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Tom Sewell

Tom is an artist living and working in London. He's been a friend of HERESY for a fair few years and his work is some of our favourite out there. Recently he was kind enough to answer some questions for us:

Rural, folkloric, psychedelic, do you feel comfortable with any of those words to describe your work?

I’m not sure. Rural places are important, nature needs to be itself. But the term has a sort of pastoral, or bucolic association and I think nature might be more transgressive, weird, aggressive and uncontrollable than that.

Folklore is something I do have an abiding interest in, and it is an important mechanism for learning to connect with the places, landscapes and cultures that we are all bound to. A narrative history of these places, as activated by folklore, can only help to deepen our connection to the fictional and non-fictional places we inhabit and the beings we share them with: whether they be plant, animal human, or non-human.

Psychedelic is more problematic for me, partly because I would question the implication of transcendence within a material universe and psychedelic could imply some implication of otherness or escapism which is a bit of cop out and also because of the way the word is used in our contemporary culture. It has been co-opted by a larger (consumerist) culture and used to deploy a set of not very interesting tropes and used, by association, to allow the psychedelic person or work to be trivialised as ‘hippy’ or ’new age'. I’m interested in ideas from those cultures but I’m aiming for more than that.

Your practice has always been quite varied, with your last show focusing more heavily on sculptural works, does this feel like a transition or will drawing and print remain central to what you make? Your recent work seems to be based around using found materials, is this method site specific or something you have a continuing engagement with?

I’m still finding where to go. I make what I need to express the ideas I’m working with; right now sculpture allows me to engage with natural materials and learn about the physicality of making. There’s pragmatic reasons for making with found materials in a site specific way and that is partly to do with the space available to make work in London. I can only afford a small studio so I can’t accrue material and construct things that are permanent. I’m not interested in selling and fuelling the art market. I often only have limited time to make the work so being able to turn up somewhere and respond to that place is a practical

solution. But it also talks to the ways I feel it is important to live. To not consider the work as independent from the place it is shown. Humans are bound in the world with all the other things in the world, my art is partly an attempt to be with the world in the place where the world is; which is wherever, or everywhere.

Your new work uses perishable materials, like fruit. How do you feel about the quick decay of this work in comparison to prints that can last indefinitely?

Much better. I have artworks and objects in my studio that will last forever and I feel a sort of queasy responsibility towards them. With all we are currently understanding about the climate crisis, mass extinction and ecological collapse, trying to find a kinder, more gentle and sustainable material practice is high on my list of priorities. We need to rapidly and dramatically alter the entire material properties of everything in our lives in to a sustainable and circular mode. The least I can do as an artist is offer one way to do that; to use materials that will rot, that will decay, that will easily return to where they came from: nature.

Monolithic/pagan stuff seems to be having a bit of a moment, we know this kind of stuff has existed in your work for a long time now, how do you feel about this surge in popularity?

Popularity is cool, but being cool is not cool. I hope it’s popular and not just cool. If people are moved to engage with the stories of how our ancestors lived and connected to nature and use their understanding to change their lives in to a more radically nature-oriented and post-capitalist direction then that would be very, very cool.

What's your go-to folkloric bit/secret/tale/fact?

I was told that you must crush up your empty eggshells to prevent witches from using them as boats, sailing to sea and causing trouble for mariners. But witches have been given a pretty horrific time over the last few hundred years so probably let them have your eggshells so they can sail away and find a better life.

Favourite pub, home + away?

Home: The Elderfield is my local and has the greatest barman of all time, Craig, who is a kind and gentle hero.

Away: The best pub I’ve ever been to (and sadly I’ve only been once) is the Square and Compass in Worth Matravers, Dorset. It has its own fossil museum attached with a stuffed bat hanging from the ceiling and overlooks the sea. The landlord also built a wooden replica of Stonehenge in the field next door.

Special mentions go to: The Ferryboat Inn on the Helford Passage in Cornwall for having the best view, the Well Parc Inn at Trevone for hosting the best New Year’s parties and the Auld Shelalegh for serving the best pint of Guinness in London.

Where is the most magic place in Britain?

There’s too many to choose. Silbury Hill is beyond incredible. Seeing The Hurlers stone circle in Cornwall emerge out of the mist of Bodmin Moor was truly special. Boleigh Fogou is worth a visit. As is Machrie Moor on the Isle of Arran. When I was in the highlands of Scotland I climbed up to the moors above Gare Loch to find a neolithic cup marked rock on the hillside above the Faslane nuclear submarine base, which was pretty weird and I wondered how the rock felt about being so close to catastrophe. On the walk down I came to a tiny, hidden gorge with a stream rushing out of it through a thin sheltered meadow down to meet the loch far below. Ferns, bracken, moss and grass filled the gorge and tree boughs and roots tangled over a small schist cliff. It felt timeless and for a few minutes I might as well have been there 4000 years ago. I guess there’s the potential for magic everywhere.

What are you excited about at the moment?

GOING TO ORKNEY!

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You can find more of Tom's work HERE, and his instagram feed HERE