THE TERENCE WILDE INTERVIEW
Peter Herbert introduces our Artist of the Month
*Every now and then a new artist springs forward into the orbit of The Arts Project and the excitement, commitment and bond with us is absolutely palpable. Not too long ago we were introduced to the mind expanding world of Terence Wilde and the journey began with four group show exhibitions. Selecting and displaying artworks and enjoying the response Terence is getting from our supporters,buyers and visitors is very rewarding. We are very proud to place the Artist of the Month spotlight on a unique artist and our interview probes into what makes the artist tick, whether it be by use of embroidery pins and needle or pen or how the fantastic world of black and white becomes a form of colour.*
On The Out-breath
Can you tell us about the impact of gender in the creative worlds of sewing and needlework?
"I wasn’t allowed to do sewing and needlework at school, just as wood and metal work weren't on the syllabus for girls. This wasn’t a hundred years ago, this was the sixties, free love and flowers in your hair, but still with a blue for boys, pink for girls mentality. There were few shades of grey in the education system, Teachers straightforward approaches offering nothing to gender-fluid sensibilities. I did win a Blue Peter badge in their Expo 75 competition, for an underwater scene collage I sewed together from the lining of my nan's old coat, that I must have made in private. There did seem to be a sense of shame attached to boys liking fabric and haberdashery, a disgust in asking to sort out the button box as a treat, so I stayed away from it for years in case it drew too much attention to my apparent female qualities. Art school in the Eighties made it safe again for young men to sew.We had Kaffe Fassett, a supreme knitter who was known for honing his craft on public transport. Geoff Banks was one of the schools visiting fashion lecturers and he was heterosexual, and sailors were known to make their own fishing nets, but that may have been acceptable because they had a practical use.
My early experiences of sewing and embroidery are that they are synonymous with men being viewed as gay, effeminate or men that need to man up. There's nothing particularly masculine or feminine about threading a needle or sewing on a piece of cloth, creativity in any form isn't gender specific. It holds everything we are as human beings in a natural fluid way, it all flows and ends up in a form that is about expression.
As a middle-aged man running the textiles department at the Bethlem Royal hospital, I still come across a resistance from male patients, who worry they will be judged as, for want of a better word, “girly” so they often avoid my classes. There is still a taboo attached to the idea of men who sew and embroider, it's still viewed as the domain of the female, even within a mental health setting.
Different forms of creativity, with different choices of media are open-ended ways we use to express ourselves; I don’t see how it can be categorised into specific genders, it's more fluid than that. We are shifting versions of ourselves from one minute to the next, sometimes identifying with our masculine side, sometimes our feminine side but often in-between."
What do you consider the greatest challenge of our times?
"We are most likely living with the greatest challenge of our lives right now, especially the younger generations who haven't lived through any wars, at least in the United Kingdom. There are of course many of us, who survived the 1980s onset of the AIDS epidemic, labelled the “Gay Plague”, which took hold of the LGBT community on a wave of personal hatred, fear and ignorance. See “It's a sin" (on More 4) for an accurate depiction of how badly we were treated as a community in this war." "This past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has not only taken lives and livelihoods but has separated us from each other. Taken away our fundamental need to connect and love. From what I've seen it has changed and broken relationships and deeply hurt us emotionally in giving us too much time on our own. Covid-19 isn't just taking lives, its playing tricks on our minds and messing with our mental health, altering our states to the point where we seem to have lost things about ourselves that we didn’t know we could lose. No hugs for a year can't be good for us and loneliness is a killer. “Body, Mind and Spirit“ may be online this year, so we can't celebrate together through handshakes, hugs and smiles, so our inner strengths will have to be virtual but as always, creative. Thank you Peter and Marius for helping us have something to look forward to."
Someone just walked over my grave 2014
Your work reveals a subtle understanding of colour as it does the power of monochrome, black & white. Can you talk more about what we perceive as colour and/or its absence of in your work.
