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In the ocean light

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In the ocean light: This was the title of the exhibition at the Spring and Steele Galleries within Falmouth Arts Centre taking place in Autumn 2008.

The expression “ocean light” that had surfaced in his visual thinking at that time grew out of Tom’s preoccupations  with the pervasive influence of the sea on the landscape that surrounded him in the far west of Cornwall in the UK. There were different strands to this theme  but what they all had in common was a sense of the ambient “ocean” light that he was so often aware of on the Penwith peninsula, that  far westerly tip of Cornwall which was home to Tom.

‘He writes: ‘The physical conditions that give rise to this phenomenon aren’t hard to spot. There are high places in Penwith where you can trace the line of the sea’s horizon around an angle of nearly 300 degrees and so often, if you stop to think about it, it’s as if you were all but surrounded by a giant mirror laid on the surface of the earth. So my guess is that the light bounces off this giant reflector and in combination with atmospheric reflection becomes this ambience that bathes the coastal forms here. Remember that in places the northwesterly coast and Mounts Bay are barely 5 or 6 miles apart. So it’s hardly surprising that, from some vantage points and at certain times of day and season, this phenomenon appears to penetrate well inland to the extent that the whole peninsula has about it an almost magical luminosity. I’m sure there are many places around the world where something similar happens.’

To a painter like Tom for whom the experience of colours interacting on each other was like a drug, such ambient light was a gift from the gods! That was because, as those pioneers of colour theory such as Itten and Albers realized, the closer the tonal range (and ambient light has such a generalised range) the more that the apparently internal glow of colours is generated when carefully chosen combinations of mixed hue are placed side by side. This vibrancy within the world of a painting in turn became for Tom a celebration of the ocean light.