Step into the illusionary world of Tom French, who tricks our eyes with pareidolic abstractions and hidden features. In his first solo show in two years French is back and better than ever, with an entirely new body of work, having mastered the style which we last saw him working on in the wildly successful sell-out, FLUX. Transcend invites the audience to look a little closer at the subconscious, metaphoric paintings which represent the multiple facets of the conscious mind in evocative pictorial form.
Things have admittedly changed a lot for Tom since FLUX, adding a double meaning to the title of this new body of work, “TRANSCEND”. “My daughter was born as Flux was opening two years ago, so things have changed a lot for me personally since then. On one hand, as Flux was so successful, and because I had a family to consider, there was a lot of pressure to get things right this time around.” He admitted, that the success of the previous show was in many ways a driving force to his subsequent growth. “A successful show is a great confidence boost, I can be my own worst critic at times. So as a result I was able to approach my work with enough self-belief to counteract the pressure, and take risks with progressing the work.”
This advancement has not only been limited to a personal level for French, as his artistic style has become increasingly effortless as the years pass and his practice grows. “Prior to Transcend, all of my illusionary paintings would have been extensively planned, with the compositions and placement of various elements thoroughly worked out before laying down any paint. Now I have a thorough understanding of how to craft the illusions, I took a different approach in creating my latest work. With minimum planning, I started straight onto the canvas with the bold free-flowing abstract marks, building up the overall composition quickly and impulsively.”
“The majority of time taken to produce these works is put into the final stages. Certain elements of the figures need emphasis in order for the illusion to work, and it becomes a fine balancing act of lightening, darkening and repositioning to create the overall effect. The slight tilt of a head or angle of a hand can have a disproportionately large impact on the overall image, so many of these elements need to be repainted multiple times.”
This growth shows deeply within his work which has become lighter, unrestrained and almost ethereal in their monochrome tones. “There are plenty of qualities about black and white images that appeal to me;” French explained, “it’s almost magical what can be created from nothing more than light and dark – such simple and basic tools. The black paint I use is created from ground down charcoal, so what you usually see is simply this raw black with the white of the canvas showing through.” Using black and white also adds poignancy to his pieces, as if we are looking into the subconscious through the film of distant, fractal memory.
“Transcend” is now open and runs until Saturday 21 May at Lawrence Alkin Gallery, 42 New Compton Street, London, and is entirely worth a visit to see this hauntingly beautiful series of works.