Opening this Saturday: Hastings born and bred multi-media artist, Thom Kofoed, is holding a solo exhibition of his latest work in the Crypt at St Mary in the Castle. ‘Untitled (Miss.Ms.Other)’ is an exploration of the artist’s connection with strong female icons – and his evolving understanding of what it means to be a woman. Zelly Restorick reports.
I met Thom Kofoed, now 30, when he was 13 and a pupil at William Parker Boys’ School. The school, and not least his three older brothers, were renowned for their sporting skills and abilities and it was assumed that Thom would be following in his brothers’ footsteps; but even at that young age, he was very much his own person and walked his own unique creative path.
Thom was – and is – a committed, determined artist, and over the years his style has morphed and evolved, so that he has learned many methods of expressing himself and conveying his message. The connecting theme in this exhibition is the exploration of what it is to be a woman: women’s influences, representations, role models, stereotypes, qualities. He is deeply drawn to strong women figures, those who have positively changed the world and had a major effect on his own life.
Thom has always had a desire to be remembered, for his existence not to be forgotten, to leave something of value and thoughtfulness as a representation of his time on earth. This exhibition is part of that journey.
‘Untitled (Miss.Ms.Other)’ : An exhibition by Thom Kofoed, St Mary in the Castle, 22 April – 28 May, 10am – 4pm.
Thom’s exhibition statement:
“I started making new work for this exhibition directly after Hillary Clinton lost the US Presidential Election in 2016.
“If Hillary Clinton was a man, running against Trump, the race for the White House would have been very different and when she lost, I felt a genuine sadness. It forced me to examine what I understood about gender and what I was doing to contribute to a wider discussion about feminism.
“The portrait of the writer and memoirist Joan Didion was the first piece I started work on. She writes about the grief she felt on losing her husband, about sadness and moving through pain. She also spent her career being unapologetically female.”
“The next piece was of Jackie Kennedy; it seemed like an obvious route to take. Her story merges with those of Clinton and Didion. She was unfairly battered by the media; she was a widow who openly and defiantly expressed her grief. Eventually she was silenced.
“Then it was Marilyn. And on, and on, and on.
“As a student, when I first began to take my own work seriously, I found that more often than not it was inspired by women and a feminine energy. I have always been surrounded by powerful, assured women in my life, and as a privileged white male it never really occurred to me that there were women in the world who felt they were not capable of doing things purely because of their gender. This exhibition is partly in response to that naiveté and that privilege. It’s something I will continue to work on in my art.
“The range of mediums in this exhibition isn’t intentional; I just try to make the work in the way it needs to be made. I’ve never necessarily felt I am a master of one medium, so it’s easy for me to allow the work to take its own form. I also feel it’s important for the viewers to have some sense of the kind of work that’s gone into a piece; I like to challenge myself with difficult and sometimes unfamiliar processes, which take time and energy and patience. I feel that if a viewer understands a fraction of that, it might hold them a little longer in front of the piece and allow them to think about what the work might mean to them, and have meant to me to make.
“There is humour and whimsy in the work. My life-size portrait of my childhood hero, Geri Halliwell, is certainly tongue-in-cheek. But at the same time I would like people to pause a moment longer to realise her significance. The Spice Girls, as grand as it sounds, were the birthplace of feminist activism for many people growing up in the rapidly developing pop culture of the 90s.
“This exhibition is not just about representations of women I love. There are people from my life, and women I admire, who aren’t depicted here. Mainly because I wanted to focus on the women who I feel have taught me something new. Re-examining them for this exhibition has reminded me how much I have learned from them and how I want to continue to do so.
“This exhibition is also not, I very much hope, about co-opting the female experience, or saying that I understand what it means to be these women. Most of the lessons I have learnt about life have come from women, and I wanted to honour that.
Some HOT questions:
Tell HOT about your desire to be an artist and what keeps you motivated with your creative endeavours?
I’m not sure I’ve ever had a desire to be an artist. I don’t remember making a conscious decision at least; it just sort of was. I’m motivated to continue creating merely because there is still work I feel compelled to make.
Tell us about your artistic progression: what has drawn your attention and resonated for you over the years?
I’ve always been drawn to detail and labour intensive work and my art is a reflection of that. I’m influenced by the aesthetic of 1980s and 1990s television and the nostalgia that comes along with that, so it tends to crop up quite often in the work I make. In a sense, I’ve worked backwards, coming to painting late in my degree after focusing primarily on textiles and film-making – and I think that served me well. Now I’m much more prone to choosing a medium that best illustrates my idea rather than relying on one certain craft.
Your future goals as an artist?
I want to keep making work that I feel speaks about the things that interest me – and I’m keen to find a happy balance between commerce and creating work that serves those interests.
Tell us about your connection with Hastings.
I grew up in Hastings and always return here. There is a certain pull that I think anybody who has visited or lived here really understands. It’s a difficult place to escape and, on most days, I’m happy not to.
* * *
Thom Kofoed studied Fine Art at the University of Brighton. Thom now focuses mainly on portraiture and has created work for local arts venues, London galleries and international clients. His work is often detailed and intricate and he pays particular attention to line and form. Thom is also a published writer and is currently writing and illustrating a children’s book about hugging. Recently his work has become available to buy on artrookie.co.uk. He was also commissioned by Artfund and the Jewish Museum London to create a large scale drawing which forms a crucial part of the ‘Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait’ exhibition, which opened in March 2017.
For commissions or more information about the exhibition contact Thom by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thom’s Instagram is @thomkofoed
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