Joel Tomlin


As an artist who trained primarily as a painter (Chelsea School of Art, London) Joel Tomlin has over recent years been examining the possibilities of working sculpturally with a variety of materials, chiefly wood and bronze, often with painted or patinated surfaces which relate directly to his three dimentional works.

Born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Tomlin worked as a Blacksmith before moving to London and has exhibited his work as widely as Switzerland and the U.S.A.

Tomlin works with such influences as Arte Povera and Informel in order to create an internal, Arcadian world, its painted surfaces assuming the quality of objects with an implied depiction being secondary to the  scheme as a whole; animals, plants, legend and story emerge from his work and give a sense of archeology both human and personal.

Born in 1969, Sheffield, UK

Currently lives and works in London

Studied at Chelsea College of Art and the University of Houston, Texas

His art draws strongly on genre and often suggests narrative.

Works on display in the UK and Germany.

Group Exhibitions


Written contribution to William Morris Society, London

Humble as Hell, Merz Barn, Elterwater


The Names, Transition Gallery, London


A Bestiary, Turf Projects, London

Ludic, Herrick Gallery, London

Naturrelikt und Kunstkonstrukt, Grafikmuseum Stiftung Schreiner, Bad Steben, Germany


The Nutcracker, Belmacz, London

Fourth Drawer Down, Belmacz at Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham

News from Nowhere, William Morris Society, Kelmscott House, London

Unplanned Memories, Transition Gallery, London

Circus TM, Belmacz, London


Lions on Water, Belmacz, London

Selected Paintings and Sculpture, Kronach, Germany

Women in love, Belmacz, London


Parallel Universe, Charlie Dutton Gallery, London

Ever since I put your picture in a frame, 42 Carlton place, Glasgow

The Perfct Nude, Charlie Smith Gallery, London

The Perfect Nude, Wimbledon Space at Wimbledon College of Art, London


A Sort of Night to the Mind A Kind of Night for our Thoughts, Artary Galerie, Stuttgart and Berlin

Fordham Gallery at Maddox Arts, Maddox Arts, London

I Spy, Galerie Jones, Cologne

The Perfct Nude, Phoenix Gallery, Exeter

A Sort of Night to the Mind A Kind of Night for our Thoughts, Arch 402 Gallery, London


A Sort of Night to the Mind A Kind of Night for our Thoughts, Herbert Read Gallery, University College for the Creative Arts at Canterbury, Canterbury

Sehnsucht,Transition Gallery, London


Think of a table for two, Galerie Jones, Cologne

Oh Vienna, Transition Gallery, London


Alf Löhr, Lisa Milroy, Ben Ravenscroft, Joel Tomlin, Chuck Webster, Galerie Jones, Cologne


Fable, Chapter Gallery, Cardiff


Faltering Flame, Graves Gallery, Sheffield


Ancoats Hospital, Outpatients Hall, The Nunnery Gallery, London


LONE RANGER, James Colman Gallery, London UK


Re-grouping, The Nunnery Gallery, London UK

Solo Exhibitions


Calyx Horse, Belmacz, London


Intoxicated, Max Wigram Gallery, London, UK


2007 CHAPTER Publications, Fable: Nadia Hebson, Zoë Mendelson and Joel Tomlin, paperback, ISBN 1-900029-22-7

2005 Jarvis Cocker, Joel Tomlin, self service magazine, Issue 22, Spring/Summer, pp. 130-131

1997 Merlin James, Regrouping, Modern Painters


William Morris’ journey that he undertook to Iceland in 1870, partly as an act of escapism as his personal life was in disarray, has always fascinated me. The reality of Iceland amazed and mystified Morris, claiming it "that most Romantic of all deserts”. His craftsman’s eye and mind were aroused by the discovery of a living folk art, all taking place in a very austere economy and holding up a harsh mirror to the follies and commercialism of his own era. A culture of simple handmade furniture, sledges and ancient vernacular farmhouses had an effect of transcendence on Morris, one of an atavistic connection to Iceland's legends and sagas, as with the touch of my own works, the painting (Untitled 2017) gives the sensation of a remote place being brought close, the eye or keyhole to the mystery,  "Dreadful with grinding of ice and record of scarce hidden fire". Indeed, Morris decided to absorb the origins of the Sagas, travelling alone by pony, observing the sayings, songs and poems of the people he met, which later fed into his visionary politics of fellowship. The sculpture (Untitled 2017 and Adtz image 1) attests to a condition that Morris began to believe in during this period, a Nordic sense of fate known as the 'Wierd'. This being an origin seeking clairvoyance, a Ju-Ju like sensation that is derived from utilitarian objects and rooms, indeed, the sculptures seemingly simple materials and construction are capable of containing legends, a shared folk memory.

