“I want my work to make the viewer consider what they are being asked about painting, what visual language is, how we assimilate signs and ultimately how we build our identities.”
- Tommy Ramsay
what was your childhood like and who/what were your early art influences?
I spent a lot of time drawing, making sculptures out of cardboard and playing football at Catford Pitts and tennis in Hilly Fields. Both of my parents are painters and taught at CSM and the RCA and as such there where always a lot of artist books lying around. From childhood to my late teenage years I would say my favourite artists were Richard Diebenkorn, Patrick Caulfield, Rothko, Matisse, Raoul de Keyser, Thomas Nozkowski, Guston, Brice Marden and most of the Ab-Ex artist. Music was also a heavy influence, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen in particular.
can you tell us about your workspace/studio and local creative community?
I am currently in a friends studio until early September just of Ridley Road Market in Dalston. I will be moving to Thameside studios in October which I am really looking forward to.
What type of work do you make and what mediums do you use?
Currently I am working across multiple disciplines on a small scale. I am making paintings, ceramics, 3D printing, casting and screen printing.
Can you describe some themes which run through your work?
I am interested in how we encounter painting and the image. The cliched image interests me. My reading of the cliché is as an image that once triggered a heartfelt response but through overuse has lost its original content and power. We now experience clichés as a loss but with a hint of this previously received emotional content. I want to give these images or emotions back the significance and power which they once held. I feel they have lost their fundamental load. I am interested in how we experience this content and when it slips into a real feeling.
A theme that runs throughout the work is a questioning of materiality. How does the materiality of an object affect how it is consumed. How does a clothes peg or a key register if it is spray painted on a canvas, painted on a canvas, or 3D printed or cast or screen printed. How does a line feel if it is painted slowly with a small brush to how it feels if it is painted quickly? These are questions around the notion of 'aura' and of the hierarchies we have learnt to decode and read in visual culture.
Using the wall as another surface opens up the potentials of how a space and an artwork join. The idea of working in the multiple has been rooted in many things. One of which is to move the most intense focus off the individual painting and into the situation of the painting, to its neighbours and context and how each painting works to form or to suggest a narrative.
One of the fundamental aims in my work is to other parts or sentences of a story to the viewer, but to allow enough space for them to enter into the work and to create their own reference points and journey. In many ways I feel that the format of the multiple really facilitates this as there are so many ways of entering and moving through the work.
I want my work to make the viewer consider what they are being asked about painting, what visual language is, how we assimilate signs and ultimately how we build our identities.
How has your work developed and changed over the past few years?
I have just recently graduated from the painting MA course at the Royal College of Art. During these two years, my work has changed considerably. I came to the course making medium-large semi abstract paintings of what Marc Auge calls 'non-places' (places/spaces we pass through in transit but do not "experience" empirically). I finished the course with an entirely new container for my work in the format of the multiple. The work is now more concerned with the question of what the body of painting is, questioning the hierarchies within visual culture/language, how we read an image and the possibility of identity.
Do you have any rituals or a routine when it comes to creating your work?
At the moment I am using only 20 x 25 cm canvases and the first layer of paint tends to be poured. I also can't start work if the studio is a mess!
Can you tell us about another artist whose practice you admire, do they influence your own?
There are so many, to name a few: Vija Clemens - in particular the emotive tactility of the spider web paintings and drawings, Monika Baer's work, R.H. Quaytman's screen prints and installation, Jutta Koether, Ian Kaier's work and installs, Ron Nagle's ceramics and mixing of 'low' and 'high' reference points and materials and Caulfield and Raoul De Keyser are still there for me too.
How do you define the role of an artist?
I think this definition is different for everyone. I would say that I hope to make a space for someone to enter and to question the constructs around them. I guess ultimately to offer a space for change.
Do you have a job which sustains your art practice, what is it how does it effect your art?
I've previously worked as head tech and registrar at Campori Presti gallery. I am currently working as an art tech/handler. The work can be fun but it depends very much on the type of client and work that you are installing/packing. The higher the value of the work the more stressful the job tends to be!
What are you up to when you’re not working or making art?
Having fun - playing or going to see shows.
Who/what inspires you day-to-day?
I think my parents are a big inspiration. They are both getting on a bit but are still fully invested in their work in different ways. My dad has been making the same, beautiful constellation paintings for around a decade whereas my mum is constantly searching and looking to expand the language in her work.
Anything exciting you’re currently working on?
I am working on a new multiple at the moment, with similar themes but looking for more variety in the surfaces and 'temperatures' of the work.