It is a relatively modern convenience to see the world from any distance, from any chosen perspective. To bring closer a mountain, to compress its field of view, to control the light and appreciate it in a completely different way. The qualities of the human eye, the lens, had been the leading inspiration behind the technological discoveries that led to the Renaissance. Through the lens, the convex and the concave, the three dimensional can be seen on a singular plane, allowing us to really see and to analyse that which was otherwise unperceivable. The images that made art history – if seen as a series of achievements and interpreted as codes – gives a person the capacity of analysis, the key to questioning what it is we are looking at. It is a rare commodity, on the other hand, to be moved by something: you marvel at it but don’t question how it came about.
This curiosity following the move to a foreign land and the necessity to understand the new world and culture urged Tom Fellows (b. 1983, England) to use a skillset he inherited: reading the signs. Fellows is the son of a traditional sign-painter in industrial Birmingham; his world was first and foremost made up of clear, vividly explicit details relating to the visual culture he was born into. Signs had been his first language. A formal art education allowed him to move from a traditional background into one of possibilities where he was unconfined by material, by strokes or by scale. His resulting visual language is incredible.
Fellows does not depend on a canvas and he does not paint in the traditional manner, however he does rely on objects that form an inseparable part of the culture he accommodates, and he adds colour to them. He begins by manipulating the surface of the object and working like a scientist, begins to apply paint, following the direction dictated by the metal surface. Creases are filled, mountains are formed. He adds another layer followed by another. Then slowly, through a process of destructive abrasion, he moves away from what he had initially begun- the layers work symbolically in distancing him from the gesture that started the dialogue with the object. Once he has moved away considerably in space and time from the piece, he waits for the right moment for the recognizable distance.
The body of work Fellows presents, is the result of the cultivation of his relationship forged with the foreign culture he moved into. It is both a reflection of and part of the language, the graphics, the landscape. It is through looking and questioning how it could be re-interpreted visually. As he draws nearer to recognizing the distance, the shapes formed become clearer, unfolding piece by piece his journey. From his dedicated practice emerges a sphere of signs and images, creating the opportunity for endless possibilities of re-presenting that journey.