Tom Jean Webb is inspired by the lands of the American West and South West and adding his own sense of surreal and imagined. Born in 1982, the artist studied Fine Art at Kingston University and lives in Austin, Texas.
How did you get into art?
For as long as I can remember Ive been drawing and making something. To this day, when I visit home one of the first things my mum will say is ‘right, what shall we make’. Art and craft were always a huge part of my upbringing and most days revolved around this in one way or another.
I feel I developed in art early as means to express myself as I struggled in ways others didn’t. When I would sit and draw, I could I could exist in places I took myself to.
Eventually it got the the point where I wanted to go to these places I would create, to use my work as means to travel and experience, to allow that to influence my work back. To start and real dialogue between the imagined and the reality, to see what this and I could achieve.
How would you describe your style? What makes your work special?
There’s an ordered dreaminess to my paintings. The solitary figures, lonely landscapes, and palette lend a certain romance, a definitive line which surround everything in the images, from stones to mesas to snakes, make the individual elements in the paintings look like pieces in a puzzle. Theres a developed idea of investigating the use of space, specifically how to create room for an unknown or unforeseen in an artwork. To create work that allows someone to find room to breathe, to participate and discover. I want to offer a window or moment into space, a space that can speak through the process of absence, a voice through silence. That in a song it’s the silent moments that offers the sound.
How do you go about developing your work?
All my work can be brought back to the same process I adopted as a child, a love of drawing and sketching. I sit and play with ideas at its origin on paper. I keep this library of ideas with me on show, pinning them onto a wall in a section of my studio. It allows me to map ideas and see where my mind is heading, to see what the story Im trying to tell is or how ideas can merge or have relationships. I like trying to give myself enough space to see my work, to have a healthy balance of production and analysis, allowing room for considered decision making as well spontaneous or instinctive creation. I see each work as a step to the next work, so that each piece is both a part of the process and the result of a process.
Who or what influences you?
Anywhere with silence, fresh air and clean light. Somewhere where I have room to walk, to breath and think. Walking is important it me, I find it meditative but also there’s something magical about moving around nature. The connection of travel via our bodies through a natural landscape is so simple and yet fulfilling, the sound of steps on the ground, the relationships of plants, the colors under sunlight and the ability to see for miles. I love that here in America there’s so much scope to travel and discovery, the land here is so beautiful and has so much to offer. For inspiration I like the desert landscapes, the balance of the beauty and harshness is magical. It appears subtle and yet when you stop to look you can see so much happening, how all these beautiful colors start to appear and how they change at different times of the day. A big influence is an investigation into the idea of play. To develop my idea of intuitive play to materials and moment, how to create an ability to be present enough to respond to ideas and creativity in the moment.
Make us curious. What is planned next?
Im very excited about a new sculpture series. This new series started with an interest in the idea of space that exists in my paintings. How lines on a canvas tell a story, these lines ask a viewer to believe in this implied space. I use the rich history of landscape painting to play with these ideas of space, landscapes inspired by real journeys into the lands of the American West and South West, adding my own sense of surreal and imagined.
These sculptures are an exercise in taking this new version I have created and sending it back into the ‘real’ landscape, a continuation of the dialogue I am having with the landscape through my art practice. Creating a physical painting, framed by the viewers eyes. A work where the space around the sculpture is as important as the object itself, one is to look through not just at and ultimately take in the beauty that surrounds the sculptures.
The final versions are to be made out of steel and colored acrylic, standing 10 feet tall. I currently have 3 in production for sites in Texas and California.