Creative Spotlight | Tom Isaacs

Published on 08 February 2021


Tell us a bit about who you are and what kind of creative work you make
I am an emerging artist and a PhD candidate at Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney University. My artistic practice is concerned with mental health, mortality, and the human condition. The primary medium I work in is performance art, though I have also created sculptures, paintings and, most recently, textile art.

For those less familiar with performance art, it is a form of art that is presented either as a live experience or as documentation of a past performance.  Most, but not all, performance artworks avoid the use of traditional theatrical elements such as plot, character, and dialogue. Instead, they focus on the body of the artist and the actions performed by that artist. Performance art has its roots historically in the visual arts, in the Dada, Surrealist and Bauhaus movements of the early 20th century, and gained greatest momentum in the revolutionary 1960s and 1970s.


Whereabouts do you look for creative ideas? Who or what inspires you?
As a PhD candidate a lot of my inspiration comes from reading. In my research I have mainly been reading about art history and theory, as well as anthropology and psychoanalytic theory. This reading has been important for my written research, but it also informs my artistic practice. I have also drawn inspiration from reading poetry, philosophy, religious and spiritual texts, and classic works of fiction (such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein).

Another common source of inspiration for me is the work of other artists. I have maintained a blog for some years where I post images of works I find interesting, both historical and contemporary. I also find meeting with other artists can be very helpful. I am a member of a great organisation called Modern Art Projects – Blue Mountains which I have found to be a fruitful source of inspiration and encouragement.

Tom-Isaacs-3.png How does your personal history, culture or experience inform your creative work?
My artistic practice and research are informed by my relationship to mental illness and mental health care. A number of my family members have worked in the mental health field, including my grandmother who was a practising psychoanalyst. This has contributed to my interest in psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic theory. Mental illness is also something which has touched my family personally. I live with depression and anxiety which I manage with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. A lot of my art deals directly with the experience of living with mental illness and the desire for healing, including speculative ideas about a cure that could be found in spirituality, philosophy, psychoanalysis, or even in art itself.

Tom-Isaacs-1.png What is a creative project that you’ve worked on that you’re really proud of? Why?
Last year my performance work Pietà (2020) was exhibited in ‘BLUE’, curated by Beata Geyer at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre. For this performance I explored a number of different positions and poses with a long piece of blue felt. For ‘BLUE’ I chose to exhibit video documentation of the performance alongside the blue fabric used in the performance. I also re-performed the work live on two occasions during the exhibition. I am particularly proud of this work because I think it worked really well as both an installation and as a live performance. I also received some very touching feedback from witnesses who seemed genuinely moved by the work, which is about the highest praise I think one can receive.

Where can we find out more about your work and get in touch?


Tagged as: