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On completing The Dome of Human Kindness

Completed dome at Penmount

Below is some text from the conclusion of the booklet Tom was writing about Rebuilding the Dome of Human Kindness. Once the process of the reconstruction was complete Tom handed over the finished structure to Cornwall Faith Forum. You can read the full text and see the illustrations at https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/rebuilding-the-dome-of-human-kindness/ . In accordance withTom’s wishes we hope to expand and develop this little publication in particular to include more photos about the interior colour scheme. The aim will be to use it as a fundraiser for the Dor Kemmyn Oval, the visionary multi-faith building that the Faith Forum is planning to build on the field that it leases from Cornwall County Council at Penmount.

One of the most remarkable features of carrying out the dome project was for Tom the way that it has brought the enthusiasm and combined skills of so many people together at each stage. There is in Nichiren Buddhism a concept of unity know as ‘Many in body, one in mind’ was amply demonstrated by this experience.

With its roots in a Christian upbringing, the concept of the dome has nevertheless taken on an aspect of Buddhist humanism now with the way its more public-facing display, shown externally, intrigues the eye, even from a distance. Its filigree of interlocking patterns seems to emphasise this, the Buddhist idea of dependent origination shown graphically with everything in life being interrelated. In carrying out the interior scheme, on the other hand, there was for Tom sheer enjoyment in the varied and juxtaposed colour areas that were created by his team of highly capable assistants. One human kindness leads to another. He saw hope for a transformation of society for the better.

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Reprieve at the old courthouse

Entrance to Reprieve Exhibition

The venue for Tom’s September 2018 exhibition was an old courthouse in the centre of Bodmin, mid Cornwall. He had shown there several times before. This time, however, it struck Tom as entirely appropriate that this space was once the public gallery, in a different meaning of the word, of what was once a courthouse.

Whilst  unfamiliar with the official records it must be the case that death sentences were once passed there. Perhaps some hapless plaintiff was once granted a stay of execution.  Tom felt at the time of this exhibition that he too had been granted a reprieve, at least for a while  in his succession of treatments for his illness, prostate and secondary bone cancer,  diagnosed in 2017.  Though the prognosis was that he was terminally ill, he fought his illness with incredible bravery and positivity, buoyed up by his Buddhist faith.   For Tom then, this exhibition was an opportunity to celebrate that he was still alive and painting but at the same time convey the wonder of that experience as well as his awareness of his mortality.

See all the paintings and installation shots here.

Tom was able to make a handsome donation to the charity Reprieve from sales in connection with this exhibition.

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Open studio 2018

Fascinating and helpful conversations during Open Studio Week 2018

Cornwall Open Studio Week this year proved especially helpful to Tom for some of the conversations he had with visitors about his future plans.  In some cases it was about the pieces he planned to show  in his September Bodmin Shire Hall exhibition ‘REPRIEVE’, about how particular canvases related to specific points in his ongoing experience of battling cancer. So, most of the image links below take you to a page about the collection for that planned exhibition.

However, the last two shots on this page, also picture links, relate to conversations about his  reconstruction of the Dome of Human Kindness, an ambitious mural project originally from his student years in Italy. In this case those two additional photos show the front and back of the first triangular canvas, re-stretched for this project,  painted in translucent layers on its marine plywood backing during Open Studio Week. These two photos are picture links that take you to pages explaining their context in the plan.  Seventeen more panels were developed in this way. For the story of how the original mural came into being in 1972 click HERE for an earlier blog post about it.

South and part of west wall

part of west and north walls

Part of north and east walls

East windows towards conservatory

Into the conservatory

Parts of north and east walls of conservatory

West and north walls of conservatory

A1 panel interior surface

A1 panel exterior surface

Among the conversations Tom had during the recent Open Studio Week on the topic of the dome reconstruction was one that came from a re-encounter with a gentleman who had been studio demonstrator on the first two years of Tom’s Fine Art degree course at Newcastle some fifty years ago and who had sought Tom out  at this Open Studio exhibition.  How satisfying it was for Tom to explain his current obsession about his Dome project to a man who had done so much to encourage him with the original canvas version all those years ago.

Conversations with friends about the thinking behind the development of this project in particular proved to be very clarifying for Tom.  Why not check out some of the posts on the Facebook pages: at: https://www.facebook.com/artoftomhendersonsmith/ and https://www.facebook.com/rebuildingthedome/ .

