The Sleepers | Tom Worsfold

The Sleepers
Tom Worsfold

17th September – 12th December 2020

Exhibition essay by Sean Burns: read here

The Sleepers is an exhibition of new paintings by Tom Worsfold, extending the artist’s focus on the body as site but here articulated through a new approach to materiality.

The works are painted on raw flax – a conscious departure from the smooth imagism of previous paintings. Luminous surfaces are carefully built up in layers of acrylic paint, disturbed by the visual noise of the linen support. Enchanted by the rough and grainy fabric, Worsfold has developed more simplified compositional structures, depicting monumental and melancholic figures that gaze through muted, hazy tones downward at their sculpted bodies and inward at their hollow selves.

The works draw on the ways media narratives render the body as a project to be continually worked on. The figures in Worsfold’s new paintings, however, express a sense of anxiety and alienation that is not merely a 21st century condition. The blind, existential figures that occupy his new works seem to dwell outside of time, gazing, pouting and unable to reach one another despite their close proximity.

Conceived through what Worsfold describes as ‘the approximate nature of drawing’, the paintings emerge unplanned, revealing figures and forms drawn directly from his imagination with inherent irregularities committed to during the working process. The artist’s subjects arrive out of a hallucinatory logic, with their anatomies becoming distorted, inflated and segmented. Fragments of bodies serve as proxies for techno-psychosomatic experience and clone-like avatars are substitutes for self-portraits, inscribing the self as other or automaton. Enigmatic and poetic, the paintings in The Sleepers require a deep and sustained looking.

Tom Worsfold (b. 1990, Cambridge) is an artist and Fine Art tutor, currently based in London. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools and the Slade School of Fine Art and has exhibited widely across the UK and internationally, including: Castor Projects, Carlos/Ishikawa, Recent Activity, Mackintosh Lane, Assembly House, Space K, Spike Island and more.