Unsentimental look at ships in decay: new art exhibition in Bristol

Issue date: 13 July 2012

Architect Thom Gorst from UWE Bristol is holding his first solo art exhibition at Centrespace Gallery, Bristol from Friday 20 July to Wednesday 25 July. The exhibition coincides with the Bristol Harbour Festival, and echoes its maritime theme.

Thom, who is a Lecturer in Architecture in UWE's Department of Planning and Architecture, spent four years as a Royal Naval Officer. He is fascinated by portraying the surfaces of ships in a wholly unsentimental way.

He completed a PhD at the Glasgow School of Art in 2011 on the aesthetics of maritime dereliction. His visually striking paintings of details of ships are in acrylic on canvas, ranging from 400mm to 1000mm in size.

He says, “My doctoral research was concerned with the aesthetics of derelict ships: trying to identify something of beauty in cast-off bits of industry. I wasn't making romance out of shipwrecks, or harking back to the navy of Merrie England: I was deeply interested in the symbolic value of metal surfaces. The canvasses portray the details of ships which might be corroded, degraded, abraded, over-painted or just abandoned, and they reinterpret them as things of real beauty. In other words, they suggest a new and perhaps more authentic way in which we might think of the maritime.

“I started work on what would become my doctorate in 2005 at the Glasgow School of Art. The study evolved into an aesthetic examination into the potential of derelict ships to be regarded as things of beauty. These paintings emerged from that research.

“There is a clear connection between the visual arts and architecture, and my painting work informs my teaching and research.”

After a childhood in Merseyside, and four years at sea as a Royal Navy officer, Thom trained as an architect, qualifying in 1982. He moved to the south west, teaching first at Bath University and now at UWE Bristol.

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