In the studio with Tomo Campbell. Words by Ieva Jasinskaite

Your latest exhibition ‘Go On Then’ was recently on display at Cob Gallery. How do you feel your work has changed since the previous exhibition ‘There’ in 2018?

It’s been two and a half years I think between the two shows, so I think there have been quite practical changes to how I paint, I now work on coloured grounds instead of blank white, and I use printing techniques in the paintings now. I think it’s naturally evolving, but the fundamental ideas in the work have stayed the same. 

I am interested to know about your process. Do you mind talking about how it all comes together?

Ah not at all. When I have a show coming up, I tend to work on multiple paintings at once, to build them up together so that hopefully there’s a clear link running through the work. It’s important to me that the works feel like they’re ongoing, or overlapping with each other. In the show, I took that a little further by actually painting paintings that are in the show back onto other paintings in the show. The whole thing began to envelop itself.

 

What is your studio routine like? Do you have any rituals, are you painting every day?

My routine is very consistent, I arrive at 10 and leave by 6 every day, I eat the same thing from the same cafe every day, but I suppose that’s not really a ritual, it’s just a preference. The only thing that really changes each day is my mood.

Installation View, Tomo Campbell: Go On Then at Cob Gallery, London, Courtesy of the artist and Cob Gallery


How is the pandemic affecting how you work? Have you had moments when you found it difficult to progress, if so, how did you overcome them?

To tell you the truth, it hasn’t affected me like it has done to so many others, not physically by catching it or mentally by being in isolation. I’m still in my studio, as it’s just me by myself, and I suppose my work is not really influenced by outside forces. At the very start of the first lockdown I found it difficult to paint, it seemed a bit inappropriate to not adjust or recognise what’s happening in some way. So I stayed in and made drawings for a month.


You said elsewhere that you never have a preconceived idea of a painting, it happens in a moment. Since your work is so intuitive, are you ever surprised by the finished piece?

I kind of regret saying that. I do have an idea, but that idea always changes whilst I’m making the painting. I don’t start from nothing, I shift from one thing into another.


Your palette is distinctive and consistent throughout your practice, can you talk a little bit about the importance of colour in your work?

I don’t really think about it, I suppose now you’ve asked it that I would say that I choose colours and colour combinations that aren’t seen together in real life very often, I stay away from ‘realistic’ colour palettes. Maybe I like the idea of them being lifted out of that world, for the paintings to operate in their own space if that makes any sense. I think the colours I choose are there possibly to make the paintings freer.

Installation View, Tomo Campbell: Go On Then at Cob Gallery, London, Courtesy of the artist and Cob Gallery


I find the titles of your works and exhibitions interesting -- they almost sound like utterances heard in ordinary life: ‘Wait What’, ‘If All Goes Well’, ‘Here We Go Again’, ‘I’m Still Not Quite Sure What You’re Even On About’, ‘If You Know How To Get Here, Come’, etc. How do these titles come about?

They’re a mix of colloquial type sayings, things that have a nice meter of rhythm to them. Titling used to annoy me, people often make them too grandiose or ignore them altogether, so I like to operate in between that. A title of mine could read as nonsense small talk or because it’s a title for a painting, feel like it carries a little meaning with it.

 

Where do you turn to when searching for ideas? Although abstracted, there seem to be scenes depicted in your work; you talk about painting ‘traditional’ subjects such as hunting and parades. What is it about this subject matter that interests you and where do you find the source material?

I think scenes of people help with the idea of things overlapping and enveloping each other; I don’t want the works to be wholly abstract. I make collages mainly, from all sorts of materials, from photographs I’ve taken recently back to cave-like paintings. I think with painting people are always aware of history and time, so it’s quite nice to be able to make the work shift between different reference points to help with the overall sense of things being fluid and ongoing.


At what point in your creative process do you think about the viewer? What would you like the people who look at your work to experience, if anything?

In an exhibition, I’m more aware of it, more aware of how a viewer might walk through a gallery and what works they see in what order and how that might affect things. But not really in individual paintings.

Installation View, Tomo Campbell: Go On Then at Cob Gallery, London, Courtesy of the artist and Cob Gallery


When preparing for a show, do you aim to create a theme, with the paintings working together to create a certain narrative, or do the pieces act as standalone works?

Both, someone once described it as different stanzas of the same poem. Which, whilst being quite a wanky thing to say, does actually make a lot of sense in relation to your question. 


You mentioned you are potentially planning to take an extended amount of time in the coming year to fully evolve your practice. How do you see your practice progressing? Are there any new processes or materials you are planning to explore?

I’m not entirely sure yet, I often get an idea and make a leap forward in how I go about making a painting, and then I don’t feel comfortable with the change being so drastic. It’s a little two steps forward, two steps back, a couple sideways etc.

 

You have two upcoming shows, one in Miami and one in Taipei. How does it feel to be reaching such a wide global audience?

It’ll depend on whether they like them. 

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Photos by Alex Zono