Written by University of Exeter student William Bowden.
Originally from London, 19-year-old Will is currently in his second year of studying English Literature and enjoys spending his time in Cornwall discovering new art. Here, Will meets with local Penryn-based artist Tom Holland, to get an insight into the power of colour.
As I open the door to Tom Holland’s multipurpose Workshop and Gallery space, I am greeted immediately by two things; a reverberating atmosphere filled with bright and bold colours, and his adorable dog Ted.
Tom has been a professional Landscape Artist for some 20 years. His work has been displayed on exhibition across the UK and France, as well as on the Isles of Scilly and more. Tom describes his vivid and absorbing art as “modern, colourful and blocky” and if you are unfamiliar with his work, I highly recommend a visit to either an exhibition of his, or indeed his gallery space in Penryn.
Having shaken hands and introduced ourselves, Tom sits behind his expansive desk which is embellished with tubes of paint, scattered brushes, and a variety of green foliage. A relaxing but upbeat song plays from behind the desk. I get straight to the point, “What’s it like being Spider Man?” I joke. (In case you didn’t know, Tom Holland is also the name of the actor who currently plays Spiderman).
Laughing, he informs me of the shocking number of phone calls he’s received as well as letters from fans proclaiming their love for Spider Man. However, this Tom is more suited to creating art for us to marvel at.
As we begin chatting, I inquire into who he is and where he is from, but most importantly how he has developed to become the artist he is today. Tom explains, “I grew up in Cornwall and then moved to London. I studied interior design and lived there for about five years, before moving back to Cornwall.”
Each day Tom would come home from work in London and paint. Eventually an opportunity presented itself that allowed him to establish the confidence in his own work to pursue his passion, “I painted a picture for my mum, for her birthday, she took it to a framer who owns some galleries, and he said, “Oh, that’s really good.”
Deciding he’d had enough of living in the big city, he returned to Cornwall, determined to begin painting professionally.
At this point Tom began to visit galleries with his portfolio, “Because galleries will sell or return your work, if they like something, they’ll take it and give it a go”.
Tom found rapid and consistent success in working for a number of galleries, and his paintings soon gained a reputation , “So the first exhibition was in the Landa Gallery in Truro, which is now the Atrium Gallery,” he explains. “They sold all of my pictures at my first exhibition, and the same thing happened at Tresco Gallery.”
Tom modestly suggests he has been very lucky, but the atmosphere and the uplifting energy exuding from his enveloping canvases suggest that skill and an aesthetic eye have been vital to his success.
Interested in the creation of such a variety of pieces that all share an unmistakable and unique identity, I ask about Tom’s artistic process. “I draw a very rough sketch, then I will add a few more details. It evolves as you do it, the colours sort of, happen. I mean, things are going to be green, so it flows, and your eye moves around the picture”.
Thus, each piece gradually evolves into an appealing sequence of colours. More importantly, however, is the almost detached world that is explored in each painting, Tom observes “you can recognise the places, but it’s a sort of stripped down, bold look at something”.
Taking a step back from the cosmopolitan rush of the everyday, each painting captures just enough detail to endorse a beautiful, yet simple moment where depth and feeling are located in blocks colour, allowing you to lose yourself in the stripped down snapshot of the landscape or image before you.
For a landscape artist, location is of paramount importance, I ask Tom where he discovers his inspiration,
“General coasts and harbours,” he says, “I love Mylor. The walk from here around Trefusis Head, overlooking Falmouth and the Falmouth Docks and then onto Mylor, which is beautiful with all the boats and moors.”
Tom believes that art should provide a momentary recluse from life and as such aims to project the beautiful coasts of Cornwall in their natural “essence”.
Pointing to a canvas portraying a person jumping from a diving board into a swimming pool, Tom says, “The person is jumping off, and you’re imagining what’s going on. So, there is movement, but it’s really still”.
A fusion of motion and stasis that captures the essence of a moment in a vivid and stripped back medium is perhaps the foundation of the immersive nature of Tom’s work.
Finally, I ask him what he felt the role of art was in the modern day, has ‘high art’ become a commodity?
Tom seems a little distraught and answers, “Million-pound Picassos and things like that are now just bought as investments. I hope the buyers like them; I hope people buy a painting because they like the painting.”
Agreeing that the banana taped to a wall that recently sold for a jaw-dropping price was perhaps art losing its direction a little, Tom and I concur that a beautiful painting is worth whatever it means to you. If it brings some colour into your life, it is serving a vital function. Whether you’re looking at Tom’s website or browsing through his gallery, you’ll be certain to discover a profoundly colourful and chromatically unique depiction of Cornwall that breathes new life into ancient landscapes.
Discover more of Tom Holland at www.tom-holland.co.uk or find him at his gallery in Penryn.