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About Cumulus and rooftops painting

Cumulus and rooftops ( https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/rooftops-and-cumulus/ )

Tom was invited to give a demonstration to members of Newquay Art Society. Trawling through the archive of his digital reference materials he came across shots taken a few years earlier that seemed to provide a promising starting point. It was during a summer afternoon visit to the cliffs at Bedruthan Steps. He had been recording the forms of the spectacular coast and sea when  a clap of thunder made him turn around towards the National Trust café there. The mass of cloud above and the rooftop forms of the buildings below provided an image of the kind of identity and difference that fascinated Tom.  Re-discovering this image, it seemed to Tom to ‘fit the bill’ perfectly for this demonstration. Tom explained about his interest in how the illuminated cloud mass was in some ways similar to, in others very different from, the roof structures below, the ’lively greys’ suggested by billowing cloud forms taking centre-stage between these two areas of the painting.

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About Silvery cloud above winter trees

Silvery cloud above winter trees ( https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/silvery-cloud-above-winter-trees/ ) arose from Tom’s response to colour interactions on a bright wintry afternoon near my studio here in Mid Cornwall as he walked with our dear elderly collie ‘Rags‘. The joyful clarity of most of the sky above this hillside meadow, adorned with leafless trees and illuminated by the glow of the gradually sinking sun, seemed at first marred by the cloud forms moving across it. Then Tom realised what was going on and that it could be brought out through the process of painting. He always strove for what he called ’lively greys’, finding ways to achieve them optically and sometimes by mixtures other than those of white and black. The cloud bank here provided an opportunity to place such greys in relation to the cool brightness of the open sky, the sombre warmth of winter trees and the earthy golden greens of a foreground field. There it could hang suspended, warmer than the azure blue, cooler than the earthy hues beneath, enigmatic and intriguing.

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Researching costs for a reconstruction

This post refers to plans to re-construct Tom’s ‘ Dome Of Human Kindness’ dome that dated from 1972. Click HERE to see a visualisation of the structure.

On 27th March 2018 Tom collected the first re-stretched triangular canvas of the 18 that would make up the reconstructed dome. This can be seen in the background of one of these shots. This is part of a ‘pilot’ study for the whole project so that Tom could work out all the costs prior to the start of a ‘crowdfunding’ scheme once . This was  a historic moment for Tom.

The approx 1/5th MDF scale model on the table in the foreground  enabled Tom to work out the angles of the bevelled edges of each panel.

Darren of T.P. Timber explained the need for the model to calculate all the angles for the bevels.  Here he is in the shot to show the scale of the approx 1/5th scale model.

 Here’s a shot of the interior of the model.

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New pieces in my collection for Reprieve

In this post Tom writes about three new additions to his collection for Reprieve,  his September 2018 exhibition held at Bodmin Shire Hall.

Winter dusk at St Columb ( https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/winter-dusk-st-columb/ ) was  a response to the darkest time of the year and in particular his sense of how the warmth of community life sustained him through such times, whether they were literally wintry or just sombre and worrying like the experience of serious illness that dominated 2017 for him.

Winter light, Mawgan Porth ( https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/winter-light-mawgan-porth/ ) aimed to express something of the awe and wonder that could occur to Tom in the presence of light, water and coastal landscape forms in a quite simple combination.  Such responses could, he found, be enhanced by the realisation that he was still alive and able to enjoy them!

Evening gardens, St Columb ( https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/evening-gardens-st-columb/ ) uses source material from the autumn to provide references to colours and shapes with which he could express the delight he felt about continuing to be involved in community life here while enjoying a remission in his illness.

View these paintings at https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product-tag/reprieve-exhibition/ . A proportion of the proceeds of these sales was  donated to a cause that Tom supported, Reprieve ( https://reprieve.org.uk/topic/death-penalty/ ), a charity that campaigns against the death penalty that still exists in some parts of the world. It occurred to Tom that there was a poignancy about showing this particular collection at Bodmin Shire Hall, a former court-house where people have been condemned to death in the past and he wanted to acknowledge that by giving the donation.

