Most of these new prints, monotypes and paintings were inspired by a year long residency I had at ENO between 2014 and 2015. While these images were made around drawings I made during ENO’s last intoxicating season under the Artistic Directorship of John Berry, as I listened more and more to the music and narrative behind each chosen opera, they became more journeys of my own imagination. A few etchings and woodcuts were influenced stylistically by each production, but most were the result of imagining stories either side of what was played out in front of me. It was liberating for me to work in this way, and much of the time Hiroshige and Kuniyoshi’s compositional devices of containing a drama unfolding on a flat stretched out picture plane, were in the background as I worked on plates and blocks in the studio.
It is so difficult to find an equivalent in painting and printmaking of the high end sensory tingle factor of music and singing. Perhaps this is why the colour is so intense and saturated and expressionistic in the work. To me at the time, I went through a synesthetic experience; the use and juxtapositions of colour were matched by the taste they left in my mouth as I worked and listened. And it was a challenge to use colour as a hook to try and imply the intense emotional experiences the protagonists in the operas found themselves in. An orange sky behind the ice blue clad Carmen I hope went some way of describing the almost calculated way she approached her death at the hands of her jealous dagger wielding lover for instance. Great poetry manages to do this much more succinctly too than in visual art so you could argue that this challenge was a futile one! Louis Macneice summed up brilliantly in his poem Snow what I was trying to get to in these pictures. He found a way of conveying the intoxication of life lived in wonder and to the full that has a tendency to be packed to the brim in opera.
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it
World is crazier and more of it than we think Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.
Excerpt from ‘Snow’, by Louis Macneice.
Wall, Window, World
The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive new monograph: Tom Hammick: Wall,
Window, World by artist and writer Julian Bell, and published by Lund Humphries; the first book to survey the work of Tom Hammick. Informed by the author’s sustained contact with Hammick over many years, Julian Bell explores in depth the artist’s working processes, imagery and career to date, setting Hammick’s art within the context of contemporary debates about painting while relating it to the two-centuries-old Romantic tradition.
It is also available as a Special Edition incorporating the three-part colour etching Fallout, 2014, packaged with the book in a slipcase, both print and slipcase created by the artist specially for this publication in an edition of 60.