Artist Tim A Shaw on the Power of Paint to Heal

Tim A Shaw and Niamh White at Phoenix Unit
Tim A Shaw and Niamh White at Phoenix Unit

Recently FAD caught up with artist Tim A Shaw to talk about Hospital Rooms, Winsor & Newton’s Masterclass and his art practice.

As co-founder of Hospital Rooms, it must be very rewarding to see the healing power of art first hand? Is this something that you have always taken a keen interest in?

Although I have always had an interest in art outside of the gallery space, it was actually only after visiting a friend in a mental health unit a little while ago that we (the curator Niamh White and I) decided to start Hospital Rooms. It is not only the fact that the artists have improved the environments in the mental health units we have been working on that has been rewarding, it is all the new interactions between service users, staff, carers and artists that have been so important.

Is it important that the art/design shown is of the highest quality possible? How is this judged?

It is vitally important to see the artists as experts. Although the artists commissioned to take on spaces in Hospital Rooms are at different stages in their careers (from exciting young artists near the beginning of their careers to internationally renowned and respected artists), they are all people who are thoughtful of the spaces and the people that live in the units. The artists have demonstrated the skills and experience to make work that is safe and compliant for difficult environments, whilst not compromising on the conceptual and aesthetic quality.

Tim A Shaw Masterclass for Winsor & Newton

Was quality one of the reasons for you taking part in the W&N Masterclass series?

The quality of the materials, and the science behind the making of them, makes it a pleasure to experiment with the potential of the medium. I think that is a part of what the Masterclass series is about.

Is it important for someone who aspires to be a good artist that they use great equipment and supplies? What is the relationship between materials and quality?

Of course, many artists use common, cheap and everyday materials and make exceptional work with them. However, there is no harm in understanding what makes a material a high quality one. It is easy to see when someone is using quality paint and surfaces, and this will have a hugely positive impact on the longevity, vibrancy, integrity (and many other things) of a piece of work.

Why do you think paint is having such a resurgence as a medium in contemporary art?

Even though the popularity of certain mediums can be cyclical, painting is not seen as an inferior medium in contemporary art anymore. I’m sure this is in no small part down to so many incredible exhibitions of painters at museums and galleries at the moment: Tschabalala Self at Parasol Unit, Djordje Ozbolt at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Robert Rauschenberg at Tate Modern, the David Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain, and the group exhibition of painters ‘House Work’ at Victoria Miro to name a few.

As a ‘Multi Media Sculptor’ how are W&N and also paint important to you?

Although I have a numbers of ways of making work, my paintings are often very textured and need to be densely coloured. I use the Winsor & Newton professional ranges of paints as I know that the colours are highly pigmented, permanent and lightfast, and have perfect consistency and adhesive qualities. Also, the brushes are superb, for example, the Series 7 watercolour brushes make the application of colour such a pleasure. It’s important to think of the quality of the surfaces, the colour and what you’re applying it with, as they all work together.

Tim A Shaw Masterclass for Winsor & Newton

Can you give us an insight into the Master Class videos you have produced?

I wanted to introduce some materials that artists may not know about, like the W&N Watercolour Markers, which are a professional quality material but give the opportunity to use the medium in new ways. I also liked the idea of demonstrating some simple, focussed techniques that explore the versatility of certain mediums, like in one of my videos where I showed how can use gum arabic as a masking medium.

Tim is a mixed media artist, working predominantly as a sculptor. He is also co-founder of Hospital Rooms, a project introducing site-specific, museum quality artworks to mental health wards, with curator Niamh White.

You can watch the masterclass video ‘Masking with Gum Arabic’ below.

Sign up for the full masterclass series here

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine, ' A curation of the world’s most interesting culture' [PLUS] Art of Conversation: A tri-annual 'no news paper' AofC - Issue 1 Autumn 2018