Transcend by Tom French at Unit London
Throughout the 30th of January – 29th of February contemporary art space Unit London represents Tom French (1982-2019) and his retrospective named Transcend: it is a tribute to the artist who passed away in December in 2019 after battling cancer.
According to the gallery, artworks are created with rather finite, however, hopeful notion: "In his final months, Tom poured every morsel of hope, determination and strength into this body of work. He spoke of the tranquility it instilled in him – the therapeutic nature of executing a skill that you have been honing your entire life. And the joy of continuing to find variation in something so familiar, to find foreign pleasures in native spaces. In some ways, the chaotic mess that is premature illness was brought to heel by Tom through his work."
The Unit London is uniting two major bodies of work by the artist: Duality and Parallax. ‘This is work that emphasises art’s ability to transcend a definitive visual experience and intellectual conclusion by creating an illusory framework for interpretation. Both sets of work are monochromatic, figurative combinations of photorealism and abstraction that depicts a psychological landscape as well as material space', gallery claims.
(Sorocco, 2018; Parallax Portrait 9, 2017; Dualities 8, 2019; Parallax Portrait 8, 2017; Parallax Portrait 6, 2017; Vessel, 2018)
As a visitor of a gallery I must say that the first thing that attracted my eye was technical methodology that artist used to enhance the possibility of scrutiny of a viewer, another thing was mediums (charcoal, acrylic paint, oils, spray paint).
Artworks seem to be easily flowing, however, very detailed and precise as well; the combination of these two impressions creates rather obscure occurance where double image is born, which, if one gets closer, can lead to the immersive experience.
(Parallax Portrait 5, 2017; Vestigo, 2017)
Besides of the technicalities of the artworks, one can find endless interpretations of what the painting actually means: it could be covering themes of psychological space, mental activity, external and internal worlds, etc.
I would say that Tom French’s work thematic s are deeply rooted around the imagery of a person no matter if it is a male or a female: artworks explore peoples' inner experiences, detachment and attachment (or rather possibly of experiencing it) the human condition and duality overall; it touches upon ontology and seemingly questions existence - how body cannot exist without essence, but also interrogates if essence could exist without material body.
Gallery comments on themes and interpretations with the claim that ‘[…] paintings are meditations on the theory of dualism: the idea that mind and body are distinct entities. In these works swirling abstraction captures consciousness and material activity, whilst glimpses of the figurative bring attention back to the physical.’ The experience of the observer, according to the gallery, could possibly be endured as something where ‘[…] the composite shape begins to appear, encapsulating both realms of dualistic existence.’
Personally, I think that besides of existential explorations and melancholic defiance Tom French’s artworks also contain aspect of sadness and maybe even horror. I might be experiencing these feelings because of the context that I am aware of – these paintings were made by a young artist who didn’t stop painting until his last days in December last year; artworks were supposed to be expression of bravery, strength and determination, but for me, these elements come in hand with grief, nostalgia and anguish.
(Dualities 6, 2019)
(Dualities 7, 2019)
Tom French (1982-2019) was British artist from Newcastle upon Tyne. Creative was educated by Newcastle School of Art and Design, and Sheffield Institute of Art and Design, from which he graduated in 2005 with first class BA Honours. Tom French held solo shows in UK and abroad including Scope New York and Scope Miami Beach. Artworks by Tom French were also featured on magazine covers including ‘Upstart’ or ‘Los Angeles Where’. Artist passed away in December in 2019 after battling cancer.
(Parallax 3, 2019; Parallax 4, 2019)
Article written by Vaiva Kisarauske; person writing on behalf of the gallery is Will Hainsworth.