Tomo (James Thompson)


Tomo Photo c. McCoy Wynne

Graffiti artist & painter Tomo (

Tomo’s work can be seen as a kind of storytelling through the materials he uses. The work is informed by a strong DIY ethic and he strives to make the best he can with whatever is available, often working with discarded items.

Q & A – Tomo

Q: Tell us a little about yourself

My name is Tomo, I grew up mostly in sleepy suburban Liverpool in a neighbourhood known as ‘Two Dog’s Fighting’, my Pop’s is a Joiner and my Mum a Social Worker which is probably why I’m alright with my hands and sometimes with people. I like being still and also being on the move but I normally find myself alternating between these states.

Q:Can you tell us a little more about the ethos or thinking behind your work?

There’s a few different things going on but mainly I like to think about my process as a kind of alchemy, especially when I’m working with reclaimed or discarded materials. Sometimes I even think of it as akin to music sampling, taking things from different era’s and areas, mixing, chopping and changing. Although there’s a bit of me in there of course, the human element is probably what makes it interesting.

Q: How/when did you start making art?

I always made art since as long as I can remember. As a kid I was always drawing and my family encouraged me. When I was a teenager I discovered graffiti but I kept that one more to myself, like you do. I’d still watch Watercolour Challenge but I liked the adrenalin aspect of graffiti. Later on I went through the education system and studied graphic design which was great but then I fell in with the wrong crowd and soon enough I ended up making more personal work.

Q: What brought you to Liverpool?

I grew up here, although often I venture afar, even when my finances require me to improvise. Last time I was brought to Liverpool I think it was via a car.

Q: Where do you get inspiration from?

Everywhere really, I find a lot of ideas in normal everyday life, in the so called mundane, if you look beneath the surface there’s all kinds of jewels and gems waiting to be discovered..

Q: What do you find inspirational about Liverpool?

There’s a good diverse mix of people here, a lot of movement and you can feel that over time different forces have shaped the city. There’s always something to do here if you want but there’s still enough quiet to be found which I think is very important. Compared to some of the bigger cities one can end up in the pace here is quite slow and this suits me well as I have quite a slow pace myself. Also it hasn’t reached a point where any place feels culturally over-saturated; you can see gaps and missing pieces and then find a way of infusing them with your own energy. The negative space is equally as important as the positive space. I love exploring all those neglected sites and derelict buildings too, here one can find a wild untamed energy and maybe a little glimpse of freedom.

Q: What would your dream project be?

Anything where my work can have a positive effect on people or help them see things differently. I like it when there’s a chance to get through to people who would not normally take an interest in art. That’s one of the reasons why I occasionally work outside in the street. This Liverpool Art Prize thing is a kind of dream project too. Not because of the prize element but because I’m considered worthy to share the shortlist with a very talented group of creatives, all of whom more experienced than myself. Recently I heard that the folk at Metal routinely walk around the train platform and invite commuters into the gallery, this got me rather excited.

I’m talking reality though aren’t I? A ‘dream’ project would be me stumbling through the darkness of a strange far away city installing artwork on government buildings. Just when I’m about to get caught a limousine getaway vehicle picks me up and the driver informs the police that it can’t be me, because I’m now wearing a designer suit and am being escorted to an expensive restaurant to meet a lady-friend. The next day I fly into another country where a man meets me at the airport with my name on a card. We travel by horse to a secret location, some great art gets made, then there’s a party in my hotel room, everyone is invited and we smash it up like rock stars and the telly gets thrown out the window.

Q: Do you think there is enough support for emerging artists?

Depends what you mean by support? I work with a sort of D.I.Y. ethic and the kind of support I’ve been fortunate enough to receive is that from likeminded individuals in similar positions to myself. If you can get even a small bunch of people together and share skills you can develop something much more powerful and wholesome than if you were just given a cheque. I think Liverpool is great for its creative support networks and a lot of the time things grow from the bottom upward very successfully.

Q: What do you like/what would you change about the Liverpool art scene?

It’s great, lot’s of energy, although maybe it could be more radical? No one likes this bullshit government we didn’t even vote for, and a bit of creative muscle wouldn’t go astray. Something to think about…

Q: What can we expect from the work you’ll show at the Liverpool Art Prize exhibition?

It will be like the work you’ve already seen but more ambitious, I’m going deeper, you’ll have to wait and see…

Q:  What other exhibitions/shows/events are you looking forward to in 2012?

Wolstenholme Creative Space I hear is planning some exciting stuff for Liverpool Art Month, a little bird tells me. I also heard that Liverpool’s Hip Hop scene will be starting to wake up again after a long rest. Most interestingly though, last year a man in a pub told me that this year on the 15th of March at precisely 3.30am – everybody’s level of consciousness will suddenly become elevated, no effort required! If it really happens that would be nice.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I never really think that much ahead, I could be dead or in jail, or even living the dream.

Q: Do you have any hidden talents?

They wouldn’t be quite so hidden if I told you.