Tom Hammick’s work is concerned with using landscape as metaphor: for the human condition, states of mind, and a sense of love and loss for our natural world.
Expanding upon his recent exploration into depictions of the English landscape through the aesthetics of Japonism, Hammick’s new woodcuts show an alteration into his approach to space.
He confronts the relationship between figure, ground and pattern with the conjunction of inside and outside spaces. Flattening and stretching the expanse within the composition, he creates a utilitarian minimalism of the basic components of a picture.
As the viewer experiences these works together, they witness (Hammick create) a journey through several panoramas. Hammick stretches a visual narrative across the surface of the picture; the same lone figures reappear through several of his compositions, altering senses of time.
A common tradition throughout Asian art history sees the woodcut used to depict the repetition of the same figures as they move though the countryside. As a painter, and in particular as a printmaker, Hammick has been influenced by looking at traditions of art outside Western culture including Japanese print and film, Chinese scroll painting and Indian miniatures. Hammick can be seen to create a visual equivalent of Buddhist and Confucian contemplation of the relationship between humankind and nature.
Since the Daiwa show he has explored Asian image making in relation to formal and spatial arrangements within the picture plane. The imagery in his paintings and woodcuts have shifted from the actual experience of natural phenomena in landscape, towards a more imaginary and mythological dreamscape; a positive counterpoint to a world in crisis, focused on the simple life..( See Island Studio) Sourced in part from drawings and photographs made in the area where he lives (on the edge of the Weald in East Sussex) these new works have also been inspired by Asian texts that describe living life in a shack in the wilderness. Specifically Po Chi-i’s moving account of inhabiting his thatched hall on Mount Lu; Kamo No Chomei’s beautiful description of living in a ten foot square hut on Mount Hino; (with a geopolitical backdrop of famine, war and uncertainty) and Matsuo Basho’s sunnier and more upbeat rendition of his 6-month sojourn on the shore of Lake Biwa, east of Kyoto, have all been influential. These writings hot-wire you into the overpowering and heightening experiences of living a simple and weather-beaten life in the countryside. Many ancient Chinese scroll paintings, Japanese prints and screens allude to this less cluttered way of life, bound with the rotation of the seasons. Hammick’s work celebrates this more local form of artistic existence, one in which a simple life conjures clarity which in turn enables the way of the world to be more intelligible.
Lately, Hammick has been using recurring motifs that include a shed, a studio, a simple house, a raft with geodesic shelter, set in a flattened out landscape/seascape, to investigate a more celebratory relationship between dwelling and environment. These are combined to express both how fragile our interwoven existence on Earth is, and how precarious and delicate the nurturing of the creative process is for an artist. For Hammick this is a theme of wonder and a possible answer in the quest for contentment in life. In essence, these pictures dwell on quite personal requirements for happiness: a love of the natural world, and as far as possible, simplicity in living.
Born in Tidworth, UK in 1963 Tom Hammick studied History of Art at the University of Manchester (1982-85) before obtaining both his Fine Art BA Hons and Printmaking MA at Camberwell College of Art (1987-90 and 1990-92). As well as exhibiting in Canada, New York, Nova Scotia and Dublin Hammick has exhibited widely in galleries and venues including: Flowers Gallery, Eagle Gallery, Redfern Gallery, Standpoint Gallery, Deutsche Bank, Studio 21, Chipping Camden Gallery, Brighton Museum Art Gallery, RCA and Cadogen Contemporary. His works are in many collections including: The British Museum, De Beers, The Royal London Hospital, Victoria and Albert Museum, Groucho Club, London and Yale Centre for British Art, University of Washington Medical Centre, Seattle, Scripps Women’s Centre, San Diego, USA.