Collections >

Elaine Thomas: adopting a stance

View all images from Elaine Thomas: adopting a stance


Having previously been Dean of Art and Design at the University of Ulster and Director of the School of Cultural Studies at Sheffield Hallam University, Professor Thomas became Director of The Surrey Institute of Art & Design, University College* in January 2000.

She has had solo exhibitions of her most recent work at the Lewis Elton Gallery, University of Surrey (2004), York St John College (2004) and the Yorkshire Museum (2004). She has presented the lecture 'Adopting a Stance' at Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Surrey and the Yorkshire Museum.

*[On 1 August 2005 the University College for the Creative Arts at Canterbury, Epsom, Farnham, Maidstone and Rochester was formed through the uniting of two leading specialist art and design institutions: Kent Institute of Art & Design and The Surrey Institute of Art & Design, University College.]

The following text has been selected from the artist's commentary in the brochure 'Adopting a stance', available in print from The Surrey Institute of Art & Design, University College*.

The stance

Pastel drawing titled 'The nosey parkers' by Elaine Thomas

My career as an artist officially began as an art student at Manchester Polytechnic in 1968. Abstract art was predominant at this time, and figurative work hardly existed. Despite my tentative teenage aspirations towards the role of rebel - exemplified by going to art school - once at Manchester I adopted entirely the prevalent house style and, ultimately, produced large, hard edged, abstract paintings. Put simply, my stance was conformist, competitive and non-gendered.

It was a male art world: the tutors were all male, with one very reticent exception, and my heroes were male. Within the discourse taking place, led by male tutors and rarely involving female students, the following terms were frowned upon and considered unacceptable: decorative, feminine, illustrative, narrative, graphic, humorous and figurative.

The process: drawing upon the imagination

Mixed media on card from the series titled 'Patience' by Elaine Thomas

It is important to me that I employ means, methods and materials which facilitate the suggestion of images. I have long identified with the concept of automatic drawing, which gained respectability via the surrealists, and believe that 'doodling' represents the beginning of a process which, when taken on board fully, can plunder the subconscious. Finding the beginnings of images in shapes or marks and allowing them to take form has proved, for me, a necessary part of the creative process.

While spontaneity clearly has a role in this process, resilience and intense concentration are also required when using media which facilitate change, adjustment and selectivity. Working with pastels or pencil involves constant reworking: the former by rubbing, hiding and adding to, layer upon layer; the latter by rubbing out and re-inventing until satisfied.

The stance adopted

Painting titled 'Follow my leader' by Elaine Thomas

The route takes in Turkish shadow puppets found in a bazaar in Istanbul, Picasso's sketch books and Jackson Pollock's psychoanalytical drawings. It journeys via the crazy inventiveness of early animated films, the exuberant caricatures of a Gilbert & Sullivan opera, the illusionistic choreography of Philip Genty and the distorted acrobatics of the State Circus in Leningrad. It encompasses, too, the sexually ambivalent sculpture of Louise Bourgeois, the self-parody of Victoria Wood, the obsessive detail of the artist Fahlström, and the posturing and machinations of Rowan Atkinson's first and best Blackadder.

As well as being autobiographical the work is autographic like handwriting. The use of gestures, flourishes and other devices come to represent a sense of personal identity and identification. Irony and hidden meaning pervade the work and may be evident to some. The stance adopted could be described as that of the satirist, the caricaturist, the cartoonist - seeking to entertain, to comment and to communicate the many things that go unsaid.

Contact Details

Address: Professor Elaine Thomas
University College for the Creative Arts at Canterbury, Epsom, Farnham, Maidstone and Rochester
Farnham Campus
Falkner Road
Tel: +44 (0)1252 722441
Copyright: © 2004 Elaine Thomas

The information within and all images that appear may be used for educational purposes only. They may not be copied, altered or amended for any other purpose, without prior permission of the copyright holder.

Image credits



about        contact        terms of use        image credits        cookies        © 2018