Amelia’s Magazine | Tom Foulsham-The Table that can Tell Stories And Other Contraptions

Tom2Man Making Machine © Tom Foulsham

Minnie Weisz’s studio, online a one-storey alcove of delightfully quirky art concealed underneath Kings Cross’s railway arches, is currently harboring the perfect antidote to the last-minute Christmas shopping overdose. Artist, designer, engineer and inventor Tom Foulsham currently exhibits a series of machines that defy easy categorization since his work is a fine blend of sculpture, architecture and installation art. The perfect interaction between all the different parts constitutes the core of elaborate systems that dazzle by their sheer ingenious flair and complexity.

CIMG1402Tom Foulsham Wiggle Table Photograph © Valerie Pezeron

Ron Arad says of him: “ …Tom can actually solve most mechanical problems and realise them against all odds…all sorts of contraptions like a book page-turning device that is activated by the wasting burning candle, and lots of old leather suitcases stuffed with intricate devices that would make Heath Robinson proud.” The Armchair Balance illustrates this best. Especially commissioned for Minnie Weisz’s space, the seamlessly gravity-defying apparatus at times appears to swivel out of control yet remains astonishingly together. I am told it offered entertaining obstacles for visitors at the show’s opening who were forced to approach the laser lights-like tentacles without touching for fear of total structure collapse! The artist used Minnie Weisz’s books to balance his second-hand chair and the final result beggars belief.

CIMG1403Tom Foulsham Arcmhair Balance Photograph © Valerie Pezeron

Foulsham could be the poster boy for that old cliché of the visionary eccentric scientist left to his own device in an antiquated shop full of strange and exciting mechanisms and other contraptions. Born in 1981, Tom Foulsham studied Architecture at the Bartlett and was an architectural assistant at Arad Associates. He went on to study Design Products MA at the Royal College of Art, graduating this summer 2009, under the tutorledge of Ron Arad. He exhibited his ‘ Balancing Shelves’ at Pecha Kucha ICA in 2007. He showed his ‘Candle Balance’ as part of the V&A group exhibition ‘In Praise of Shadows’ in September 2009.

Breathing House Video © Valerie Pezeron

Tom Foulsham’s work is completely capturing the zeitgeist; the art world, like society, is beginning to go full-circle with technology. “ We’re going back to craft,” Minnie Weisz says. “It’s been the digital age where we press a button and we don’t really know how that happens. We’re going back to skill.” Foulsham masterfully manipulates raw, organic and fine materials in a quick and dynamic manner that arch back to older days; built in two weeks for this exhibition, the Man Making machine is reminiscent of the industrial revolution era in its use of soft and fragrant paraffin. The artist enjoys devising spidery contraptions with simple technologies where nothing is hidden. “It’s a fine balancing act,” I am told. “The sculptures are fragile and delicate yet still strong enough for the public to interact with.”

Candle Balance © Tom Foulsham on Vimeo.

“I was always taking things apart and then putting them back together again, making things”, Tom tells me about his boyhood. It all sounds so much better than today’s chair bound assisted computer fun. He must have had a wonderful childhood. Tom agrees, “I was making my own toys, playing around with cardboard boxes and toying with little models and knots and bolts. Once I had worked out how something worked, I knew I could make it 20 times bigger”.

CIMG1407Wiggle Sketch © Paul Benny

Foulsham is a man with great ambitions. The machines/sculptures are also conceived as small-scaled versions of what is to later become life-size or even more colossal. Some of it would work well in front of an industrial museum like the Pompidou centre, I tell him like the Breathing House that is not meant to remain miniature for long. Surprisingly, Foulsham claims Quentin Blake and his “scrappy” style as an influence as well as other balancing sculptures. “My references come from all over the place.” What’s more striking is the sense of play in it all; sculpture as toy from the burnt ephemera of the Man Making Machine to the Wiggle Table. “Tom has quite surreal ideas but packages them to create something that is tangible and that people can have different experiences of. It does not dictate one view of looking and understanding. Yes, it’s scientific. We’ve had many children here who think it’s magic!”

Wiggle Table Video © Valerie Pezeron

The Wiggle Machine is a crowd pleaser and the blockbuster of this exhibition. “Like the Frankenstein of itself”, Foulsham says. He created a new typeface and a new take on the classic machine blue for this multifaceted jiggling box that grabs the current news and blurts out very serious content in a twist. “The Prime Minister says the …” and the vibrations don’t make me take the news seriously at all…The enigma machine, Second World War cockpits and 1960’s computers all spring into mind. “We’ve had séances here” Minnie Weisz says.

Tom1© Tom Foulsham

This exhibition is worth the visit and it’s not everywhere that the artist himself introduces you to his artwork. That is why it’s by appointment only throughout 2010. It is best to call in advance for January, I am told. The gallery is currently in festive mode and has asked the surface designer Pippa Johnson to wrap the gallery arch with a specially commissioned illustration over the windows throughout the holiday period.

Minnie Weisz Studio, Under the Arches, 123 Pancras Road, London NW1 1UN. Tube: King’s Cross.

Categories ,Arad Associates, ,architecture, ,art, ,contemporary art, ,exhibition, ,Exhibition Review, ,Gallery, ,mechanisms, ,Minnie weisz, ,pippa johnson, ,Ron Arad, ,Royal academy of arts, ,science, ,scultpture, ,Tom Foulsham, ,workshops

Similar Posts:

Amelia’s Magazine | Angels of Anarchy at Manchester Art Gallery

Angel3Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman and Marian Goodman Gallery, pills New York

When I hear the word Surrealism, for sale instantly the likes of Salvador Dali, approved André Breton, André Masson and Max Ernst come to my mind. Well I can now add Frida Khalo, Leonora Carrington, Eileen Agar and many more female Surrealist artists to that male dominated list, thanks to Manchester’s Art Gallery! Their current exhibition, Angels of Anarchy, sets out to not only celebrate the works of female artists but to educate and inform those who know little (people like me) or nothing at all about the important role females played in the Surrealist movement. How about that?

Angel Courtesy Private collection, Dilbeek, Belgium © DACS 2009

The exhibition covers five main categories within Surrealism – Portrait/Self-Portrait, Landscape, Interior, Still Life and Fantasy; the medium used ranges from sculpture to photography to film and the more traditional oil on canvas. Thanks to Salma Hayek’s performance in the eponymous film, Frida Khalo -who features in both Portrait/Self Portrait and Interior – is probably the name most will recognise but you will not be disappointed with the other lesser-known artists on display.


Courtesy ADAGP Paris, Musée National d’Art Modern – Centre Georges Pompidou. Courtesy Photo CNAC / MNAM, Dis. RMN / courtesy  Jacques Faujour

The most interesting piece comes in the form of film by photographer/filmmaker Lola Alvarez Bravo -who incidentally went to school with Frida and was one of her closest friends. The 30 seconds (approx) of rare footage is left untitled but is captivating from start to end, not least thanks to the presence of Frida herself; the artist is more stunning on film that I had imagined. There is no audio in this eerie film and it’s quite foretelling that Frida is welcoming death into her home in the shape of an innocent looking girl; this was shot when Frida was in ill health and I thought this was one of many nice surprises within the exhibition. Bravo documented much of Frida’s life and she went on documenting even after her death; there is a poignant shot of Frida’s room after her death (Frida’s Room 1954), where her wheelchair, paintbrushes, a self-portrait and a picture of her husband are strategically placed in order to sum up her life. This particular scene left a lump in your throat!

