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Shape and direction in Tom Henderson Smith’s work

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An aspect of painting and drawing that Tom wished to write about was the whole business of shape and direction in both picture formats and forms within compositions. This was something he was very aware of in his own work and suspected it was important to a great many artists.

For example Tom found that, for him, the shapes of picture formats influenced the way he read them.

A vertical rectangle mazey_day-small.jpg hints at reading down or up the picture which can enhance the feeling of the energy of shapes grouped within it.

Likewise a markedly horizontal format  mackeral_sky-small.jpg seems to invite reading across the picture as in a panorama, so much so that with very long pieces Tom often broke such surfaces down into square sections partly to slow up the eye, partly to simplify shapes and allow for variations on a theme from one square to the next.

Then there’s the square format itself. To Tom equal height and width implied something very resolved and settled, a quality he sometimes used

to suggest contained stresses  small_down_wind.jpgand sometimes to underline a feeling of balance  floating_harbour-small.jpg already inherent in the shapes within the picture.

An interesting variation occurs when a square is tilted onto one of its corners.

Now its sides all become 45 degree angles often suggesting heightened tension and giving impact to the forms contained by them, either highlighting their stresses  lafrowda_04.jpg or livening up more low key elements such as seascape shapes around a horizon line  image2.jpg.

Such up-ended square compositions make a strong visual statement on any wall due to their marked diagonals whilst these diagonal sides also make them look very much at home hanging on a staircase.

Within any picture format the way that forms pick up on an implied geometry of proportion small_sea_salt_sail.jpg is also something that fascinated Tom and that he often used.

Another quality he liked to use is what he thought of as the dovetailing image3.jpg of shapes with other shapes.

To Tom all such phenomena create visual rhythms which complement the colours and tones he is using and together with them could give him a sense of the piece having a life of its own, re-presenting something he had seen in a way that might refer to a specific place or time but aiming at a celebration of it rather than a slavish imitation.