tom wilkinson
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Clay Camera

Recently reinstalled at Trinity Buoy Wharf. For more info about current installation

This is the clay camera on the last day of the installation at the British Ceramic Biennial. The rain-cover is removed
showing an image clearly on the clay plate - this is the image of the roof structure at Spode Works. Streaking accross
are the sun-traces fired into the surface, but not where the roof structure is, leaving a negative or silhouette of the subject.
This is the first, actual recognisable, image taken with my clay camera and its debut installation! The homemade camera has
a 12" diameter lens. The iris cotrols, as in all cameras, the light coming in but in this case an overexposure can cause the clay's
surface to pit with tiny explosions.

Clay Camera at British Ceramic Biennial

Below is the clay plate the correct way up. It measures 32cm square and shows the silhouette of the roof structure.
Interestingly the action of the heat from the Sun has caused the salts to come to the surface. The black marks show that the
intense heat has vitrified the minerals in the clay, turning it to glass.The image of the roof is somewhat blurred this is because
of its nearness to the camera. the lens is focused to infinity so a subject further away will make a sharper image - note that the
image, like in a normal film camera, is in reverse.

Clay plate at British Ceramic Biennial

The roof structure and ventilators at Spode Works. The first subject for a long duration exposure

September 2019

The new camera had its live debut at the British Ceramic Biennial in Stoke-On-Trent 7th September until 13th October
2019. For the duration the camera is recording an image of the Spode Works superstructure and ventilators, made up of traces
fired into a London Clay plate. (similar to the test version below showing trees tops from my workshop window).

Sun Firing in shed
The new camera installed at the Spode Works for the duration of the BCB 2019

Sun camera
The new camera locked off and ready to record the Sun passes over the 37 days of the Biennial

For help with this whole project I'd like to specially thank the following:

Alison Cooke for rekindling my entusiasm for the project and supplying me with Thames Tideway clay.
If it wasn't for her encouragment I doubt if I'd have taken the project to this next step.

Barney Hare-Duke for letting me do this at the BCB and supplying the shed.
Rhiannon Ewing-Davies, the BCB Creative Director, for her patience, support and organisation.

Sun Firing
Sixteen days of Sun traces made in August 17 - 31 2019 from my workshop window iclearly showing the outline of the
treetops being recorded

Early experiments

The rudimentary camera you see here captures an image of the Sun, not onto film or a silicon chip, but onto a clay plate.
As the Earth and Sun perform their celestial dance, a trace is recorded onto its surface. The temperature of the Sun’s disc
image is about 500°C, which is hot enough to actually fire the clay. The plate is made from 100% London clay, which I dug
up near my home in Kensal Green. When fired it transforms from the muddy ochre into a beautiful salmon pink.

This year I achieved what I didn't know was possible - to actually capture an actual image, the outline of the branch (see bleow).
It really is primal photography. I want to make a better camera that will allow me larger images and photograph an entire tree.
I have been accepted to present the work at this year's British Ceramics Biennial. This is a great honour for someone who
has never use clay as medium for their art, however I haven't managed yet to convince the Art Council for funding but thanks
to those friends who contributed to buying the very expensive lens for the new camera.

Sun Firing camera

To obtain the image of a whole tree will be technically challenging, to say the least, as the image is formed as the sun passes
behind, creating a silhouette. It will take three - four weeks to make an image consisting of about thirty traces, so the equipment
has to be very precise as the camera has to be left without being moved for this total period. And the whole set-up has to be
under shelter to prevent the clay returning to mud, so not an easy task at all.

Above: Taken over one week of the heatwave, last summer

Early tests

sun trace on clay

The first plate is pure London clay. Alison Cooke, the experimental ceramicist, kindly provided me with advice and clay
which was excavated 200 meters down during the construction of Tideway, London’s future sewer. I’ve excavated my
own clay near where I live and it is fascinating to see the colour variation of clays from different seams.

I've had a recent and very exciting breakthrough ( below) a new experiment has worked whereby the camera is capable
of actually forming an image of an object. This is something that I envisaged years ago but didn’t think possible. By accident
I left the lens cap off the camera, as the sun is low now I’d stopped taking photos. But when I looked at the plate I could see
the distinct outline of the tree tops - over 3 days a definite image has formed. I know know that the outline of any large object
can be captured on the clay plate. This is how it would work - as the Sun sinks lower each day it scans a parallel trace and
slowly, over a period of 2-3 weeks would build up an image in silhouette on the London clay plate. It could be a whole tree or
building, infact any large object.

Here is the evidence - I hope you can comprehend the image - the second photo is with the scene obscured in order to show
the fired trace clearer.

An impression of a tree Sun trace scan taken over about twenty days

I’m applying for an Art Council Grant, having been accepted to show the process at the British Ceramic Biennial. This is a great
honour for someone who’s not worked in clay before. Also been accepted to show at Lumen Crypt Gallery in Bethnal Green
which is very appealing, showing work about light and earth in a subterranean space.

