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The Comedy of Errors

Art Works: Tomas by Gillian Lee Smith

27 August 11 words: Gillian Lee Smith

"The colours I use are always muted and aged; each piece has the look of something from a time gone by"

"Tomas likes nothing better than to walk for miles and miles through river and forest, over hills and stone walls, making new discoveries every day. There are ghostly moth wings and ancient fossilized branches that twist and turn into human-like forms and his home is filled with treasures found on these adventures.  On each journey, he leaves a trail of scattered acorns as a temporary reminder of the hours spent walking over unfamiliar paths."

Tomas is one of the most recent characters to appear from my home studio where I spend most of my working days. Since graduating from Edinburgh College of Art in 2006 with a degree in Performance Costume, I’ve been working as an almost full-time mixed media artist creating in paint, textiles and sculpture. My work is very much inspired by storytelling, characters, folk tales and childhood imaginations and memories, and my most recent characters have gradually developed from my drawings and paintings. I have been painting and drawing for a number of years but as the characters and stories began to take shape, so I wanted to bring them to life in a sculptural way.

Tomas is hand-sculpted out of air-drying clay, and is a quirky movable figurine with jointed limbs. Although it is impossible to resist playing with him, he is really happiest sitting quietly on a stack of vintage books where he is safest. He is part of a collection of work that I have been making for The Art of Childsplay, an exhibition at New Brewery Arts in Cirencester. Each character is hand-sculpted and painted and aged to look like an old toy, and has a unique story.

I have been making curious tiny jointed characters with dwelling places, long-limbed marionettes and melancholy souls with rabbit ears and wildflower gardens illustrated over their hearts. I love the process of making, the way a face appears from clay that is completely unique from the last character. The colours I use are always muted and aged; each piece has the look of something from a time gone by.

The majority of the week I am creating in my studio, either painting, drawing or sculpting - working towards exhibitions, craft fairs or gallery work but I also work a couple of days week co-coordinating a reminiscence project called Memories are made of this… where I visit care homes, day centres and community groups with groups of older people. This has also been an inspiration to my present work through the stories of childhood and play and also in that throughout our lives we have memories of places, people, objects and spaces that are particularly important to us and become such a strong part of our character. This is central to my artwork and each character, whether in a painting or a sculpture has a motif, a dwelling place or an image of nature that is a symbol of what is precious to them.

For the future I would love to look at ways of bringing my costume design skills into creating larger scale works that continue to explore the themes that are present in my current work – possibly for exhibitions or site specific work. I also have an ambition to be a resident artist somewhere/somehow and as a member of Design Factory based in the Midlands I hope that the perfect opportunity will present itself in the future. Although most often I am a hermit, working away in my studio in my own wee world I am always amazed at the wonderful opportunities that I am able to take part in as an artist and it is always interesting to go out into the world on occasion and chat to people about my work and see their response to it.

Gillian Lee Smith will be exhibiting Lustre at the Djanogly Gallery, 5-6 November

Gillian Lee Smith website

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