"Black is the darkest colour, the result of the absence or complete absorption of visible light, or is it? I don’t think we see or sense everything that surrounds us, there are subtleties of colour, not visible to everyone's naked eye. Our internal colour palettes are dormant when we are born and expressed throughout our lives depending on how we develop and our willingness to be open and take risks. Some people seem afraid of lots of colour, others retreat to black because it's safe and doesn't give too much away about the person. I work within the contrast of both colour and monochrome, black highlights colour and colour highlights life, which has always been an intuitive way of being for me. I use colour in a celebratory way to reflect joy and harmony and express how I feel inside on a good day. I work with black and white to reflect and narrate the autobiographical, more challenging aspects of my life. I don’t analyse the science of colour too much, as it's always been something I connect to instinctively, and something that works well as a contradiction of sorts as part creative DNA. Humour and great beauty are formed so often from darkness and the absence of light, and that certain colour combinations reach and lift the heaviest of hearts."
Which is your most favourite of your artworks, and why have you chosen this?
Watermarks and Spiritual Stains
"My favourite piece of work featured in Body, Mind and Spirit is called “Watermarks and Spiritual Stains", which I made in 2005. It is a stylised caricature of how I felt about myself at the time, showing what's going on inside rather than trying technically to capture my real face. There is a large pale head on a tiny, almost unnoticed body. It is deliberately imbalanced to emphasise how I have often lived inside my mind and functioned in a disassociated way. I'm fond of this piece because it is a benchmark drawing, in the sense that it was one of the first times I realised I could use emotional hues to color my work. I have a faraway look on my face, I'm sad but in the sense that it may be passing. The background is created from sandpapered oil pastels, skeletal leaves and paper hearts, to show a weathered experience. It was one of the first pieces I made with the insight that I was an artist using creativity to express myself in order to hold my life together."
What is the greatest achievement of your life?
"Being able to do artists talks in public are amongst my finest moments. I find being in the spotlight excruciating and I ‘ve had to push myself forward and out of my naturally introverted comfort zone, to do so. Making work is healing and joyful, talking about it to others is empowering. Art doesn't always talk for itself; the maker and the viewer are different sides of the experience, so it feels powerful to explain the narrative authentically I don’t just talk the talk; I walk the walk which often makes my talks emotional and unpolished, but I owe it to myself to sit with the discomfort of speaking in public, I may be reaching someone in trouble with their lives."
At the back of my mind
Ambition or Talent, what matters to success?
"It all depends on what you consider success to be. If I had wanted to be commercially successful as an artist, enough to live and pay the bills by, then I guess ambition would most likely have gotten there by now. I have never compromised my artistic integrity to get sales and opportunities to work with cool or influential galleries. I think creative talent leads to a different type of success.one that is centred around a need to express something as the main drive and purpose. Sales and social media coverage are the icing on the cake, and I love cake, but respect and recognition for the authenticity and innate beauty of one's craft is where success lies for me."
Who is or was your mentor?
“I was with you every step of the day on the talk today.” "This message from inside a card, sums up how important my mentor is to me. From my experience I think we come across a few special people in life who believe in us, even when we haven't developed the confidence to believe in ourselves. They see a spark of creativity in us which they help burn brighter, to empower ourselves into a birthright flame.
Jennifer Gilbert at the launch of Monochromatic Minds - Photo by Andrew Hood
Jennifer Gilbert from the @JenniferLaurenGallery, has supported me for over ten years now, I met her through a call out for a show she was curating with a gallery. She rang me personally at home to tell me that my work had been selected, which is something that rarely happens, but which makes such a difference to artists working alone, especially within the field of outsider art. Kindness and patience go a long way in my books and have helped me so very much with my creative development. Jenny encourages me to break free from my self-inflicted limitations and aversion to technology and is a constant, grounding influence in helping me find my real voice. She's also my friend."
The Terence Wilde Interview
You can follow Terrence at"
You can also see artwork by Terence Wilde at 2021 Loudest Whispers exhibition
Terence, thank you for being our Artist of the Month.