In the Sunshine We All Cast the Same Shadows

  • Bristol 24/7 Interview

    Art: Countering hate through art

    Jess Connett, March 9, 2017

    Thomas Dowdeswell is a Bristol-based artist who describes creating work as a “pure form of addiction”. He has a degree in American Studies, and much of his work has a political theme. His latest project, In Sunshine We All Cast The Same Shadows, is a response to recent unsettling global events, including the war in Syria and subsequent migrant crisis, post-Brexit Britain, and the Trump administration and its controversial policies. Thomas explained the project to Bristol24/7, and spoke about where his love of art was born.

    What was the inspiration for #sameshadows?

    The #sameshadows project was born out of a deep frustration at all the racism and bigotry which seems to be taking a hold on a frightened society. It is easy to feel helpless in a time of uncertainty and potential dislocation. The project is a simple, small-scale way of trying to get people to respect one another and also themselves.

    I am sending out a postcard-sized copy of one of my paintings, ‘We All Cast the Same Shadows’, to an anonymous but specially selected address each day, alongside with a simple message about respecting other people, animals and the planet for a more positive future. I have sent postcards to Downing Street, the statistcally poorest part of the UK, the richest, the place with the largest Muslim population, the head of UKIP, along with many others. It is a simple, year-long project to raise hope.

    What has the reaction to the project been so far?

    The reaction has been good.  People love the image and the concept, and have been very positive about the messages of unity, brotherhood and sisterhood from all walks of life.  However, I think there is a deep-seated reserve in Britain which has so far tempered more in-depth debate. This is important in itself, and makes me wonder about the people who have received these postcards: have they stuck them on their refrigerator? Have they been given to a friend or thrown away? If people want to contact me off the back of receiving the postcard and start conversation, that’s great; if they don’t, then at least I hope they enjoy the artwork.

    The project will run from January 19, 2017 – January 18, 2018: spanning Trump’s first year in office.

    Thomas’ painting, We All Cast The Same Shadows

    What is it about art that inspires you?

    I grew up in Northamptonshire, and all my family were directly or indirectly involved in the shoe- and boot-making industry.  The house I spent my early years in used to be the old Police station, and my sisters and I were convinced that the hallway and stairs were haunted.  My father collected antiques, so we were surrounded by gramophones, picture vinyl records, guitars and old furniture. Both my parents and grandma painted, and I remember the walls of the house being adorned by impressionist and German expressionist prints.

    Art was always around me, but I didn’t start to create seriously until my mid 20s. It is a pure form of addiction to me now: I am obsessed with creating, and everyday I work on multiple projects. There is often a social and political background to my work, though I do try to lighten this up when necessary. Art can become very serious and it doesn’t have to be – it needs to be accessible and fun and thought-provoking.

     

    Follow the #sameshadows project on twitter, and read Thomas’ blog for monthly progress 

  • A New Method. A Fresh Approach

    With some increased publicity the #sameshadows project is becoming popular as a concept but has so far gained no responses from the chosen, unknown addresses the postcards have been sent to. The lack of feedback from strangers at strange addresses is interesting feedback in itself and illicits a broad range of questions.  Are the postcards reaching their destinations?  Are they being read?   Can people read my handwriting?  Are people afraid to voice their opinions to anyone, in particular a stranger?   Do they think it's a joke?  Have they forgotten to respond because their lives are too busy? Do they have nothing to say? Do they have too much to say that they don't know where to start?   Have they thrown the postcard away or is it pinned to their fridge door?  Is this the quiet, disenfranchised apathy that has allowed the politics of the right to rise once more to prominence? Can we motivate people to believe and talk again?  

    It has made me think that the content of the postcard is too formal and perhaps too rigid.  Perhaps too wordy and political and I understand that this coulld be off putting.  This combined with the fact that these strngers have no idea who I am could understandably silence otherwise chatty voices.  

    It has made me re-evaluate the project and re-assess its purpose.  I am changing the text on the reverse making it more concise and have removed the section asking for peoples opinions to be e-mailed across.   The text will now be a short paragraph of what I believe in.  My e-mail and website are still on the reverse and if people want to get in touch that is great but I realise it is not essential. From now on the postcards will read as follows:

    Dear Human Being,

    I hope you are well.   

    The current suspicion, hate and division in the world will lead to war and madness.  Stand together for the good of all women, children, men, animals and plants.  Respect others. Respect yourself. 

