities and urban atmospheres.

He says: “I tend to paint early in the morning, relying of low light and long shadows to amplify the beauty of the otherwise banal.”

What is it that attracts you to cityscapes, in particular?
My feeling is that what I’m trying to capture is the charisma and atmosphere of a place. I prefer cities with a grittier side as they have more atmosphere than a managed landscape. The humour of a city and its inhabitants comes through in its art, graffiti and the architecture, something that doesn’t come through in a rural setting.

Works like Blue Sky, Third Eye (detail, pictured below) and Early Spring all depict life in and around Stokes Croft. What attracts you to this part of the city?
When I first started painting Bristol about 10 years ago, my first project was in conjunction with a charitable organisation called Second Step, whose work includes helping people with addiction, mental health and housing difficulties.
The success of that first venture proved there was a market for that style of painting, illustrating the grittier side of the city, so that has become a major focus for my painting practise. Stokes Croft, Montpelier, St Paul’s: things change there every day – the graffiti, the people, the shadows, it’s a vibrant place and the essence of Bristol is there. I like Shoreditch, Hackney and Bethnal Green in London for the same reasons. It’s not the whole city by any means, but not all of the city has that sense of character.

‘Third Eye’ (detail)

And who are your own artistic influences?
I’ve gotten to know a lot of graffiti artists through my art as a lot of them are very pleased to see their works represented in my oil paintings. They influence my work in turn: it goes full circle. I also like Lowry and I’ve got a real soft spot for Edward Hopper, like him I include a lot of solitary figures – or no figures at all – in my cityscapes. My work is also fairly photo-realistic so I also like artists like Richard Estes.

What made you want to be a part of The Other Art Fair?
They’re a good crowd to deal with. I get to do a lot of art fairs as a gallery and two things I like about TOAF are: I can show my work on its own; and they’re such an easy crowd to deal with. I also like the fact that they pick fantastic locations: it will be a privilege to show my work at Arnolfini. The London venues are fantastic as well.

‘No One is Illegal’

Which artists would you like to see represented at the Fair?
In Bristol, I have a soft spot for street artists like Rowdy and Alex Lucas, and I’m trying to get them represented at the Fair. Jamie Gilman would go down well: we are representing him at the Affordable Art Fair later this year.

And what is it about Bristol as a whole that you feel attracts artists?
I think there’s an appreciation of art that you don’t necessarily get in more manicured parts of the city. Since I’ve owned galleries, I’ve noticed that people will go out of the way to come to see art, they will give it a chance and the benefit of the doubt and if they like it they’ll support you. There’s a receptiveness to art in this city that there isn’t in other places like, say, Birmingham for example.There’s a support and a positivity here. That’s what’s inspired graffiti artists to do so much work here.

See works by Tom White and many others at The Other Art Fair Bristol from Aug 1-3. For more info, visit bristol.theotherartfair.com

Find more of Tom’s artwork at cliftonfineart.com/artist/tom-white

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