Tom Swift

14294431549_4ca218dc3c_o (1)38 year old Essex boy Tom Swift is an awkward genius. The 6’2” eligible bachelor (taller, in his straw trilby) can’t stop working. His latest work is blurring the boundaries between painting, being a snotty punk, carrying out random acts of performance art, and writing poetry.

Based in the downtown side of British seaside town Margate, he’s been involved in making music, making paintings and breaking rules since he was a child.

His home life was hardly ordinary; Londoner Tom (born in 1969) is the son of legendary session drummer Hazelton Swift. As a teenager, dockyard worker Hazelton met calypsonian Lord Kitchener as he disembarked from the SS Empire Windrush when it docked at Tilbury and joined his band a week later. So Tom was surrounded by music and musicians, bohemians and beat poets from an early age.

Oddly though, it was only in his mid-30s that Tom took up music himself; he has taught himself to play guitar and drums, recorded three albums (as yet unreleased, while two well-known labels squabble over an advance), and plays with an arthouse jazz band.

But music stardom aside, it is, of course, for his painting that 191cm-tall Tom is known, after recent London exhibitions at Art 14 and A Fete Worse Than Death. Tom’s manic brushwork means he can produce a hundred paintings in a day. His energy has become as important as the finished work; at Art 14, Tom’s work sold out in the first hour, so he transformed his stand into an ad-hoc studio and he produced new paintings in the space, covering the walls and selling as he went. Three very well-known dealers (one of them, actually an art dealer) and a pop star left with his work on paper rolled up.

For A Fete Worse Than Death, Tom and artist Paul Hazelton got a gang together. Meeting in an ice cream parlour in Tom’s hometown of Ramsgate (out of the eyes of Margate’s art cognoscenti) the boys (and one girl) planned one perfect job, never to be repeated. De-In-Stall is a joint collaboration between Tom and dust artist Paul Hazelton featuring pop music video director Simon Williams, artist Steve McPherson, colour poet Emrys Plant, musician Steve Graham, and seamstress Beth Anderson. They ended up being joined by the ice cream shop owner, a reclusive ex-millionaire called Caspar (who once owned Gillingham Town FC), who dispensed advice to visitors. De-In-Stall created a gambling den, self-help centre, music hall comedy show and contemporary gallery space in a market stall on London’s Rivington Street.

De-In-Stall from Paul Hazelton on Vimeo.

Having pledged to make one perfect album and split up, the De-In-Stall band of brothers (and one sister) will reunite with some special guests when the one-off event will be repeated as different line-ups of De-In-Stall come to the Herrick Gallery, No 18 Gallery and the Art Car Boot.

Unifying all his projects, by working with brushes, typewriters and pieces of found timber, Tom (who wears stacked heels to increase his height) creates work that’s distinctively his. Rambling sequences of hybrid drawing-painting-poems which reference architecture, shopfronts and the grid layouts of magazine pages show that Tom is in love with the modern world, modern girls and modern rock & roll. Tom, who models his look on 80s icon Roland Rat, is never seen without his baseball cap on and always wears Converse All-Stars.

Don’t look for him at home; he’ll be out in the moonlight, looking for factories, neon lights and auto-signs. While he’s out, steal his art; it’s a good investment, and you’ll make a profit in five years.

Dan Thompson 2014


May 2015 ongoing

Collaboration with Tracy Kendall Wallpaper.


April 2015

Haeckels Ace Hotel mural commission. 109 Shoreditch High Street, London


October 14 – 19, 2014

'We could not agree' Cavendish Square Underground Car Park, London
Curated by Alice Herrick


September 3-7, 2014

Herrick Gallery.


DE-IN-STALL PART 3. Mythologized folk archive.


August 30, 2014
Art Car Boot Folkstone with Herrick Gallery
Collaboration with Paul Hazelton

July 19, 2014

20th Anniversay of Factual Nonsense

A Fete Worse Than Death

Rivington St,

London EC2


Collaboration with Paul Hazelton


Feb 28, 2014

Art 14 London 

New Paintings/Performance


Nov 15-18, 2013

Pie Factory, Margate 

Thanet Works vs Block Colour

New Paintings/Prints/Install


Oct 21, 2013

Old Town Margate

One day event

Thanet Cycle Shit vs Thanet Works


Oct 12-20, 2013

Harbour Arm Gallery, Margate

Parrot Fashion

New works 

Joint show with Dan Bass


May 3-5, 2013

Parade Gallery, Margate

Joint show with Dave Hendley


Nov 29-4 2012

Parade Gallery, Margate

Pearls Cars and Gum

Solo Show

New works


July 2011

Kent Cultural Baton Residency

Ashford is festival


March 19-27, 2011

Crate, Margate

Exhibition Red

Joint show with Mark John Smith

New Works


March 2010

Whitstable Biennale

Installation of Tailoring