-Joel Tomlin-



Unearthing Beauty by Andreas Levantis

Joel Tomlin’s work persistently speaks to us from and about the distant past.

The artist’s earlier paintings 2005-2006 were typically made on unprimed linen, with a paint application so delicate and tentative that the support’s texture is always apparent. The results are ethereal tableaux that resemble beautifully faded tapestries in which the artist’s protagonists have often all but vanished. Pastoral genre painters such as Claude and Poussin, were an influence at this time, and Tomlin similarly enjoyed conjuring rustic Arcadian worlds.

In paintings and works on paper from the last few years however, Tomlin has done away with any implied narrative and concentrated instead on honing a reduced symbolic language, which owes more to Picasso’s Vallauris ceramics from the 1950s than the 17th Century. In a process of distillation, only the artifacts from Tomlin’s ambiguous stories remain; be they animal, plant, or surrogate human forms.

It is perhaps natural, given his previously painted allusions to Paganism that Tomlin’s output has become increasingly evocative of tribal art, especially since the artist began focusing on producing and showing three-dimensional objects. These are pieces that for the most part can be held in the hand, indeed they beg to be handled, and it is easy to imagine them having once functioned as talisman or charms for warding off evil spirits.

Joel Tomlins latest body of work is dominated by sculptures comprised of assembled elements, several of which are cast in bronze, thereby adding to their archaeological character. The artist has worked first as a Blacksmith and then in a foundry for a number of years and so has long had an affinity with and facility for the metal. Wood, tin, copper, and gesso are also deftly employed in various ways, and all these materials convey equally a sense of malleability and the lingering warmth of touch.

The small painted bronze ‘Pistol’ (2013) could have been unearthed from an ancient burial site. Careworn and intimate in scale it might have been a fortunate child’s toy. Covered in chipped cream tempera and decorated with pale red, green, and gold highlights the object looks to be crafted from a material other than metal, perhaps bone or clay inlaid with stones. The weapon’s profile, by way of an Arcimboldo-esque metamorphosis, becomes that of a faun’s face, with the trigger providing the tilted lower lip of a bewildered mouth, and the barrel a comic snout. Surrealist in spirit and temperament, it would not have been out of place sitting on Andre Breton’s writing desk.

One of Tomlin’s largest scaled recent works, ‘Black Altar’ (2012), is a low, floor-based stack. The first section is bronze, but mimics a worn stone plinth. The next level, a female lower torso with discreet carrying lugs on each side, is again bronze but this time finished, with a distinct Henry Moore patina, to look like it is so. The piece culminates in a single gesso painted bronze fig – a lone votive offering - placed off-centre on a rectangular wood block. Even more than the other works describes, this piece appears to be in some way explicitly functional reliquary, as if it might serve a purpose in a ritual.

Similar to the manner by which Joseph Beuys co-opted fat as a storehouse or battery for kind of nourishing energy, so Tomlin's bronze figs are akin to powerful mobile transistors that allow for a continued dialogue with the past. The artist explains how this symbol is '…capable of containing a legend… figs being in a way the connective tissue between the shepherds of Arcadia, Greek drama, and the familiarity of the greengrocers display.'

On more than one occasion the artist has used upended tins as pedestals, which although painted with a thin white wash, are nevertheless very obviously found objects. Like Beuys, and as outlined in the tenants of Arte Povera, which the German artist adopted, Tomlin sees any hierarchies between art materials and common things as irrelevant and limiting. He applies the same leveling device to his eclectic visual language. The ambiguity and mutability of both material and form as evident in Tomlin’s oeuvre engenders great potential for imaginative projection on the part of the viewer. Unsure of whether we are experiencing ideas at the beginning, middle or end of processes of reification is testimony to a practice rich in creativity possibilities.