Tonight sees the long-awaited opening of Tom ‘Inkfetish’ Blackford’s debut solo show ‘Imaginary Friends’ at Blackall Studios – we thought we would have a quick chat with him beforehand..
When did you start painting?
I haven’t been painting graffiti for that long in the grand scheme of things. I got into it when I was about 13 but really just as a spectator that was caught up in the excitement of it all. I was into tagging but didn’t really take it seriously throughout my teens, as I was more interested in trying to become a comic book illustrator. I really began to use graffiti as a method to push my illustration work after dropping out of university in my early 20’s.
So did you move from typical letter style pieces into more character based work?
I’ve kind of done things backwards in that respect. I grew up obsessed with tagging and sketching letters but really made a name for myself painting characters in an attempt to stand out but also because I think I felt more confident putting myself out there as an artist as opposed to a ‘writer’. It’s only really been over the last couple of years that I’ve started painting letter pieces again under the ‘OTAKU’ moniker. However letters are still something I consider to be something I do for fun with my crew and not something I take too seriously.
Your solo show ‘Imaginary Friends’ features new works on canvas, what brought on the decision to move away from your work on the streets?
I’ve always painted canvases as I find them to be a place where I can suitably combine my strengths in painting and illustration. I used to do a bit of commercial illustration but can’t stand working digitally so decided to completely quit doing anything art related using a computer. This decision naturally increased my desire to develop my painting skills and concentrate of canvas work in-between painting walls. I definitely don’t feel like this is me moving away from street work but rather extending it into an environment where it can be appreciated for different reasons.
Do you think your work translates from the street onto canvas and will be received well in a gallery environment?
In all honesty, it’s not something I’ve thought about too much. I’ve exhibited artwork for years so besides the fact that this is my first solo show, it doesn’t feel like a huge jump for me. I do however feel like it’s my strongest body of work to date.
The show is entitled ‘Imaginary Friends’, where did this stem from?
A lot of my paintings have featured boys/girls in the presence of some kind of fantastical creature. I guess you could say there’s a creepy undertone to my work as I think there is with the concept of an imaginary friend. The title also shares the initials of Ink Fetish so seemed to fit nicely.
What can we expect to see in the way of canvases and prints tonight?
15 new pieces of work will be on display. A few pretty large in scale which I felt was a good challenge but also something that felt natural given the fact that I’m used to working pretty big on the street. I also have a limited run of prints based on the central piece ‘Daydream’.
How have you found the process of getting this body of work together?
Really interesting actually. Definitely challenging and exhausting. My daily routine over the course of the last two months has pretty much involved getting up at about 3pm and going to the gym in order to justify sitting hunched over a canvas, painting, smoking, drinking stupid amounts of coke and snacking before returning to bed at 5am. Big ups, big downs and little epiphanies…hopefully some of these things will have filtered through into my work.
What’s next for you once this show is over, any plans to exhibit internationally?
I’ve exhibited in The States a few times in group shows and would love the opportunity to at some point do a solo show out there. One step at a time..
Check out the show tonight at Blackall Studios – supported by Global Street Art & Tiger Beer. RSVP@globalstreetart.com
More from Tom can be found on his website.