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The craft of the crossover artists

British multi-discipline artists Tom Byam Shaw and Hermione Skye work between countries, unusual art spaces and practices. Some of their works are exhibited at the ongoing group show Dear November

November 19, 2014 06:00 pm | Updated 06:00 pm IST

Palette People residency artists Hermione Skye and Tom Byam Shaw. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

Palette People residency artists Hermione Skye and Tom Byam Shaw. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

Tom Byam Shaw is so much like Ariel, his favourite Shakespearean character. He is a free spirit who flits from one thing to another, from theatre to art, from music to simply doing nothing. An actor with a catalogue of important plays, films and television serials to his credit Tom made his debut as artist putting up two of his works at the ongoing show ‘Dear November’, presented by Palette People, at Le Meridien.

Hermione Skye, noted British artist and textile designer, lives and works between London, Marrakech (in Morocco) and India. With a degree in Textile Design, Chelsea College of Art, London, she has worked on numerous commissioned projects for hotels, interiors, exterior murals and is co-founder of Mint Collective, Marrakech and Ladbroke Terrace Collective, London. Hermione, along with Tom, has been working for more than a month now at the artist’s residency of Palatte People at Vagamon and its studio at Tripunithura. A couple of her works are also on show at ‘Dear November’.

Trained to be an actor, Tom made a brief appearance in the television series The Bill (1984-2010). In his spare time after he left school and before he joined the University, Tom auditioned for the role of Freddy Honeychurch in the film A Room With A View (2007). The producer and director found him perfect for the role. Tom went on to play Amory Percy in Grand Street , directed by Lex Siden.

“Theatre is a passion, especially Shakespeare. Both my parents are theatre actors and I was groomed to be one. There were the small roles till I got the big one in The Tempest , directed by Trevor Nunn. It was wonderful to fly around, descend from the sky with those wings. I loved it . And it was staged at the amazing Theatre Royal Haymarket, London,” says Tom.

“The last time I was in India was for a wedding in Chennai where we were commissioned to work on the decoration and gift wrapping. Ten of us were flown down from London and we used ribbons, paper and fabric flowers, pleated poufs, gift wrapped a whole lot of stuff for what was a huge, grand wedding. I really don’t know whose wedding it was and neither were we invited for it. We finished our job and flew back,” says Hermione who, like Tom, does not stick to interior designing moving on to painting, sketching and sculpture.

There is a stunning similarity between Tom and Hermione in not just that they are guided by their impulses but also in their creative instincts. For them anything can be turned into a ‘work of art.’ Hermione designs rugs, (she has one named after her), upholstery for arty, contemporary furniture, monofilament lights woven out of hand-dyed wool, copper thread and cotton strands and lovely pressed flowers used as wall pieces. Tom uses throwaway cardboard boxes as his canvas and used plastic bottles as raw material for his ‘sculptures.’

Both of them have been travelling from the north of India sketching, taking notes of places, people and moods. All of that has come alive in their sketchbooks, some of them transferred on to paper with a splash of colour. “I have been commissioned to do three sketchbooks on India,” says Hermione flipping through pages from her book that reveal interesting sights of her travels through Leh, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Agra down to Kerala. “We are here till December 25. More pages are sure to get filled up. I then need to sift through the whole lot and pick some for the three books,” she adds.

What interests Tom now is art in motion. “That’s for now, I’m sure it’s going to change. On this travel I’ve been looking at images static, moving, flat and 3D ones. This is what I’m trying to recreate. My medium is mostly ink, enamel and acrylic. I want art to be closely linked to theatre and music. Perhaps we could even have a gallery with the works on the walls along with music and even theatre.”

Hermione works fervently with Mint Collective and Ladbroke Terrace Collective. “In Morocco the initiative has been endeavouring to create an artistic platform for young Moroccan artists and fellow travelling artists from abroad. Through collaborative creation, criticism and curation as well as the sharing of skills and networks we hope to energise the already bubbling art scene of Marrakech. We host residencies and it is significantly a self-funded effort by the artist residents and the organisers. In this manner we are involved in the Biennale here by promoting and building a journey for these young artists towards it. The London initiative also functions on similar lines,” explains Hermione.

Tom and Hemione are off to Alappuzha, Varkala, Madurai….

“We may change our plans too. But we are certain to be back to Kochi in time for the Biennale,” says Tom.

When they fly back to London by the end of this year both Tom and Hermione would have images that they would not forget for long. The canals with its weeds, the smells from the small tea shops and dhabbas , the narrow pathways amidst the green tea estates, the rolling hills of Vagamon…there are so many of them. And back home Hermione has her regular work, while Tom will be heading for the shoot of the BBC television series The Hollow Crown , an amalgamation of Shakespeare’s History Plays.

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