Tom Bass AM 1916-2010
As the anniversary of Tom’s birth approaches on 6 June, TBSSS is celebrating this year with various events, including the successful inaugural Tom Bass Prize for Figurative Sculpture and a film night later in the year.
“No artist has done more to shape the face of art in Australia than Tom Bass. Both as a sculptor and an inspirational teacher of sculpture.” John McDonald SMH.
It would not be easy to find an artist who has sought more earnestly to pass on his artistic knowledge to new generations.
Not unexpectedly, as the years go by, the number of existing students at the school, who had the privilege of knowing and working with Tom, is dwindling. All our teaching staff trained under Tom and all are committed to his particular teaching philosophy and to the continuation of his legacy. And the existing students seem curious and keen to know more about Tom and his approach to sculpture and to teaching.
Tom saw great value in the life class. He regarded it highly. Not because we are attached to the figurative aspects of sculpture or the traditional way of doing sculpture, but because he saw the life study as an opportunity to look at natural form in all its infinite variation. He urged that we learn to see as distinct from merely looking.
With this new sensibility and new sculptural language, the artist can find their own unique and artistic expression.
At the same time, Tom saw tradition as great source of knowledge and understanding. Like the language we speak, it is passed on but is ever changing. He was inspired by the masters. “When I was visiting the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam I was looking at the painting of the bedroom at Arles. As I looked at the painting of the rough old board along the side of the bed, I realised that I was not only looking at the painting of the board, I was seeing the actual board as Vincent had seen it – the extraordinary vision he had seen.”
This insight of Tom’s is part of the legacy still carried on in the teaching of sculpture at TBSSS.
So, it’s good to see that students continue to come to learn at TBSSS and that the studio is buzzing.
In Tom’s own words to his students: “There’s fire to be eaten!”