• James Stewart

Artist in Focus: Tom Hammick

In this article we look at the work of Sussex based, award winning painter/printmaker, Tom Hammick. We look at two recent exhibitions of his work and then look back at some previous exhibitions, individual works and poetry collaborations to explore further the inspiration for his work.

From September to November 2020 Tom Hammick exhibited recent work at the Lyndsay Ingram Gallery under the title ‘Nightfire’.

The prints and paintings, all created in the previous 18 months are connected by a stirring undercurrent that crackles to the surface as vivid outlines and surges across the work in expressive striations of colour.

Hammick revisits compositions that have their roots in operatic narratives, poetry, film and literature. He explores what the different mediums of oil paint on canvas, woodcut and etching bring to each new iteration.

Nightfire’ was accompanied by a catalogue as one would expect for such an exhibition, but Tom Hammick went further to produce a ‘deluxe‘ version of the catalogue with a cloth binding and a set of four small edition variable etchings for clients to choose from (or take the whole set).

From December 2020 to February 2021 a selection of recent and older editions are on view at the Paul Smith flagship store & exhibition space on Albermarle St, London.

The exhibition is titled ‘Miles To Go Before I Sleep’ and explores themes of travel, curiosity and a sense of adventure.

The Albermarle St Paul Smith store has hosted many artists over the last few years, including Holly Frean More than once: Her 2019 solo exhibition 'Who's Counting’ at the Mayfair Paul Smith HQ included paintings, mobiles and artists’ palettes cast in bronze.

Drawing has always been fundamental to Tom Hammick’s work. Amongst his many prizes, awards and residencies is the Jerwood Drawing Prize (2004).

In 2011 we at Zimmer Stewart Gallery presented ‘Out of Drawing’ a joint exhibition of work by Tom Hammick and two of his former pupils Betsy Dadd and Laura Carlin.

Whilst the work on show included video, monoprint, painting as well as drawing, the main message of the exhibition was the importance of this basic skill in all mediums.

The exhibition featured a wall of over 100 drawings by the three artists from their sketchbooks (see image).

Just a quick look at the titles for Hammick’s solo exhibitions gives a clue to his view on the world and how to represent it in his work: ‘Homeland’ (2003); ‘Nocturnal and other paintings’ (2008); ‘Terrestrial’ (2009); ‘Canopy’ (2009); ‘Edgeland’ (2011); ‘Imitations of Nature’ (2011); ‘Night Sky’ (2013); ‘Wall, Window, World’ (2015 see book below); ‘Towards Night’ (2016).

Tom Hammick has described landscape in his work as a metaphor to explore an “imaginary and mythological dreamscape.”

From February to June 2012 the University of Brighton hosted an exhibition of new work by Julian Bell, Tom Hammick and Andre Jackowski under the title ‘Dreams of Here’ at Brighton Museum & Gallery.

‘Here’ ranged from Sussex landscapes to interior spaces, and from vibrant colours to echoing empty rooms. Bell, Hammick and Jackowski all paint and draw figurative images, each with his own distinctive style.

Tom Hammick created brightly patterned paintings depicting modern-day life, reflecting on a lost rural simplicity or the clutter of the contemporary. See ‘Dreams of Us, a reduction woodcut in an edition of 8, 59 x 44 cm.

Together the work of these three artists took the viewer on a journey of the imagination, from a place of literal description to the landscapes of subconscious worlds.

As with many artists, Tom Hammick, is drawn to poetry for inspiration, representation, and/or collaboration in his work. In 2008 he collaborated with artist, Stephen Chambers and poet, Robert Vas Dias to produce a limited edition book of art and poetry: ‘Leaping Down to Earth’.

The book, designed by Borja Goyarrola was published by Permanent Press and Pratt Contemporary and presented in a cloth slip case with a limited edtion print by both artists.

The poems are a response By Vas Dias to twelve images, six each by Hammick and Chambers, all reproduced in the book.

Poet, Lee Harwood writes ”Leaping Down to Earth is a collection of poems that are some of the best Vas Dias has ever written. There‘s a wit and liveliness to them that often makes me laugh out loud. But also more serious and moving threads weave through these poems. They can be sexy and funny and also include a subtle understanding of the complexities and struggles in human relationships.”

In 2019, Tom Hammick produced a series of 35 woodcuts in response to Adam Nicolson’s book ‘The Making of Poetry’.

This book looks at Coleridge and Wordsworth in their ‘Year of Marvels’: Adam Nicolson tells the story, almost day by day, of the year in the late 1790s that Coleridge, Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy and an ever-shifting cast of friends, dependants and acolytes spent together in the Quantock Hills in Somerset.

The Guardian review of the book compares “prodigiously gifted & colourful artist” Tom Hammick to Coleridge & Nicolson as Wordsworth, “biographer & artist in full flow”.

[See our earlier ‘Making of Poetry Blog post for more on this.]

The new (December 2020) edition variable etching above is called Tangled Bank. (48 x 30 cm, edition of 30).

The composition is partly autobiographical, representing a teenage Tom Hammick exploring local woods in Hampshire.

The title of this etching comes from the last paragraph of Darwin’s 'On the Origin of Species' where the great man uses the sophisticated eco system of a hedgerow covered in plants, animals and insects as a visualising metaphor for the complexities of our biodiversity and a picture of a form of ecstatic environmental wonderment.

In 2015 Tom Hammick produced a series of five edition variable dry point prints in an edition of 15 called the ‘Geocentric’ series. See ‘Forest’ pictured, other titles included ‘Lesula‘, ‘Dusk’, ‘Fallout’ and ‘Night Heron’.

The Geocentric Model is the theory that the Sun, Moon and other planets all orbit the Earth. Until the 16th century many people held this view of the Universre with the Earth at its centre.

In these prints Hammick is emphasising out our inextricable link with nature and the earth, rather than the literal Geocentric Theory.

See also the special deluxe edition book ‘Wall, Window, World’ which comes with a three part etching ‘Fallout’ presented in an embossed box case.

This book published in 2015, with text by Julian Bell, is the first to explore in depth Hammick’s work processes, imagery and career to date.

Julian Bell argues that Tom Hammick’s work constitutes one of the richest imaginative achievements in late 20th and early 21st century British Art.

Please view the collection of available Tom Hammick editions in our online Editions Shop.

If there is a particular edition that you are interested in, please contact us and we will try to source it for you.