Tomas Downes is interested in what it means to materially and mentally grasp an image, given the ontological ambiguity of representation whereby the image is both materially present and partaking of something other than itself. His sculptural pieces are based on images whose subject and material qualities are not transparent to the viewer, following complex procedures of assimilation that alienate it from its initial state. The resulting works are both sculpture and image: the integrity of the found image disintegrates after it has been enlarged, rephotographed and digitally manipulated, yet it remains tied to the strong, industrial form of the object in which it is embedded.
The non-specific presence of Downes’ objects is experienced as something akin to white noise. If their undisclosed nature and originsthwart the viewer’s ability to immediately read their meaning, they instead transmit something more indistinct that is picked up over time. His 2013 show at Limoncello Gallery, titled Image Acquisition Methods, comprised free-standing planes of dark wool that were stretched between metal rails suspended between the ceiling and floor. Downes has described these planes in term of ‘visual static, interrupted by moments of clarity… This is part of an ongoing interest I have in the potential for my works to project a more ambient type of emission’. In Open Heart Surgery the artist explores the inter-communicative potential of these works: two planes face each other from across the room, activating space through their palpable transmissions. The aforementioned ‘clarity’ of these works is provided by the geometrically abstracted images screwed into the centre of each piece. The artist’s method of working on these images, of removing them step by step from the world they once indexed, is described by Cura Press as ‘a synthesis of attention, distraction, understanding and oblivion.’
Another of Downes’ recent series displays a similar preoccupation with the process of reproduction. Exhibited at the Royal Academy School show, 2011, it consists of an arrangement of floor-based white concrete slabs, whose upper surfaces are partially covered by a digital photograph of their cracked, unpolished undersides. These images have been printed at varying brightness levels, and are overlaid with bronze-tinted glass. Image and object exist in uneasy parallel relationship in these works, as Downes aims to trouble the separation between materiality and immateriality.
Tomas Downes was born in Birmingham in 1986. He gained a Post Graduate Diploma in Fine Art at the Royal Academy of Arts (2011), previously studying at Chelsea College of Art and Design (graduating in 2008). Previous solo exhibitions include Limoncello, London and Peles Empire, London (both 2013); and Mews Project Space, London, curated by Lindsay Jarvis (2012). Downes has also featured in Open Plan, Eighty One, London; and Beyond the Object, Brand New Gallery, Milan (both 2013); Young British Art II, dienstgebaude, Zurich, curated by Ryan Gander and Christina von Rotenhan (2012); Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2011, Site Gallery/s1 Artspace, Sheffield / ICA, London; 3D 2D 3D 2D, Camberwell Space, Camberwell College of Arts, London, curated by Peles Empire; Young London, V22 Workspace, London; and Floating and waterlogged objects, FOLD Gallery, London (all 2011); and in 2009 Peles Empire/The Big Armory, Maes and Mathys Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium.