Tom Isaacs is a Sydney-based artist and academic who works primarily in performance and textile art. Below, he reflects upon the origins, inspirations and experiences of his creative practice, as well as what lies ahead.

About the Practice of Tom Isaacs

My work creatively and critically engages with ideas of mental health, wellbeing, care, and healing. My practice is informed by my lived experience of neurodiversity, depression, intergenerational trauma, and psychotherapy, and my interests in psychoanalytic theory, art history, religion and ritual practices. 

Performance art has long been a way for me to process and express something of the experience of living with depression, with regular references to melancholia, repression, and death, but also to healing and rebirth. One recurring motif that embodies this ambivalence in my work is the covering of the body with wool or felt fabric which evokes funeral shrouds and burial rituals, but also the work of German artist Joseph Beuys who claimed to have suffered life-threatening injuries which were healed by wrapping his body in fat and felt.  

In 2020, inspired by my mother’s quilting practice and by the idea of quilts as practical expressions of love and care, I began to make textile works using felt. While developing Emergency Blankets for Cementa22, I travelled to Kandos several times to sew with members of the local craft group. This experience impressed upon me the power of making together as a potent combination of creative practice, relationship building, caring, and community.

Since then, I have been researching and experimenting with interactive, collaborative, and socially engaged modes of practice. I am currently developing a socially-engaged project exploring the benefits of creative embodied practice for mental health and wellbeing, with a focus on ethical, non-hierarchical relationships and open-ended creative process. In September 2023, I will be undertaking a residency at the Rex Cramphorn Studio to explore these ideas further. I am also a participating artist in the second year of CASE Incubator, a professional development and mentorship program led by the CAD Factory.


Feature image: Tom Isaacs, Freud’s Ghost, 2023. Still from video documentation by Cinzia Cremona.
Article by Tom Isaacs
Posted by Jessie Zhou