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Why Tom sometimes painted odd shapes

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tregeseal_tree.jpg The latest addition to Tom’s New Work page was the most recent in a series of what might seem to be oddly shaped paintings:

Some others have included chevron shaped compositions (which are simply square canvases that hang from one corner) like Leaving harbour, Newlyn, multiple chevrons (Kanorian Enev at Morvah) and triangular pieces (Stream flowing to the sea, Cot Valley). These were just some examples. In fact Tom had been experimenting with a wide variety of different formats since his student days in Italy when the altarpieces and sections of fresco decoration he came across in museums,  churches and monasteries inspired him in that direction. The shape of the painting surface became an important part of the idea behind each of his pictures.

In every case there was a good reason for his choice of shape. Whether it was one of the more unusual ones mentioned above or whether he chose to use a less unusual vertical or horizontal rectangle of particular dimensions, the choice will have arisen from something in the visual encounter that led to the impetus to create the piece.

In the case of the Cornish tree on the slopes of Tregeseal Valley the reason for the trapezoid shape arose from a wish to emphasise the way the tree had developed at this strange angle due to the saltiness of the wind from the sea. Tom also wanted to set this against the long diagonals of the hedges and valley shapes from lower left to upper right while keeping the contrasting lines of buildings and some of the distant field boundaries more abrupt for contrast.

7 thoughts on “Why Tom sometimes painted odd shapes

  1. Hi Tom
    Great to talk to you again after our time together at Newcastle University in the late 1960s.
    I think that your work is excellent as is the website which works really well. I have had a close look at most of the posted works. A few comments. I have never tried acrylics, but what are the merits vis-a-vis oils? My understanding is that they cannot give you the same wonderful glazing effects as oils. What do you think?
    As a layman, I think that your work is best suited to a traditional rectangle or square format. I looked objectively at the latter and the shape of the canvas seems to dominate at the expense of the image painted. A true layman now talking!!!

    All the best
    Mike

  2. Hi Mike, it’s good to be back in contact after so many years.

    Thanks for looking closely at the images I have posted on my website and for your searching comments.

    About my use of Acrylics: it all has to do with having had a fifteen year or so gap in my painting practice due to teaching commitments in the ’80s and ’90s. I’d experimented with acrylics as a student and rejected them for most painting tasks and so painted mainly in oils or watercolours up to about ’82. Then with the planned career change at the end of ’99 I took a fresh look as I began painting again in ’98. There is a branch of Lawrences, the art materials firm, in West Cornwall where I came across the huge range of Golden acrylic media. I also discovered a way of keeping a moist acrylic palette for months on end. With the much improved quality of acrylic paint brands like Finity and with the painting media I mentioned, I found that I could work wet in wet if necessary while being able to overpaint during the next painting session within hours if necessary. I’m very fond of building up multiple paint layers which can certainly include the wonderful glazing effects that you mention. This is all part of the sensuousness of using paint for me. Given these factors I’ve evolved and continue to explore ways of using acrylic in ways that satisfy me.

    About my ocassional use of shapes other than rectilinear ones: this springs mainly from those two years in Italy post-Newcastle. I became excited by the various non-easel painting traditions of medieval and early renaissance times. Shapes deriving from architectural forms were very much part of that scene and I felt that here was a rediscovery of a raison d’etre for painting, a counterbalance to what I saw at the time as very little future for traditional approaches to easel painting. So in ’72 part of the show I took back to Newcastle consisted of painted tent-like structures. Of course unusual shapes draw attention to their flat design aspect but for myself I find that, given an appropriate theme, this can become part of the push-and-pull of the painting process and so, I hope, part of a dynamism that I’m often aiming at. For example the first such unusually shaped piece in my recent work was Lafrowda 2004, a picture about a noisy street event. Now you may be right that in reduced scale the unusual canvas shape does dominate. Its a good reason for me to try and make prints of those pictures as big as possible!
    I’ve enjoyed responding to your comments Mike and look forward to seeing Jpgs of your work sometime.

    Best wishes from Tom.

  3. Thanks for your interest and response. I’ve edited the outdated links that were on the post so you can see the examples I refer to more clearly now.

  4. I have been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this website. Thank you, I will try and check back more frequently. How frequently do you update your website?

  5. I’m really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the excellent quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this one these days..

  6. Hi there, the blog pages were customised for me by Webfooted Designs, excellent web designers here in St Just. They gave it the same look as the rest of my site.

  7. It’s hard to seek out educated people on this subject, but you sound like you already know what you’re talking about! Thanks.

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