artist in focus: tim bates


Tim Bates is a creator of minimalist lighting pieces derived from his fascination with architecture, theatre and empty space. He uses raw, unglazed clay enhanced with gold and sometimes graphite in brutalist designs to create atmospheric pieces that suggest shadows and mystery. Each piece is unique, understated with a subtle theatricality. Tim divides his time between urban Brighton where he teaches art, and his home in rural Brittany. We asked him to tell us more about his sculptural lighting work

Who, if anyone, do you have in you have in mind when you create your work?

I don’t have a specific ‘target’ audience, but I imagine the person I am making for having similar interests to me – Architecture, small spaces, Brutalism, storytelling, theatre set design…


What do people say when they see your work?

People often talk about what they imagine happening in the little spaces that are created, and how the light falls in them, giving the space a sense of wonder and a certain atmosphere.


How does your art make them feel?

The light given off by the work is ambient – giving a soothing, often mysterious, glow to the otherwise often quite harsh sculpture itself


What do you think motivates people to buy your art?

My pieces are accessible – ‘understandable’ and I would hope that people can easily imagine them fitting into a domestic setting


What makes your art different, special, irresistible?

I have never come across any work that is similar to mine and this is often what draws people to the work – its unique qualities. I would say my signature style is above all architectural



Who have you sold your artwork to?

My work is often considered quite ‘male’ oriented and people have often bought for husbands or male partners although I continue to sell to a variety of people. My clients appreciate the idea of art in a domestic interior setting where light, form, texture and materials are all key.


Who responds to your work and why do you think they connect with what you make?

People often connect to my work when they are drawn to the possible stories that empty spaces convey. Some like the brutal, architectural simplicity and respond to this aspect


Why did you choose the materials you work with?

Clay is what I am drawn to and it does what I want it to. I have often thought about translating the work with other materials – wood, metal etc., but none will do what I want in terms of forming slight imperfections and texture


Have you invented any of the techniques you use?

I do push the materials to a less obvious, conventional conclusion which results in crisp, sharp edges and corners rarely associated with clay work. More traditional potters have often admired this aspect of my work


Have you won any Awards or other accolades?

Many years ago, I won a European Ceramic Design Award and was shortlisted for the NatWest Prize for Art. There have been several articles written about myself and my work over the years