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At last – an obby oss!

Tom had nurtured an ambition to make a painting based on the Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss ever since moving to Cornwall more than thirty years ago. Of all the Cornish Festivals this is probably the one whose folk origins stretch furthest back into the mists of time. Now he found himself living only ten miles or so from Padstow and so Gabrielle and Tom hot-footed it over there  on May Day that year. Tom spent a lot of time mulling over the references he’d collected on that occasion and distilled  them into a Padstow obby oss painting ( ). A complex series of inherently unstable diagonals and a play of shadows and highlights seemed to offer a way of suggesting the teetering and swaying movement of this curiously primitive figure. His  disc-like frame seemed to swirl around precariously, charged  with spring energy. The highlights of red and white on both his costume and those of his attendants mark him out as the “red oss” as distinct from the smaller “blue oss” which appeared at other times that day and in other parts of the town. The strangeness and the play of shapes and colours here provided all the visual music and dance that Tom, as a painter, could wish for as material for a celebratory painting on this extraordinary theme.