For those who are new to this website, let me introduce myself. I am Gabrielle Hawkes, Tom’s partner and friend of over thirty years. Tom died in November 2019 after a long struggle with prostate cancer. Some of the posts relating to the paintings of his last three years serve to document that journey, undertaken with his customary courage and positivity and always fortified by his strong Buddhist faith. It was important to Tom that his website continued after his death and that the paintings which he made in the last couple of months of his life were added.
Cottages at Cape Cornwall
Up until the last fortnight before Tom’s death, when a series of infections made him bed bound, he would go out to the studio in his wheelchair most days. In the tradition of the Old Masters, however, he took on John Harris, Sally Hobson and myself as his studio assistants for his last two paintings, One or other of us would be around to help him with studio tasks and on occasions, especially in the case of his large painting Cottages at Cape Cornwall to reach areas of the painting that his disability made impossible. Another last painting on a smaller scale was Rocks and Sea, Cape Cornwall.
Rocks and Sea, Cape Cornwall
The sea was very important to Tom, and it seemed to me as I accompanied him on his journey through his illness, that it featured more and more in his work. The first painting he made when he received his diagnosis early in 2017 was Ethereal Shore, https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/ethereal-shore/ an image of Mawgan Porth beach, endowed with a movingly transpersonal quality. The sea fused with the sky becomes the ethereal shore of death and also eternity. That shore that he paints is beautiful and holds no threat for him. I see something of the same quality in another painted around the same time, such as Winter Light Mawgan Porth ( https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/winter-light-mawgan-porth/ ) and an earlier one Stream to the Sea ( https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/stream-sea-porth-nanven/ ) As he became more disabled and unable to access the places he loved, Tom came to rely on what he called his ‘tranquil recollections’, drawing upon the many photographs that he took on his walks and coastal trips. Sometimes they would be from sites local to St Columb; at other times, he would delve into his photographs of the Penwith coastline.
Referring to an early painting in the series Waterlines, Tom wrote: ‘As I am coming to terms with being disabled and confined to a wheelchair, the landscape or seascape paintings that I now work on, have to use mainly reference material gathered some time ago. In this case, a late evening visit to Sennen Cove during my days at the Turn of the tide Studio in St Just provided the impetus I needed as the images gathered there resonated so strongly for me with the stage of life I am now experiencing.’
I am sure that painting these images of the seashore was therapeutic when the illness was taking its toll both physically and emotionally and helped him to maintain that ‘tranquil’ state that he refers to.