Tom Sowden is Research Fellow and academic lead for the Centre for Fine Print Research’s laser cutting area. His research is of direct benefit to artists, designers, makers and manufacturers helping them to develop ideas and bring new products to the marketplace through access to his research, digital prototyping, manufacturing, workshops, touring exhibitions, knowledge transfer, advice and CPD courses. Tom is also a key member of the teaching team for the MA Multi-disciplinary Printmaking course.
Tom completed a two-year AHRC funded research project with Sarah Bodman in early 2010 'In an arena including digital and traditional artists' publishing formats - what will be the canon for the artist's book in the 21st Century?' This major study was a responsive exploration with a collaborative, international audience of artists, academics, presses, publishers, curators, dealers, collectors and students involved in the field of artists books, in order to propose an inclusive structure for the academic study, artistic practice and historical appreciation of the artist's book. All published outcomes are online including, interviews, essays, conference papers, case studies and their manifesto for the book.
Tom also completed the AHRC funded project Paper Models: investigating Laser cutting technology to develop new artists’ books and paper based creative practice for arts, crafts and design in 2011. A study into the long-term potential of laser cutting technology for artists. Artists often adapt industrial and digital technologies to work with creatively, as evidenced by the use of digital printing, to create artists' books and prints. This project explored new methodologies for artists' creative production methods and the potential of the laser cutter as a tool for artists working with the book form and paper-based work.
Tom is also Art Editor for the Artist’s Book Yearbook and The Blue Notebook.
For the last six years he has also been collecting artists' books that reference, mimic, are made in homage to, or just completely rip-off the iconic books made by Ed Ruscha. To date he has a collection of over 70 books and is now collaborating on the project Follow-ed, with Michalis Pichler, another avid collector of Ruscha-esque books. They co-curated their first exhibitions of these books under the Follow-ed (after Hokusai) title at the Winchester Gallery, Winchester School of Art, in 2011. The show then toured to Arnolfini, Bristol under the title after hokusai (follow-ed) with a simultaneous show at gallery P74, in Ljubljana, then on to the Kunstbibliothek, Berlin. Alongside Tom’s conference paper ‘Follow-ed (after hokusai)’ at Impact 7 Printmaking Conference, Melbourne Australia last September, some examples of the direct tributes books were exhibited from the Follow-Ed (after Hokusai) touring exhibition at Monash University, Melbourne: from Louisa van Leer’s Fifteen Pornography Companies, to Hermann Zschiegner’s Thirtyfour Parking Lots on Google Earth, to more conceptual books: Doro Böhme and Eric Baskauskas’ Various Blank Pages, which presents all the blank pages from Nine Swimming Pools, Colored People, A Few Palm Trees and Various Small Fires.
The collection and quest for more books continues. Some of the books are obtained because they can see a link, not knowing if the artist has been consciously trying to replicate Ed Ruscha. Most of the books are direct references to the style or subject matter of Ruscha's originals. The one overriding factor is that they all contain an element of humour reminiscent of Ruscha, and they still get really excited with each new discovery. More shows of the books are planned for the 2013 itinerary.
Tom’s artistic practice involves a knowing but light-hearted approach that references and mimics the aspirational work of American conceptual artists from the 1960s and 1970s. Instead of sharing their utopian ideals, his approach is more to do with the commonplace concerns - for example commuting, walking in the park and supermarket shopping - whilst still alluding to systems and processes that artists such as Ed Ruscha and Lawrence Weiner employed. His work is playful, yet undercut with suggestions of futility and failure. He works across a number of disciplines, primarily with the artist’s book format and video but also sculpture, photography, drawing and printmaking. www.tomsowden.com.
Tom’s artists’ books are in a range of national and international public collections including: Tate Britain, Manchester Metropolitan University, Winchester School of Art, Camberwell College of Arts, University of Plymouth and Mills College, Oakland, USA, as well as private collections around the world.
2012 exhibitions include:
A Sense of Place in Artist’s Books, UMN, Minneapolis; 9th International Book Art Festival, Correspondence 2012-2014, Poland; Codex Event 8: Australian / British collaboration of pulp-printing, installation and artists’ books, Manly Library, NSW, Australia; Love British Books at the Museum of Art and Literature, Yerevan, Armenia.
A Selected Gallery of Tom's works
More information about Tom...
Click on the images below to view samples of Tom's work...