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A project on the horizon in 2018

Every new year, for Tom started with resolutions often linked to initial plans for projects. in 2018  an artistic project on his horizon was a September 2018 exhibition at Bodmin Shire Hall. This was to be his fourth show to be held there and the first since his welcome remission  from the serious illness that dominated 2017 for him. Emerging from the shadow of cancer into a time of hope had already defined for Tom a central theme, that of reprieve, of being spared, albeit  for a finite time. A theme of the exhibition was to  revolve around wanting to communicate the joy of that experience in one way or another.

Here are some of Tom’s  thoughts about two of the paintings to be shown in his exhibition

Winter oak among houses and Houses among trees are both winter solstice light paintings inspired by aspects of his immediate neighbourhood here in St Columb Major in Cornwall.

 The first ( https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/winter-oak-among-houses/ ), a vertical composition, uses the shapes of two adjoining houses and the  glorious image of a sunlit winter oak glimpsed beyond and between them to express something of the warmth of neighbourly feelings that he experienced.

 The second ( https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/houses-among-trees/ ), takes this idea further in terms of a wider neighbourhood. In this case trees in particular provide enveloping forms that contain the houses.

As so often in this artist’s work it is the interaction of varied colours that is his true medium of expression, hopefully telling you something of the refreshed sense of wonder that was  accompanying his remission, his ‘reprieve’.

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Browsing the tags and other new features

A major event in Tom’s artistic life was the re-launch of his website using WordPress, a much more sophisticated content management system than the one he used before. This involves a more direct and simpler presentation that gives prominence to the paintings and drawings without the presence of distracting decorative elements. There are also many improvements in functionality.

For example you can now browse images by such aspects as the year in which they were made or thematic elements  like the inclusion of boats, references to seasons of the year etc. The most reliable way to do this is by clicking on one of the words or numbers listed in the Tags list that appears below the Category at lower right of each image page as shown here.

Location of Tags

You can also try using the search facility at top right of each page. (Some tag names seem to work better there than others bearing in mind that such searches cover more than just the tags).

Another feature of the new website is the improved handling of images themselves. Hovering over the full frame image on a page may well give you a more close up view depending on the digital resolution of the uploaded photo of the painting, for example see https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/goosewing/ as well as https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/cornishwrestling/and https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/confronting-beast-lafrowda-2017/ . In each case you will notice a + sign at top right of the image as well. Clicking on this gives you a larger view of the whole thing and you may even be able to enlarge this to your screen size further using another + sign at  top right of the resulting pop-up. Clicking on the black surround returns you to the page containing all the information about that piece as well as the links to other pages.

Another feature to be found initially on pages about original paintings still available is a view-in-room image which you can access by clicking its thumbnail below the main picture. This means that you no longer have to visit the painting’s page on Artstack to see such a visualisation.

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End of an era – start of a new one?

mad_aviators_at_lafrowda_2016

2017 was the year of Tom Henderson Smith’s final Lafrowda Festival Benefit Painting Auction. His reason for this was the founding of a new tradition here in St Columb Major  and he wished to support it in a similar way. More than three years after his move to St Columb from St Just, home of the Lafrowda Festival, Tom and his partner Gabrielle Hawkes with a group of friends launched the Our Town St Columb Major Arts and Heritage Project (https://www.facebook.com/ourtownstcolumb/?view_public_for=150213532127194 ) This was to become an annual Arts and Heritage Festival, the aim being to support cultural regeneration in this central Cornish community. The project’s first festival took place in August 2017.

This means that the metre square Mad Aviators at Lafrowda (https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/mad-aviators-lafrowda-2016/ ) painting that Tom made following the inspiration of the July 2016 event in St Just would, as he saw it, very probably be the last of that series. Starting in 2002, there were fourteen of these Lafrowda canvases emerging from Tom’s studio. You can see them all in the collection of ‘thumbnail’ picture links below the ‘virtual tour’ on the Ten Years of Lafrowda Paintings page of the website  (https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/exhibitions/ten-years-lafrowda-paintings-exhibition/ ).

That virtual tour itself records the exhibition that the Lafrowda Festival organisers asked him to put on at Cape Cornwall School in St Just in 2012. He subsequently added four more to the collection and each July since his move in 2013 saw Tom and Gabrielle back in St Just to soak up the excitement of Lafrowda once again.He was delighted that other artists still based in St Just started to do something similar for Lafrowda and he fervently wished that the tradition of supporting that festival would long continue in this way without him. Incidentally, prints of all those earlier Lafrowda paintings can be purchased by following relevant links on their image pages on Tom’s website.