Today marks the launch of Thomas Campbell Paints Lily and Lionel, an extremely limited edition collection borne of collaboration between Lily and Lionel, artist Thomas Campbell and English National Ballet.
For over a year Thomas, a first class honours graduate from Central St. Martins, immersed himself in the world of English National Ballet, enjoying unprecedented access to their rehearsals and performances. During that time, Thomas painted a study into what he describes as the “the weightless-ness and futile nature of all that striving for unachievable perfection. I suppose I saw a clear comparison with dance to artistic endeavour.”
The huge scale of these scarves (1.4m by 2.2m) means that we’d just as soon frame them as wear them! They are breath-taking, timeless pieces and we are honoured to have been involved such a collaboration. Here we chat to Thomas about this incredible project.
When did you start working on this project?
I’ve been painting the ballet for about 5 years now, and in the last 18 months I have been working specifically with English National Ballet who have allowed me access to the dancers’ rehearsals and full stage productions.
I always had an idea to print the works on to silk, I thought that the flow and the movement in the paintings would translate well, but after a few trials myself I couldn’t get the right kind of fabric and feel. Once I was introduced to Alice it all fell into place. We both have the same kind of sensibilities and really got what each other was after. It’s been so wonderful working with Lily and Lionel's creative team and I love how this series has turned out.
What inspired you to focus on the ballet aspect?
I have never tended to paint so concisely, I don’t like paintings to be read so quickly and I felt the movement of the dancers in between the apex of each position gave me a lot of freedom to push the paint around. I like to paint the states of flux, as every shape shifts around.
I loved the connotations of the ballet, the weightlessness and the fluidity. That combined with the futile strives for perfection that can never be reached. I guess that’s what all artistic endeavours are like. Painting is a failure too, if it worked well enough that I could get everything I needed onto a picture I would never need to paint again.
Each painting has a distinct colour palette: is it considered or instinctive?
The overall colour of the paintings shifts a lot in the process. I begin with a particular colour as a background and begin to work different tones over the top. At some point - it seems to happen every time - one colour seems to become dominant and it’s never been the colour that I originally intended. So on one hand I guess it is instinctive as to the colour palette, but on the other hand I know exactly why that is.