A modern-day ‘cave’ painting’ takes shape

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Award winning artist Thomas Allen has created his largest painting ever using a gallery wall as the backdrop for a canvas that mimics a cave painting.

Thomas, from Lindfield, spent a week in darkness at the Fabrica Gallery in Brighton painting with the aid of only a hand held electric light.

He also utilised the Surrealists’ idea of ‘automatic drawing’, or scribbling, to tap into the unconscious minds of 148 visitors who provided him with scribbles.

With other ideas gleaned from his exploration of the area around the gallery as well as further scribbles elicited from people he bumped into, Thomas created a painting from start to finish, measuring 3.5m by 1.5m, his largest work to date.

He said: “Surrealists liked to play with ideas, so the idea was that the scribble was an artless or unconscious expression of the mind, so, with all the scribbles I got it became a insight into the collective unconsciousness of the people of the area around the gallery.”

Thomas said some people were unable to physically bring themselves to draw while others drew recognisable illustrations and some were completely free with scribbles that were unique.

He said: “It really opened my mind: there’s fire in my belly now; I want to take it to a larger scale and a bigger venue, somewhere like London or another country and get a snapshot of the collective unconsciousness of that particular place. It is interesting that there were recognisable patterns and themes coming through the scribbles.”

Thomas, 23, completed a degree in sociology with economics before taking up art full time, becoming self-taught. His works have won top accolade from London art galleries and critics including the Mall Galleries, the Science Museum and the Royal College of Art.For his cave painting concept, he worked nine hour days without breaks to complete the work in the five days he was allocated at the gallery. He used charcoal and sanguine with a touch of graphite on paper that he had previously stained using 38 tea bags.

Thomas is now shortlisted for the Royal Society of British Artists’ month-long scholarship to Rome.