Fini_Le-Bout-du-MondeCourtesy Manchester Gallery

Another big name featured in the exhibition is Eileen Agar – whose Angel of Anarchy (1936-1940) mixed media head dress is featured alongside its opposite number Angels of Mercy (1936-1940) – only two surviving pieces of four, are portraits of Joseph Bard (her husband) and to see them both is quite magical. Angel of Anarchy is wrapped in rich African bark cloth decorated in Chinese silk, beads and osprey and ostrich feathers and has a decadent aura about it. Angel of Mercy is quite the opposite but none less impressive to its corresponding part, using only her skills to sculpt the piece and her hand to paint it.

Agar_Angel-of-AnarchyCourtesy Manchester Gallery

Whist big names like Kahlo, Agar, Oppenheim and Cahun are used to encourage people to visit the exhibition the lesser known artists really do shine and in some cases surpass their well known counterparts. Kay Sage’s beautiful black and white, landscape photography will lead you into the word of the extra-ordinary within the ordinary – her vision of seeing something interesting within what seems to be an ordinary landscape impressed me a great deal! Leonora Carrington’s self portrait (1937-1938) will immediately grab your attention as it did mine; I faced this one particular piece for a good10 minutes and I must admit I was truly transfixed and consumed in my trail of thought! This, in my opinion, is by far was the best self portrait (oil on canvas) in the entire show. I felt deep sympathy for Carrington and I was left wondering and wanting to know more about this wonderful talent.


Courtesy Banco de Mexico Deigo Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico DF / DACS 2009

The exhibition is over teeming with beautiful oils on canvas and sculptures that include a rarely seen Lee Miller torso cast that has only even been exhibited once before. Surrealist literature is present in the form of Leonora Carrington’s En Bas ( Down Below 1945) a memoir of her emotional journey after Max Ernst is arrested by the Nazis which leads her to being institutionalized in a mental hospital in Spain. There are video instillations by Francesca Woodman documenting herself exploring the female form and a beautiful interpretation of ‘There was a Miller on a River’ (1971), by Eva Svankmajerova. This old folk song tells the story of a young soldier returning home after 20 years. His parents do not recognise him, rob and murder him; once they realise it was their son they take their own lives. Such a brutal act is given a beautiful lease of life in Svankmajerova’s gorgeous illustrations.

Oppenheim_SquirrelCourtesy Manchester Gallery

Another nice surprise is the room ‘Teenangels’ in which the Manchester Art gallery has teamed up with art students from Levenshulme High School who have came up with their own Surrealist inspired artwork. I would have happily been left to think they were part of the Angels of Anarchy exhibition had I not seen the sign! Seeing interaction between a prestigious art gallery like Manchester’s and GCSE art students topped the exhibition off perfectly.

All in all this was a good exhibition which ran from the 26th of December 2009 to the 10th of January 2010. Penny Slinger describes her work as ‘a protest against females being seen as mere objects at a male’s disposal’. This exhibition sets out to break the notion that Surrealism is a male dominated movement and it does so successfully. Without the likes of Frida Kahlo, Claude Cahun, Edith Rimmington, Meret Oppenheim and the rest of the female Surrealist featured in the exhibition I doubt very much that women in art would be where they are today. They helped the female cause for decades to come and paved the way for equality in Art. They proved that chicks can do what guys do… and dare I say in some cases even better? If you were one of the lucky few who visited the show then you surely came away enlightened, informed and inspired by those surrealist amazons…just like I did.

Visit for more information.

Categories ,André Breton, ,André Masson, ,art, ,art review, ,Claude Cahun, ,Edith Rimmington, ,Eva Svankmajerova, ,film, ,Francesca Woodman, ,Frida Khalo, ,illustration, ,Kay Sage, ,Lee Miller, ,Leonora Carrington, ,Lola Alvarez Bravo, ,manchester, ,Manchester art gallery, ,Max Ernst, ,Meret Oppenheim, ,museum, ,museums, ,painting, ,Penny Slinger, ,photography, ,Salvador Dali, ,scultpture, ,surrealism, ,surrealist

Similar Posts: