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Justin Coombes

Justin Coombes is a Senior Ruskin Tutor (Studio Practice) on the Ruskin's BFA. He is also available for DPhil supervision in both Fine Art and Contemporary Art History & Theory.

In my poetry and multimedia art, I explore timeless themes: love, history, power, death and home, usually through the voices of my fictional characters. My work is influenced by mythology, the environmental crisis, moral philosophy, psychology and surrealism.


My poetry often forms the backbone of my projects. For example, my photo-text book Gurgaon Gita is composed of a long, rhyming poem and photographs I made in India, and uses the Bhagavad Gita as a frame story. The reader experiences the stream of consciousness of Aarav, a Delhi railway clerk approaching retirement. Aarav’s interior conversations begin with his god Krishna, a superego whose voice transforms into those of many others: the drama moves from playful humour to a fight for Aarav's sanity.


I was born in 1977 and studied at the Ruskin myself, gaining a 1st class BFA (Hons) in 1999. I later completed an MA at Goldsmiths (Image & Communication) and a PhD (Photography) at the RCA, under the supervision of Dr Fancette Pacteau and Professor Adrian Rifkin. My thesis examined the relationship between photography, memory and ekphrasis: the verbal description of visual art. I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and have lectured at UCL, the RCA, UAL, UCA, Cambridge University, and in India, China and Japan. In the UK, I have also worked in commercial photography, the charity sector, and magazine publishing. Between 2009 and 2017, I co-founded and co-ran a studio group providing space and activities for over fifty fellow artists, writers, designers and architects.


I have received several awards for my art, including the British Oxygen Company Emerging Artist Award, and the Magenta Flash Forward Award. Grants include the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, Arts Council England, and the AHRC, amongst others.


I particularly welcome DPhil proposals exploring art and literature, especially poetry.

Email justin.coombes@rsa.ox.ac.uk