Will Thorburn Art Studio

Will Thorburn is a London and Folkestone-based contemporary artist producing vibrant, colourful paintings based on organic, anatomical shapes.

Will Thorburn is a London and Folkestone-based contemporary artist making vibrant, colourful paintings and drawings.

Will Thorburn is a contemporary artist based in London and Folkestone. His work combines anatomical and architectural imagery with material sourced online to create layered works in which the organic and inorganic merge. He combines content from the British coastal towns in which he has lived and grown up (candy floss, deck chairs, fast food outlets, sun sea and sand), with sourced content relating to the idea of the exotic getaway, particularly the ‘ideal holiday’ as shown in travel brochures. Saturating canvases with bright, clean colours, forms emerge suggestive of limbs, internal organs, and plants intertwined in ambiguous combinations.  

“My work is very colour-driven; in the past I was really influenced by the fauves like Derain and the work of artists like Tom Wesselmann and David Hockney, all artists whose relationship to colour is totally central to the impact of their work. My most recent work is becoming looser and less reliant on flat areas of pure colour; I’ve got huge admiration for painters like Albert Oehlen and Peter Saul, especially his early work, as well as colour-driven expressionists like Kirchner, and I’m increasingly trying to let the compositions become more organically driven and unpredictable or unstable. I used to create my work in quite an insular way, working from a small number of source books and spending a lot of time designing each piece. I now spend a lot more time looking at the real world, taking ideas from things I see as well as from the internet or books. I’ve lived and grown up in various British seaside towns (Whitehaven, Clacton-on-sea, Brighton, and now Folkestone), and the colours and shapes of those places are now really important to the work I produce.”

Thorburn’s practice has been based in an interest in a combination of the organic and synthetic, influenced by JK Huysmans’ novel Against Nature. Images of exotic plants, anatomical imagery taken from medical textbooks, and of landscapes are merged with intense flat areas of colour depicting signs and vivid shapes. The forms have become simpler and looser, in comparison to the artist’s earlier, intricate paintings combining Persian rug designs with densely work anatomical imagery. “Two key influences for me have been Huysmans and the photographer Martin Parr. Ever since I first read Against Nature I’ve been thinking about the appearance of the synthetic; the lead character in the book loves anything artificial, for example like Symbolist artists such as Moreau or plants that seem to be made of plastic. I found that idea of something being real and not real at the same time very exciting, and I think Martin Parr achieves something similar in the way he uses flash and very intense colours to make reality seem artificial. I’ve wanted to do something similar in my own work, through the shapes and the colours I’m using.”

Born in 1983, Will Thorburn lives and works in London and Folkestone, UK. Having studied Critical Fine Art Practice at Brighton University, he completed his MA Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in 2016. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions throughout the UK, including those at Schwartz Gallery, Alon Zakaim Fine Art, and Candid Arts Trust. He has also been featured at Art Miami and The Other Art Fair.