Abstract Critical

Tom Cross: Early Paintings

Written by Sam Cornish

“Pattern, organization, the framework or structure which underlies appearances: these are the subjects of the current work.” – Tom Cross, statement, 1976

Interior of a Room (1964), Oil oin canvas, 183 x 133cm Photograph by Simon Cook, © Tom Cross Estate

Interior of a Room (1964), Oil oin canvas, 183 x 133cm
Photograph by Simon Cook, © Tom Cross Estate

At Kestle Barton, Cornwall until the 26th of August are a selection of early paintings by Tom Cross (1931-2009). Cross’s landscapes are well known locally, particularly his depictions of the Helford River; the current display shows another side of his work, influenced by large scale, mid-century American painting and by his contacts with the Systems Group. Architecture, geometry and a giving into the ‘laws’ of chance are important. The quotations of statements by Cross are from Alan Windsor’s essay which introduces the exhibition; and the biographical information is from the exhibition press-release.

Connections (1971), Acrylic and oil on canvas, 152 x 193 cm Photographed by Simon Cook, © Tom Cross Estate

Connections (1971), Acrylic and oil on canvas, 152 x 193 cm
Photographed by Simon Cook, © Tom Cross Estate

“On the flat surface we can create space between colours, an environment for the imagination, the quality of light itself. Many of these paintings use the primary colours, red, yellow, blue. The decision to paint an area in one of these colours or not to paint that area at all was often decided by chance- spinning a wheel or throwing of dice…I would set up a grid so that theoretically a colour could be placed in any part of it.” – Tom Cross, 1974

Snow, 1975, oil on masonite, 107 x 107cm. © Tom Cross Estate

Snow, 1975, oil on masonite, 107 x 107cm. © Tom Cross Estate

 

Taliesin (1976), Oil on masonite, 117 x 152 cm Courtesy of Falmouth University, © Tom Cross Estate

Taliesin (1976), Oil on masonite, 117 x 152 cm
Courtesy of Falmouth University, © Tom Cross Estate

“We live in a world of horizontals and verticals, but we see them as angled shapes. If, for example, a cube is drawn as if seen from one corner, the result is a hexagon, made up of three diamond shapes. These inclined shapes have a special quality, because they lie flat on the canvas and direct the eye over its surface and at the same time weave an illusion of three dimensional space.” – Tom Cross

Start, 1976, collage, oil and acrylic on canvas, 149.5 x 149.5cm. © Tom Cross Estate

Start, 1976, collage, oil and acrylic on canvas, 149.5 x 149.5cm. © Tom Cross Estate

 

Quarters, 1976, oil on canvas, 152 x 142cm

Quarters, 1976, oil on canvas, 152 x 142cm, (c) Tom Cross Estate

 

Straw, 1976, collage and oil on canvas, 112 x 137cm. © Tom Cross Estate

Straw, 1976, collage and oil on canvas, 112 x 137cm. © Tom Cross Estate

 

Primary 4 (1979), Oil on canvas, 122 x 122 cm Photographed by Simon Cook, © Tom Cross Estate

Primary 4 (1979), Oil on canvas, 122 x 122 cm
Photographed by Simon Cook, © Tom Cross Estate

Tom Cross (1931 – 2009) was born in Manchester. Initially he took up apprenticeship and studies in architecture at the School of Architecture at the College of Art in All Saints Square in Manchester, where he was introduced to fine art and made a decisive change in his career path. He later trained at the Slade School and spent two years travelling and painting in Italy and France. On his return he worked for the Arts Council in Wales, later becoming Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Reading University during an important period of its development. In 1976 he moved to Cornwall as Principal of the prestigious Falmouth School of Art.

Cross exhibited widely in Cornwall, Wales, London, Australia, the Middle East and the United States. His books Painting the Warmth of the Sun, The Shining Sands and Catching the Wave are standard works on the history of the Newlyn and St Ives Schools. His last book, HELFORD – A River and Some Landscapes, is a beautifully illustrated account of his time spent living on and painting the Helford River.