“Constant change breathes life into the landscape here in Cornwall and all kinds of weather conditions have inspired the paintings and drawings in this collection.” writes Tom Henderson Smith. He’s been working towards this exhibiton since the summer of 2010 and becoming increasingly aware of seasonal change as a factor in his enjoyment of the visual world. His point about the vital role of change is amply demonstrated by the extraordinary variety among the pieces he brings to this exhibition and by the way that he has rung the changes of format and colour scheme in producing them.
Celebratory in his attitude, there is a clear sense that he lifts images gathered from the environment into a painterly dimension. It was in putting together Lived-in Landscapes, his previous collection, exhibited at the Chapel Row Gallery in Bath and in the Gallery at Trereife in Penzance, that he came to realise what a great satisfaction is to be gained from the way that each painting or drawing takes on a life of its own when textures and colour interactions are really working. The present exhibition takes that experience further by its exploration of variety and change.
His artist’s statement about the new collection shows the range and vividness of the visual stimuli that have sparked his artistic response:
“There have been days that are cold, breezy and bright as the winter solstice is approaching and a moment comes when up in the dramatic cloud canopy it’s still afternoon whilst down here the evening is already setting in. On other wintry days the clouds hang low and the land is waterlogged. It’s a dark time that breeds a longing for spring, yet as house lights appear a warm inwardness begins to steal over me. As the year turns, a stormy energy moves inland. Cloud masses pile up. Field patterns, once highlighted by a dusting of snow, develop the corduroy of cultivation and watery tracks in the mud catch the sky. There comes a time at last when everything is bathed in the calm and ambient light of a maritime summer. People now are busy preparing and enjoying our summer festivals and one evening near the longest day the spirit of our ancestors is with us as we watch a bonfire roar from Chapel Carn Brea overlooking Lands End. Smoke lingers too in the autumn air as a controlled burn claws back rampant growth on Madron Carn and so the circle is gradually closed.”
There is a philosophical aspect here to his thoughts about his work as there was in the case of both the Lived-in Landscape and Ocean Light collections before that. This time it’s change itself that emerges as the ultimate theme:
“I sense that the rhythm of change in the landscape is the rhythm of what Buddhists call the Mystic Law and my twice daily practice for many years has been key to the dawning awareness that I’ve aimed to express in this collection*. Every piece for me makes an inner state visible, reflecting it back through a polished lens, the recognition of value in everything – whatever the weather.”
Come rain or shine, fog or howling gale, Rags the collie dog is Tom’s constant eager companion in his daily foraging for images. Tom believes, like comedian Billy Connolly that ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather – only the wrong clothes.’ Off they go, after a morning’s painting, over the fields and faraway, down to the sea sometimes, perhaps over one of our many hillsides, Carn Bosavern, Sancreed Beacon or Chapel Carn Brea. One man, his camera and his dog – both man and dog returning muddy and damp, happy and fulfilled, new paintings already taking shape in Tom’s mind.
Gabrielle Hawkes, January 2012
* For more about the influence of Buddhist belief and practice on his art click here.