Dig My Grave [Perform//Print], Elizabeth Tomos, 2024. The Last Breath Society (Martin O'Brien and FUTURE RITUAL). Image: Marco Berardi

Elizabeth Tomos

In our next Mixing It Up feature, artist Elizabeth Tomos shares who she turns to when she needs help & advice, what she does outside of her art practice and who she would most like to collaborate with.

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We are facing an ecological crisis, which is really a human crisis; a crisis of how we live, how we operate, how we treat each other and our beautiful, but deeply hurt planet. The events of the next few short years will be the greatest universal threat human beings have ever faced and the one that shapes whether or not we have a future as a species. It will take all our wisdom, creativity, solidarity, and care to navigate this and find new paths to tread or maybe just to rediscover old ones that we forgot, that got tangled with thorns, difficult to find, and virtually impassable. 

Art has a huge role in these uncertain and unstable times to help us process our experiences, imagine new futures, and (re)birth ways of living, breathing, and being. Helping us seek out the paths less well travelled, or even forge new ones entirely. It can help re-orientate us away from our human-centric endeavours and find new ways to care for our world. 

For me, tackling the ecological crisis is now the only thing that matters. It is everything. It is complex. It is political. Ecological justice is social justice. This is a mycelial network of interconnecting issues that need sensitive and intersectional solutions. This is the work art needs to do. As an artist, it is important to me to be “at work in the ruins” (Dougald Hine). 

Within this context I operate as an artist, arts educator, and climate activist. I am currently lead artist on the Northamptonshire Creative Climate Action Fund project supporting the local community to engage with the ecological crisis. In this project, I am using permaculture principles to support positive practices of well-being and creativity through a series of workshops, as well as developing a new performance work. 

Most of my practice utilises a medium I call Perform//Print which is a hybrid method of making art that draws on the techniques, methods, and processes of printmaking and collides them with live and performance art practices. I believe that printmaking and performance art are the mediums for our times. They both have long histories of political dissent, they are both able to hybridise and layer multiple elements, they can be queered, they can be temporal and fragile, and speak to loss. So, they matter to me as a way to navigate and express my ecological concerns.

I was born in Frimley, Surrey, UK but have never lived there. I am of Welsh heritage, which can be traced back as far back as there is written record, but my family migrated, alongside much of the community, to Portsmouth (England) following the closure of Pembrokeshire Docks. Clinging desperately and hopelessly to the vestiges of Welsh culture it slowly died, cut off from the land to which we had belonged for centuries. I was, therefore, born in an English town we were merely passing through on the way from South Africa to North America. I was raised across two continents, North America, and Europe. As a result, my relationship with the concept of home, belonging, and identity is somewhat fragmented. These experiences are embedded in my interest in land, place, site, and ecology. Welsh mythology and concepts of human/non-human relationships are key to my thinking on the climate crisis.  

My undergraduate degree was at the University of the Arts London where I studied Fine Art: Sculpture working with the body and site. I later studied printmaking at the University of West England, then undertook my Masters in Fine Art at the University of Northampton and I am currently finishing my PhD in Fine Art with Edinburgh College of Art. Since graduating from my first degree in 2009 I have operated as an artist exhibiting and performing all over the world. Most recently this has involved work with performance collective The Last Breath Society (Martin O’Brien and FUTURE RITUAL), two commissions with Performance Art Bergen for their annual international festival and for the online series Together Elsewhere, and the Draw to Perform Festival organised by Ram Samocha in Brighton in 2022. 

I have been teaching in the arts in Higher Education since 2010 and am currently on sabbatical from my regular teaching post as a Senior Lecturer at Falmouth University. I am a trustee for Shallal Dance Theatre, an inclusive community dance company in Cornwall and I am also a director and curator for Trans- States, which is a small community interest company dedicated to the scholarship of contemporary occulture and esotericism.