This January, after the tragic passing of artist and friend Tom French, Unit London will present ‘Transcend’ – a retrospective of his work.
Transcend brings together two of Tom’s long-standing bodies of work: the Parallax and Duality paintings. Tom’s work 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 depict a psychological landscape as well as material space. They are comprised of technically tight charcoal drawings, occasionally enhanced with acrylics, oils, spraypaint and even gold-leafing.
The term ‘Parallax’ denotes the sensation surrounding the theory of perceptual variation – namely, the displacement of an object caused by a change in the position from which it is viewed. The fragmented presentation of Tom’s characters is representative of the way in which we perceive the external world, both visually and psychologically. When viewing a figure we do not see it as a whole, our eyes roam, shifting focus and settling on various points of interest; we construct an individual subjective image, one that is, by definition, fragmented. Tom knew the Parallax works were likely to be his last and subsequently the pieces are imbued with a kind of melancholic defiance. Even at the last Tom was experimenting with new methods and ideas: the Parallax paintings were his first to incorporate the use of colour, not only did he find this therapeutic, it’s also a pointed inclusion of the most subjective of artistic mediums, thoroughly justifying the choice of ‘Parallax’.
The Duality paintings are meditations on the theory of dualism: the idea that the mind and body are distinct entities. In these works swirling abstraction captures consciousness and mental activity, whilst glimpses of the figurative bring attention back to the physical. When one stands back and takes in the entirety of the work, a composite shape begins to appear, encapsulating both realms of a dualistic existence. In Tom’s own words: “there is no single reality here, the realities transcend and coexist, they repeat and overlap, and – particularly with the illusion works – transcend the usual boundaries.”
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In the studio with Tom French, 2019
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