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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.