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Tony Blackmore

  • United Kingdom
  • Tony Blackmore is a visual artist living and working in Walthamstow, London. He graduated with a first-class BA (Hons) in Fine Art Sculpture from Kingston University in 1993 and an MA in Fine Art from the Wimbledon College of Art in 2013. He specialises in hand-folded reliefs made from drafting film and photographic lighting gels. Light is very important in his work, with the work changing depending on how the light hits it and where you view it from-almost like an optical illusion. He describes his work as sensory and has been told that people have described feeling a sense of calmness when looking at his work. During his formative years, Tony made sculptures out of materials that wouldn’t typically be used for art, such as cotton wool, Sellotape and palette wrap. One notable work is his UFO which he made from the carpet of a squat he lived in whilst he was studying and shredded. He was inspired by Henry Moore’s ‘Truth to Materials' and wanted to transform materials and make ‘alien-like’ sculptures. Shortly after finishing art school, Tony moved to Hong Kong, where he lived for five years working as an art and English tutor. During this time, he also travelled around South East Asia, which he said massively impacted his art practice and perspective of the world. Whilst in Hong Kong, he did a lot of photography, taking pictures of rubbish and traffic, and he also started making photomontages. Upon returning to London, he worked at the British Museum for a while and then moved to Cyprus to do a post-graduate diploma at Cyprus School of Art. During this time, he collected thousands of water bottles and shredded these, forming a giant recycled eco-sculpture. He also photographed piles of construction waste which had been left in the landscape, which he later presented as a collection of slides in a lightbox. Around 2009, he began to make the kind of work that he makes now- hand-folded reliefs. When asked to describe his medium and process, he explains ‘ I create folded reliefs created with drafting film, a film traditionally used for architectural drawings, using a process of drawing, scoring and folding with just a single sheet. Typically, the compositions are derived from constructive interference or moire patterns where I vary the curvature and spacing of the lines that cross over each other to form the background compositions. I have also created a large number using grids based on the first few numbers of the Fibonacci sequence 1, 1, 2 , 3 as a starting point.’ ‘More recently I have used colour using the primary colours as a starting point. The reliefs are created from a process of folding, layering and stitching together layers of photographic lighting gels. These are capped with the same type of drafting film. I enjoy the discipline that’s required in the making of these reliefs. The creative process of drawing, scoring and folding is akin to a form of meditation, and I find myself totally absorbed for hours at a time. There is always an element of surprise that I find hugely rewarding when a final relief form emerges.’ He emphasises that the process of making the work is very important to him. Though Tony is a Buddhist, meditation isn’t typically involved in the branch of Buddhism he practices, though he says his faith definitely influences his work. Conceptually, Buddhism says that there are always two sides and perspectives of something, and this is reflected in how Tony’s work changes when looked at from another perspective. He also explains how when he draws lines, for example, he is practising mindfulness with every line and the concepts of ‘oneness and environment’ and discipline also impact how he makes the work. The type of Buddhism that Tony practices, the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin, focuses on reaching your potential, which is what initially attracted him to it. He described how miraculously, within the first 3 months of practising Buddhism, he met his husband, got a part-time job which allowed him to focus on his art practice, and started making his paper fold artworks. Tony became a full-time artist in 2018 after his work was featured in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. He describes this as his lucky break, selling the entire contents of his studio as a result and being spotted by Cube Gallery, who now represent him, enabling him to show and sell his work at fairs as well as in their gallery. After folding and creating the works and in order to frame them, Tony has to carefully hand-drill a backing board, on which he sews the artwork using transparent fluorocarbon thread; an extremely delicate and intricate process. He says this may have been in part connected to the fact his mother was a seamstress and he used to watch her sew as a child. Tony also explains that he studied maths and physics in the past, and his interest in this along with light undoubtedly influence his work. He explains ‘The single matt drafting film has a unique translucent quality and sheen that when folded creates reflects and absorbs the light in a remarkable manner whereby the faceted planes appear to shift in depth and shape depending on the angle and type of light. This illusion is exaggerated further with the movement of the viewer when different patterns are discernible depending on the angle from which they are viewed.’ When asked to give advice to budding artists and craftspeople, Tony says ‘Focus on making your ideas as best as they can be. Using a task-based approach, don’t leave the studio until it’s completed. This is far better than a time-based approach, what with the tempting distractions of social media. It’s important to remember that making art, whether you’re able to sell it or not, is one of the best things you can do, as it can enrich the quality and richness of life for so many others.’ Thank you so much Tony for your time! You can see more of Tony’s work on his Instagram @tonyblackmoreart