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.
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