IN CONVERSATION | URBAN LANDSCAPE PAINTER- TOM COX

11.08.20

“There’s always a place where you can make your building or your development stand out, and also connect to the local community by figuring out who is producing work that is relevant to that community, that speaks to that community, and then using their art to connect back to that area.”

-Tom Cox

Tom Cox established his reputation and gained widespread acclaim as an urban landscape painter and has been featured in the Evening Standard, The Guardian, Artists & Illustrators Magazine and more. In 2016 he established Focus LDN, a pop-up gallery exhibiting the work of emerging artists across London. In 2018 he orchestrated his first international exhibition in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Demand for his work grew and in 2019 he was tasked with a number of large scale commissions, whilst simultaneously being taken on by Select Gallery in Notting Hill. [tomcoxstudio.com]

What is your definition of studio space?

A creative box. A place where I can make a mess, that’s super important for me, and a place with good light. It’s sort of like a physical representation of my brain, because it has all the bits that I need to kind of explore my creativity.

Collaborative communal studio spaces are on the rise, do you believe this formula can work?

Well, we’re in a complex that has 60 Studios, with you know, musicians, artists, all different types of people, so it seems to be working! Sort of like the Wimbledon Art Studios has a couple hundred artists down there and that seems to work. I think there’s definitely good things that can happen when studios are all together. You can share ideas, you can organise shows with each other, and sort of cross-pollinate between different creative pathways, which is nice. So yeah, I do think it works. I think it’s actually really beneficial than if everyone was working on their own, in a sort of removed environment.

Do you think there’s any drawbacks, even minor ones? 

I mean, the only drawbacks are what you would get when like having housemates I suppose. Like, if someone doesn’t clean the kitchen or if you got like a guy who does music and they’re next door to someone who’s trying to do something else and they need to concentrate, that can be quite distracting. Luckily, I don’t have anyone too close to me making too much noise but I know that does happen.

Do you believe that London has an impact on your art?

Absolutely yeah. Mainly because I’ve spent the last five years painting scenes of London, so yes, definitely. It has an impact on my art because it’s my environment and I paint from life. I think also, I mean, it’s where I was born and raised and it’s got a massive selection of art museums and exhibiting opportunities. So I don’t know how far I would have gotten if I hadn’t been in London with my art career. 

Would you consider moving outside of London?

Um, Yes, I would. I spent three months in Brazil last year and that was great. I was organising a show with a friend in São Paulo and that was a really good experience. We had a great time just, you know, experiencing  a new culture with the way that they approached art and yeah, so I’m not limiting myself to London; in fact, I’d probably be ready for a break at some point in the near future once we get out of lockdown.

Do you think it would impact your work if you were to move out? 

Yes. I think it would, because I paint from observation  I think it would 100% change my work.

What do you think the future of studio space will look like?

The future of studio space? Well, unfortunately, it’s getting a bit expensive to be in the city centres. A lot of studio spaces in the last 10 years have kind of like been priced out of Central London. So I imagine them to be, as some already are, in these sorts of big combined studio spaces just outside the city centres. But yeah, I don’t know, I haven’t put too much thought into it. I think it also depends artist to artist.

As I get older and progress in my life, maybe I would want to have a home studio, just for convenience. But uh, yeah, I don’t know.  I think also as your career progresses, sometimes you want to get a massive industrial unit and make giant works and then you need to go beyond the smallish size units that you get in these communal spaces.

How do you believe we can ensure artists remain in London in the future?

I mean, affordability is important, but I think also you can add value to the studio spaces by making sure they have good events. So, for example, if the studio can’t be rented at these basement prices, because we’re in the centre of the city, then it’s important that the organisers or the managers of the venue are good at marketing, and that they put on open studios at least once or twice a year. It’s really important that they truly understand what they’re doing when it comes to organising events and that they utilise that central London space to get a real draw of people into the space so that the artists have more opportunities to sell their work and therefore are more likely to afford the space.

How do you think artists can collaborate and communicate with developers to try to maintain that cultural community that it’s known for?

Well, personally, I’ve worked with a few developers. And I mean there’s always these opportunities for artists commissions for like residential, foyers, office lobbies, things like that. There’s always a place where you can make your building or your development stand out, and also connect to the local community by figuring out who is producing work that is relevant to that community, that speaks to that community, and then using their art to connect back to that area.

And can you speak a little bit more about the work you did?

Yeah, I found a couple of corporate commissions last year and they really started to take off.

I produce these large scale paintings that I’ve been doing for James Taylor, who has been collecting my work for four or five years now. He is a developer and he’s recently built a very luxury residential development in Westbourne park in Notting Hill. I’m represented by a gallery there as well, but we’re now dealing directly with each other. I did a large painting for the foyer there and actually, we’re going to have a chat this week about hopefully doing an exhibition in the space when lockdown lifts.

I’ve done a lot of paintings of the local area, because like I said, I do a lot of London scenes, and I’ve done a whole series of Portabello paintings, and he wants me to show them in the space. It’s beneficial for him because as new people come into the space, they’re checking out the apartments, they’re seeing this like sort of creative/something different happening in the space, it’s going to hold their attention. And it’s massively beneficial for me because all these people are moving into the apartments, my stuff’s already in the foyer and they have the opportunity to furnish their new house basically. So it’s a win-win for our relationship.

I’ve also done stuff for an office of a project management company. I did a huge painting for their office lobby in Clerkenwell and yeah,  I’ve done a number of different sort of corporate commissions for office or residential sort of environments. When you can collaborate and when you can bring like the experience of an exhibition, not just to buy the artwork and put it on the wall, but buying artwork putting on the wall, and then me bringing my following down so they can see my development and connect it with this space or with this brand. 

I also do work with other brands as well. I’ve got an exhibition which has been postponed now but once locked down lifts, I’ll be doing something with a brand in Mayfair called Pringle of Scotland which is a luxury, high-end knitwear clothing brand. I’ll be showing my work in our store, again, putting on an event there. And, you know, I have the benefit of having access to their clients, they have the benefit of adding something interesting and different into their event space and giving them an excuse to drum up attention from their clients as well.