An interview with acclaimed artist, Tom Hammick who recently donated the use of his print ‘Violetta and Alfredo’s Escape’ for the front cover of Issue 14 of Pushing Out the Boat.
Where are you based?
I live in East Sussex, which is where my painting studio is but I also have a print one in London. I travel quite a bit too, including to Aberdeen where I’m currently working on a new project called Lunar Voyage at Peacock Visual Arts. It’s a series of 14 or so woodcuts about a journey of self-discovery – my studio isn’t big enough to accommodate each woodcut but Peacock has the equipment required, and the skilled master printmakers to go with it! I also really enjoy spending time in the North East, so it works out well.
Tell us about your career, how did it all begin?
My mother was a poet, now a novelist, and my Dad a bookseller who collected art. Both were very creative so we talked about art, literature and ideas a lot. Because of this, I’ve been aware and interested in it from an early age.
My Godmother Cathy Lee, who was married to Laurie Lee, used to take me to The National Gallery in London each holiday which really cultivated my passion for painting. I started to write about art for the school magazine and it was a natural progression for me to study and therefore graduate with a degree in Art History from the University of Manchester. Though, throughout my time as a student, I was always drawing.
After university, I got a job as a Stonemason which fulfilled a ‘romantic passion’, but probably little else! I still wanted to paint so I went back to study at Camberwell, this time as a mature student, in Fine Art and an MA in Printmaking. Whilst studying, I was lucky to secure an exchange placement in Nova Scotia in Canada. I completely fell in love with the outdoors and the edginess of wilderness. Canada is so epically vast – I find the wild and the sense of the unknown charged with wonderment. It’s with these experiences that I’ve since realised that my attachment to art comes, in part, from expressing what it is like to be human – a search for a way to make sense of living on Earth.
You also lecture in Fine Art, Painting and Printmaking – where do you find the time?
I love teaching; it’s incredibly important to me. It’s easy to get carried away with the ‘art world’ but lecturing keeps me grounded, it takes me back to the start of my own early life as an artist finding my way, finding my language, and keeps me in touch with what’s going on. It’s a privilege to teach. For many of my students it’s the first time they’ve been away from home and the whole experience – making new friends, finding where you fit and your own rhythm – can be quite jarring. I try, we all try as tutors, to give them stability & guidance & a bit of focus to support their individual visions.
As an artist who teaches art part time I think my role is to try and add fuel to the inner creative fire and give them what they need to grow throughout their three years at university before continuing their quest in the wider world.
Why did you donate your work to Pushing Out the Boat?
It’s such a fantastic magazine. Outlets such as POTB are incredibly important for supporting up-and-coming writers and artists, but above all else are essential for highlighting and enriching local culture. I’m a huge fan of literary publications and the work within POTB is of such high standard – it’s been a pleasure to be involved and work with the team.
What inspired the print?
I created Violetta and Alfredo’s Escape whilst I was in residency at ENO (English National Opera). It’s inspired by La Traviata, which is one of my favourite operas. In the scene, I’ve depicted a different ending from the tragic one we all know; the two lovers escaping the stringent morals of the bourgeois society which separated them to live a simple life.
In some ways life hasn’t changed much, especially in the UK, which is why art is so important. In a society that seems, once again, to be becoming socially rigid, art and the language of creative communication is essential in helping our young escape the trappings of their socio-economic backgrounds. Art is a great leveller.
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