    Thanks

    Thomas

  • An Unusual Week

    Well it's been just over a week since the #sameshadows project commenced and ten days since the sweaty toothed madman was inauguarated.  It has been a week that has definitely had its moments. That much I'm sure we can all agree upon. 

    The first week of the show!  The 21st Century's Sex, Lies and Videotape.  Videotape rolling 'til it snaps. Give the old bugger his dues he's stuck to his guns, laying bricks and taking registers and reassuring his little diminions.  But still through the misty fog of walls and prejudice, bigotry and small-mindedness and all too quickly penned executive orders there have been a lot of positives shining behind this.  

    Hundreds of thousands of people have come together across the globe and lined the streets. Strangers hand in hand with strangers for the common belief that together we are more powerful in the face of extreme adversity.  United in our dissaffection we can make a stand.  Banners and placards and enraged voices cry that these are not our beliefs.  Woman, child and man of all colours, faiths, shapes, sizes and distinctions scream that this is not the righteous path. This is not the way.

    Hand in hand. From the remotest couuntry lane to the crossroads of the most congested city street we must endeavour to pursue justice and render any alternative fact as limp and obsolete.  We must not waver in our fight to protect freedom, equality, justice and forgiveness.  We must not back down even in the face of the greatest injustice. This is not a fight that will be won overnight.  This is not a fight that will be bloodless and easy.  But it is a clear fight.  A fight between the dividing lines of good and evil. Of humanity and despotisim.  Between right and wrong.  

    To all the good people. Be you young or old, rich or poor, black, white, yellow, blue or brown. Be you any shape, size, sex, faith or other alternative distinction remember that we have power in numbers. We have the power of our voices and our legs and our fists if we need them.   As long as we stand together and chip away at the foundations of hatred and intolerance then we will be victorious.  The foundations of those naive enough to abuse their power are brittle because they are bult upon fear, ignorance and discrimination and they cannot eclipse the greatest, most enduring democratic facets or humanity, reason, freedom of speech, progress, love and hope.  Embrace all your neighbours, all your brothers and sisters. Do not forget that we have travelled down this dark path before and it did not lead us towards salvation.  Rather it led us towards the edge of destruction.  

    When the sun rises above the horizon of alternative facts it remains true and impossible to ignore the fact that We All Cast the Same Shadows. 

  • The first of the postcards are sent...

    The first of the postcards are sent...

    One postcard is sent to a chosen but anonymous address each day asking for feedback on Brexit Britain, Trump and the New World Order.  

    #sameshadows

  • In the Sunshine we all Cast the Same Shadows.

    Recent global events including Brexit, the US election of Donal Trump, the horrific and seemingly endless war in Syria, the migrant crisis, single and multi-cell terrorist attacks across the globe, the rise of right wing agendas, the burgeoning gap between rich and poor, brutal racist and sexist attacks, rising temperatures and sea levels and the bigoted rule of frightened old, rich white men have left society reeling.  We have left the war torn, disease ridden but somewhat ordered state of the 20th century far behind and entered a 21st Century which is overpopulated, divided and on a collision course with disaster.  How has the human race imagined itself into such a dire state of affairs? Are we really so divided or are we just led to believe we are by the mass media and social media?  Most importantly can we reconcile our differences and find positive solutions to our grievances?

    I believe that buried beneath the buzzwords of bigotry and hatred there is a deep seated unity between people from all walks of life.  This simple, low key, year-long art project aims to make people think about those who they live amongst and live around but may never have stopped to think what there lives are like.  Each day for one year from the 19th January 2017 to the 19th January 2018 I will send a postcard of my painting 'We All Cast the Same Shadows' to an unknown address in the UK.  It will contain the same message on each postcard:

    Dear Human Being,

    I don't know you and you don't know me.  We are perfect strangers.

    I hope it is a pleasure to receive something in the post which isn't a bill or junk mail.

    This is an art project. I am sending an anonymous postcard to a chosen, unknown address each day for 365 days from the 19th january 2017.  

    I would like your thoughts on Brexit Britain, Trump and the New World Order.

    We live in uncertain times. Times of change, of threat, of fear, of the unknown.

    But it is a beautiful world, full of wonderful people from all walks of life and I believe we can heal these divisive wounds. 

    Please e-mail me your thoughts.

    All comments are published anonymously.  Your name and address will also be kept private. 

    Many thanks 

    Thomas W. Dowdeswell