Banner image: Guard Dogs, oil on canvas, 2019 © Tomas Harker

Artist Tomas Harker, 2018 winner of The Ingram Collection'sYoung Contemporary Talent Purchase Prize, uses painting to consider how images inform our understanding of present day reality and history. His paintings are currently on display at The Lightbox, in the annual exhibition, The Ingram Collection: Young Contemporary Talent.

The artist's sources of inspiration and working methods are both fascinating and original, so we couldn't wait to sit him down and delve deeper into his creative mind. This interview explores Tomas Harker's creative processes, as well as his career as an artist to date and where you might find his work in 2020.

Moths, oil on canvas, 2019 © Tomas Harker

First of all, tell us a bit about yourself and your artistic practice. We know you’re currently undertaking an MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art, London, but how did you get into art at all?

When I was very young I used to spend a lot of time drawing. It was something I carried on with and when I got older I started going to galleries and museums with my friends. For a few years I was making paintings from an outsider perspective. It wasn’t until later on that I did a degree in Fine Art at Leeds College of Art (now Leeds Arts University), and I went straight from there to the RCA.

When you start developing a new artwork, what is your creative process? How do you choose something as reference and where do you go from there?

I’m interested in a variety of subjects. Within the images I collect, they vary between the seductive and repulsive – uneasy and ambiguous. That being said, I never try to force meaning, and instead embrace the natural contradictions and connections between images. Thinking how the image can be used in a physical sense plays a big part too.

Stripedshirt, oil on canvas, 2019 © Tomas Harker

For this exhibition you’ve set out to create new associations by juxtaposing your own paintings with works from The Ingram Collection. How did this idea emerge and why was it important to you?

It is something I am interested in doing and have done within my own work. To do it with the work of other artists for this exhibition was fascinating. I really enjoy combining artworks that would not normally be placed together. For me, this is freeing, allowing the meaning of the artwork or series of artworks to bleed between concrete and linear. Art becomes interesting for me when it stops affirming meaning or a certain position and instead raises questions.

How has winning The Ingram Collection’s Young Contemporary Talent Purchase Prize helped you to progress in the art industry?

I was coming home from a trip on the Eurostar. I had no signal but a message came through from a friend letting me know that I’d won the Prize. I couldn’t believe it. It is a cliché but I really had never won anything before. The Purchase Prize really did help boost my career; it was such a privilege and there was definitely a surge of interest in my work going forwards.

What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects or exhibitions we should keep an eye on?

bo.lee gallery are showing some new works at London Art Fair in the New Year and I’m planning a show at the gallery too. I have my Royal College of Art MA show in the summer and after that I’m looking forward to moving into a new studio where I live, in Brixton.

Orange Scarf, oil on canvas, 2019 © Tomas Harker

Tomas Harker's paintings are on display in the Art Fund Prize Gallery until 5 January 2020 and the exhibition is free to visit. The exhibition is part of the annual series of solo shows by artists who have won The Ingram Collection's Purchase Prize for Young Contemporary Talent.