Street Artist Tomo: Hard to pin down

Andrew Anderson

The work of this Liverpool street artist is hard to define – and we found the artist himself proved as elusive.

Street art versus studio art is one of those divisions that often doesn’t stand up in the real world; after all, art is art, no matter where it’s located. Proof of this came in a recent exhibition of work by Liverpool artist Tomo who, in collaboration with fellow artist Katie Craven, further blurred the lines dividing the two worlds. The show was in a gallery, but with a difference. The location remained a semi-kept secret and the building became part of the art, with decorated doors and walls. “The graffiti writers think I’m sipping wine,” says Tomo, explaining how the way he works affects the art world’s perception of him as an artist. “The art crowd think I’m coming from the gutter or something, which is great.”

“The art crowd think I’m coming from the gutter or something, which is great”

Over the past few years Tomo’s pieces have been popping up all over Liverpool, unannounced and understated. “I have a mental list of locations, materials and ideas,” he said, when asked about how he matches pieces with spaces. “It happens quite naturally, after a while it all just clicks into place.” Tomo’s works show that graffiti, far from being a blight, can actually brighten the world around us.

You could spend all day, or a whole book, struggling with the semantics and deciding on definitions for this art, but what is most important is the work itself. Blending modern comic book styles, graffiti and serious art sensibilities, Tomo’s pieces are first and foremost good to look at. Whether it’s two lizards playing monopoly or a man pushing a monkey in a trolley, they’re fun – and rewarding for the eye.

While he might defy the image of the archetypal artist in some ways, Tomo certainly fits with the secretive stereotype of the graffiti star. He proved hard to pin down for an interview, and elusive when asked about his future plans, simple saying, “I’ll just make it up as I go along” when pressed. I, for one, hope he keeps on doing just that.

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