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at Work – at Home – in Cornwall (by Gabrielle Hawkes)


This was a new collection of paintings that Tom assembled to exhibit in the gallery at the Shire Hall. These canvases were the result of his personal reflections on his sense of home and about work as an influence on the character of landscapes and buildings around him. Both are themes that were highlighted by a recent experience of living in Cornwall, for Tom and I had to temporarily move out of our home earlier in 2016 and rent a place at the other end of our town for a few months while repairs took place following a serious pipe-leak.

Our home town , St Columb Major, is as centrally located as any town in Cornwall. It was Tom’s sense of being at home in these surroundings that comes across in the way he uses the interlocking shapes of buildings in these  paintings; a feeling of community emerges from the way they fit comfortably together, often highlighted by the warmth or vibrancy of his colour schemes. He picks up on these qualities too in the other towns and villages that we visited and also brings out the harmony that he feels exists between these Cornish houses and their environment.

Industrial landscape was a re-discovery for Tom, one that harked back to his West Yorkshire youth. During the extensive house repairs necessitated by the pipe-leak, whenever we returned to the studio, we could hear the hum of the industrial fans and dehumidifiers that were drying out our home. This sound resonated for him with memories of the factories where he had worked in his student holidays. He found himself further drawn to the intriguing patterns and shapes of certain industrial buildings. Fascination with their visual rhythms and colour variations became a vehicle for him to express something of the pride in our industrial heritage harboured by many a Cornishman. This he clearly identified with. Ancient and modern farming methods also found their way into the work in this show.

Tom gave the title ‘Lived-in Landscapes’ to a previous collection that he showed in Bath and Penzance in 2010 and these new paintings pursue that idea more specifically in terms of work and home. As in those previous paintings there is a sense in which he has literally lived-in these compositions, translating the images that sparked them into becoming varied areas of colour, tone and texture. “I find”, he said then, “that lingering over the colour mixtures, the paint layering and the brush or finger marks that I use begin to coax a feeling of life into what I’m doing. This is something that I enjoy and that gradually leads to a sense that the piece I’m working on is beginning to have a life of its own.” In a similar way his themes of work and home appear in the style as well as the subject matter of these more recent paintings in their rich layering of paint, their working and re-working and in the way he has developed each of them to a point at which we sense the rightness of the way everything fits together and seems to belong. These are landscapes that are lovingly painted by an artist who has come home.