Thom Ash is a self-taught Belgian artist (b. 1984) genuinely interested in art history. His need to create emerged from the observations he drew from that wandering about the past, and by contemplating all the aspects of the society surrounding him and his contemporaries.
Thom Ash’s artistic approach is defined by his ongoing investigation of colors and by the theory of “six degrees of separation” which is his main inspiration. This theory relays on the scientific fact that each single individual in the world is connected to any other by 5 intermediaries.
Thom Ash depictes the networks and connections in our actual society. To illustrate this idea, he uses recycled textile, some cotton from actual t-shirts and other clothes that were once worn. Each fabric he uses is representing the life of a distinct human being. All together, the yarns are crossing and intermingling as as many different lives of distinct persons. Some are mixing with many others, and some only meet up with a few others. The fact that the textiles were made of actual clothes that were once brought to life by a diversity of owners of different genders, religions, social statuses, races and blended together to create each yarn, adds to the depth of the theory. In an intense and laborious process of stretching each yarn from one side to the other of the wooden frame, Thom Ash focuses on each intersection. He visualizes some crowded places such as airports, train stations, or any other gathering of people in his accumulations of yarns at the same point of junction.
Dematerializing those links, he depicts traces of wifi-signals, e-mails, networks… which were all created by some individuals in the first place. His aim is that in the end, the whole work shows different layers of thousands of crossroads, with no possibility of seeing through it. He is then only satisfied when he sees a complete balance in the composition. The theory of the six degrees of separation led to many researches to verify its accurateness: several studies have been conducted to empirically measure the connectedness. Until now, due to geographical or privacy restrictions, nobody could accuratly bring a conclusion with definite certitude about the exact number of intermediates. Different incomplete studies conclude to 3 to 6 intermediates. Although this theory was first mentioned in 1929 (by Frigyes Karinthy- “Everyting is different”), Thom Ash believes this notion is even more actual nowadays. In an ever growing, innovating and globalizing world, this idea has a lot of positive implications. From this concept, we can conclude that, in many fields such as religion, opinions and social ladder, opposites are much more connected than we think. This could positively change the way we think about solidarity, responsibility and globalization. Therefore, the consequences of this way of thinking also defeat the negative aspects of generalization and individualization.
“Art is what makes the difference between animals and humans. Animals don’t do art.
Everything that moves an individual and leads to contemplation is Art.
In my opinion, the role of an artist is to create Art, by innovating, using art history as a foundation and the contemporary society as an inspiration.”
Photographs and text courtesy of the artist.