Bike Bolex

I'm currently experimenting with a project called Bike Bolex.The idea came to me as I reaslised that If the film transport
mecahnism was directly driven from the bike wheel, on playabck of the 16mm film time could be warped or dilated.
So the camera is bike-cranked as opposed to hand-cranked as per camera used in silent movies era. When pedelling
the bike I try and slow down and speed up so on watching the film it looks as though you are travelling at a constant speed
while everything else; people walking by, cars etc, go into slow motion and then speed up. I shot the test film with help from
James Holcombe who, on getting back to the house he, to my amazement, developed the B&W 100ft reel in caffeinol,
a developer made from coffee and a few other edible products. It works perfectly and the negative was rich in grain and
contrast. He explained that there is a whole movement in film making where they don't want to flush chemicals down the drain.
During the filming the mechanism broke and the bike gears gave up but now it's all fixed and ready for a second filming, complete
with a the addition of a governor linked to the lens aperture to maintain a even exposure.

Bike powered camera2

Bike powered camera
Bike Bolex

Last September I showed Let's Bounce at Sketch as part of the residency by Kinetica Museum. Below is the video of
the exhibtion. It was a little show in the main entrance of the club. Sketch has a few permanent kinetic artworks on show
by the stairs and is a friendly place where you can just wander in and have alook at the art.

My new work is called Shadow Disc. It is a slow moving meditave scuplture 42x 42 x 15cm. I showed it with my
other works Entanglement and Mesh in Kinetica's 10th year anniversary last February at the Ugly Duck in Bermondsey.



Entanglement uses the optical illusion - persistence of vision (in it's true sense), the two 'doughnuts' appear
to interlock.
One motorised version was shown at the Osmosis Project's exhibition Eureka in The Art Pavillion, Mile End,
and a hand operated one was shown in Gravity at the Hospital Club with Kinetica Museum. Both wonderful,
but very different, science/art exhibitons which have just closed. These ran almost concurrently which was
very exciting to be in both, but at times did entangle my brain. This artwork will be an addition of ten



Light Sphere I at Winter Lights Canary Wharf

Winter Lights is a festival showing new media light artworks by 18 international artists
January 22nd 2016

Light Sphere I at Winter Lights 2016
photo by Dougles Cape - to see his stunning panorama click here

Light Sphere 1 video by Douglas Cape - z360.

Light Sphere I is a new artwork - basically a larger version of Green Ray but capable of full spectrum colours changes and pattern. It was commissioned by Canary Wharf Public Arts and presented many challenges, particularly making a fast spinning object that the public can feel comfortable close up to. It also inevitably needed to be totally waterproof and winds resistant. The electronics were engineered by Adrian Godwin and we continue in the collaboration to develop programmimg new colour and pattern. This artwork is available to tour light shows and festivals for further information please email. Watch this space for a video of Light Sphere I.
Winter Lights Canary Wharf
- and click here for the brochure

First exhibited in an event at the Evening Standard 1000 people event at Canary Wharf in October 2015 and Eureka, a science art show in Mile End with Adrain Pritchard's wonderful Osmosis Project.

tom Wilkinson light sculpture
First conception of of Light Sphere I


Lights of Soho a new gallery/club has opened in Brewer St Soho with a number of wonderful light artworks, some cobbled together from sexshop neon. I showed Let's Bounce with the Kinetica Museum group. It's a fantastic original shop space ( once a sexshop) all opened up with a basement, also full of art and sofas, that used to be a knocking shop. It has a bar with very nice staff who must have been good at keeping the tipsy away from the delicate light artworks, as there were no breakages!

Citl Lights

City Lights closed July 19th 2015


Installed, last November at the Royal Free Hospital. It's a called The Meditating Brain and is a first for me in many ways; I've never used the medium of stained glass before and, unlike most of my things, it doesn't move.

The artwork hangs in the spacious reception in Radiology on the ground floor. The image is taken from an actual MRI scan of a person in a state of deep meditation. The scan, a perfusion MRI, was made by the radiology team at Hospital in their free time and I am immensely grateful to them for their support during the project.

The person who underwent the scan is a female member of the radiology department therefore familiar with the machine's noises and claustraphobicness, this was essential to feeling relaxed sufficiently to attain the state of deep meditation.

The scan showed a reduced blood flow in the parietal lobe, which is the lower right hand side of the scan. This is the area of the brain responsible for giving us a sense of orientation in space and time. My hope and intention was that the artwork would have a calming influence on those waiting in the reception. The artwork can be seen in Radiology Reception on the ground floor. It was made at Kingsgate Workshops under the technical supervision of Beverly Bryon of Prism Glass Design. The Meditating Brain is dedicated to my good friend Mark Wickham, sadly no longer with us. He was a very fine stained glass artist and an the original inspiration for the artwork.

Ham & High article

Meditating Brain, Royal Free Hospital

Meditating Brain. Royal Free Hospital



Aurora is a wind sculpture which I've been working on for 4 years, this is after making a series of experimental versions, usually tested on my chimney. The idea with this artwork is capturing the wind and transmogrifying it into light and colour. Aurora generates it's own lighting, but only when it turns, and shanges colour with the wind speed.This shows the wind & light sculpture called Aurora I. It was installed for the one day event with Kinetica Museum. Aurora is currently on trials, mounted on a long pole in my garden, to see if it works before going on said pole on the Hothouse in Hackney.




The owners of The MS Stubnitz, Blo and Heiko kindly allowed Aurora I to stay on board the magnificent ship for tests, while moored at Canary Wharf with the Kinetica Museum show. During this week of high winds (some gusting at 55mph) the sculpture has been thoroughly put though its paces.