Artist Timo Wright: “Tea is never just tea”

Artist Timo Wright: “Tea is never just tea”

Artist Timo Wright is currently at an artist residence in London. The residency is organised by Art Apartments in collaboration with the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art and the Finnish Institute in London. During his residency Timo will be working on Babeltea, a tea themed project. In this interview he tells us more about the project. 

Why did you choose tea as a subject of your project?

“I got hugely excited about green tea while I was living in Japan. The idea came from a desire to find ways in which people can meet and talk to each other, which these days sometimes feels a bit difficult. I wanted to create something that lets people slow down for a moment and have informal discussions with each other. Tea drinking lasts for a definite amount of time, usually around 10 to 15 minutes.

Britain has a long history with tea and concepts like ‘tea time’ and ‘5 o’clock tea’ are commonly known. In Finland this sort of project could be Coffee Time. Tea is interesting because on the one hand it’s neutral but when you look deeper into it it has links to the British Empire and colonial history. It’s not just tea.“

You combine digital and physical presentations in your project. What possibilities does it bring to your work?

“I wanted my project to be something that is light and fun on the outside but also serious. I hope that at least in some discussions the participants reach meaningful encounters. It depends on many things and it is impossible to say beforehand if it happens. I hope that everyone leaves with at least something. If not, it’s always nice to just sit down and have a cup of coffee, or in this case tea. It’s fun to just stop working for a moment and do something less productive.”

What does the residency mean to you? What do you expect from it?   

“I expect to be able to meet different people and communities through this residency and this project, people that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to meet. Residencies are quite important for creating art because at their best they allow you to concentrate on doing just one thing.  

The problem with residencies is that there’s so few of them and they aren’t necessarily accessible to everyone. This is why we are collaborating with the Finnish Institute with an open call for supported swaps between Finland and the UK. It’s a website where artists can swap their studios and homes. The idea is that everyone can participate and that this can be done side by side with other artist residencies.”

Timo Wright’s Babeltea project will be presented in two events at the Estorick Collection, on 31st of October (6:30pm-8:30pm), and in one of Art Apartments’ London flats on 2nd of November.  Please RSVP to be added to the list 

The Finnish Institute in London in collaboration with Artist Residency Swap is placing an open call for the programme. Artist Residency Swap offers a new residency programme aimed at all artists, which enables artists to swap their studios and homes. The deadline for applications is 15 November 2019.

Link to the application:

More information:

Text: Kaisa Paavola Photo: Timo Wright


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