Interview with MiAL Artist Tommy Ramsey

Tommy Grande

“I would like to open up for the viewer a space where time is slowed down and experiences evoked in my paintings are re-triggered in their daily life”

Tommy Ramsay graduated from BA Fine Art  at Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2012. His work is huge in scale, dramatically altering the viewer’s perceptions of space and their surroundings. Taking natural or man made marks or signs of wear that are usually overlooked, he represents the details of these on such a scale that they become abstracted and also celebrated.

Ramsay’s work looks into everyday, common spaces. These spaces can be in his immediate surroundings, such as the studio, but, they can also be ‘non-places’; places, which are part of our daily commute, and are not experienced as places, but once looked at, often have a remarkable oddness and offer up much to investigate.

What brought you to Chelsea and how will you remember your time there?

I will remember my time at Chelsea fondly. I found that it is a course that prepares you for the future in a realistic way. I say this, as the structure of the Fine Art course at Chelsea teaches students that they need to be self moti­vated. This is a good idea, as if you are serious about becoming an artist then you must learn to work without supervision or encouragement.

Your work is focused on your physical surroundings, where else do you look for inspiration?

Books which have been particularly interesting for me recently have been Baurdrillard’s Sim­ulations and Marc Auge’s Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermoder­nity as well as various works by George Perec, Italo Calvino and various texts from Henri Lefebvre and James Elkins.
Music is a big part of my life, my work has drawn direct inspiration from artists such as Mink DeVille, Bruce Springsteen (in particular the lyrics and atmosphere of the Ghost of Tom Joad album) and Bob Dylan.
Art is a main source of inspiration. Some of my current favourites are Josephine Halvorson, Thomas Nozkowski, Shiraez Houshiary’s paint­ing’s, Raoul De Keyser, Richard Diebenkorn, Georigio de Chirico and Girogio Morandi.

‘Dry Lightning’ Original Painting Oil on Canvas 178 x 152 cm  £1,600

What is your working process? 

I have found that I need to vary my processes every so often in order to feel that I am mov­ing forwards. This year I have changed tack slightly. I have worked directly from object/space onto canvas, but I find that working from my own photographs allows for more time and slower decision making. I often do a lot sketches before starting work, often working out my ideas in small canvases before moving onto a larger scale if necessary.

Your paintings give new significance to things that are often overlooked, what started this interest and is it part of a wider statement?

I feel that in our present society time and the awareness of its passing is always hard to grasp. The structure of our daily life promotes a fast pace of living. Even our communication with other people seems to often point to the future- how often do you see people together both on their phones, the point of communication is often in a different time or place. I feel that painting opens up a space in which we can be offered the chance for a different way of seeing and living.
My work looks at everyday, common spaces. I address these anonymous spaces within the everyday and wish to enliven their facelessness with some potential for confronta­tion with issues of time, looking and interpretation or even just a pause. I would like to open up for the viewer a space where time is slowed down and experiences evoked in my paintings are re-triggered in their daily life. I often feel that one of the main objectives of my work is to remind the viewer of time, its effect and to try to keep hold of a few fragments of moments, to cause something to remain before it gets washed into a non-existence of information.

From speaking to you and seeing your work we found ourselves looking at the world around us very differently. Do you find it’s changed your view of things? 

I am very pleased to hear that, as I always hope that having seen my work, the viewer will find themselves noticing these types of situations. I find that whatever I do I am always on the lookout for these ambiguities. These details are generally chance markings or patterns on walls, they can be human residue, like tea stains, they can also be natural, like the wearing of time on a particular area.

These incidents can interest me for many reasons, be it the light, the colours, the shape, the texture or the ambiguity of the space. This is partly as these markings, once painted have a duality as autonomous markings and painterly marking.