Tom Henderson — Lumière Acoustique


Painting, sculpture, mixed media

Tom Henderson
Lumière Acoustique

Past: October 13 → November 30, 2017

The British artist Tom Henderson loves the light, strong colours, mirrors, plywood and cast acrylic. His tools are mechanical cutters, dry point pens and car lacquer.

Although his works are hung flat on the wall, they are no standard painting. They are situated somewhere between painting and sculpture, between the 2nd and 3rd dimension. And none of his works can be fully appreciated, if viewed statically. It is the spectator’s movement in front of the works, the ever-changing viewpoint, which brings them to life and unlocks their secrets. A flat, dull black surface can become a multi-layered, intriguing object, if viewed from the right angle. As for anything in life, it is all a question of perspective.

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Tom Henderson, One Inch Thoughts *3, 2017 Automative Paint on Cast Acrylic — 11,8 × 11,8 in.

Tom Henderson was born in 1976 in London and discovered his love for art at school under the careful tutelage of his ceramics professor Gordon Baldwin. After school, he studied fine and applied art at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, where he soon focused on becoming a sculptor. Richard Serra was then his absolute idol.

He was always intrigued by objects and things, which got the viewer involved, forced to actively participate in the artistic experience. Tom Henderson’s pieces are thus at the same time intellectually stimulating and pure aesthetic reduction. His art can be best described as poetic minimalism..

Tom Henderson likes to work in series, which are all variations of his main themes. Movement, chance, optical illusion and the artists enduring curiosity for what you can do to a material. Those who offer the greatest scope are his favourites. Tom Henderson has always been fascinated by the sculptor’s materials and like Richard Serra he complies a list of what he can do with them or even to them. Wood, he considers a friendly and patient material, which gives you calm and allows itself to be cut, glued, coloured, twisted, chiselled and will hold up on its own. The same applies to cast acrylic, which has the added benefit of being translucent, so you can work both sides and the edges and making it look like it glows from within.

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Exhibition view

All of his works have the unifying quality, that you can only really experience them, if you are prepared to move and change your viewpoint.

If the viewer moves from left to right in front of one of the big scratched works like in Flatland or the Wall series, he will see the surface changing like moiré silk. Or the light catching in the mirrored lines scratched into the big swats of oil paint. Or the different mirror reflections in the oblique series, which only appear, if you move.

All the pieces in Tom’s work show a bold and daring use of colour, although surprisingly colour does not follow any deeper idea or philosophy — it is applied purely for its own aesthetic purposes.

The series Arclight sees the artist’s favourite material, cast acrylic, continuing to develop new angles of exploration. Now the sheet is being divided up in hand drawn grids — a similar principal to the Flatland series. As before sheets are cut up creating several segments, each one with edges that can be sprayed with colour that give an almost glowing impression. These sections are carefully reassembled but with borders that permeate colour within the surface of the painting. Natural light reflects off these internal edges to create a soft diffusion of local colour on either side, allowing each section to resonate with subtle and alternative hues. Colour itself maybe a fixed, but when it is used in this way it fashions a luminous life of its own.

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Tom Henderson, Hollow Talk, 2016 Automative Paint on Cast Acrylic — 39 × 51 × 2 in.

The grids like works, unlike the Flatland series pieces, are wonkier; they imply tried regularity, but fail to achieve it. This of course hints of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave idea, that we all know in our mind the perfect form, but only have imperfect copies around us. The group of works including Acoustic Light are less grid-like and more like a landscape of far-off hills but reducing it to the essential abstract components of distant contours and given colours. Within each project the effect is quite startling, as the coloured edges of the cut-up pieces of cast acrylic seem to seep into a three-dimensional picture plane as if the work was lit from within with subtle coloured LEDs.

The “Polygon” series is a development from the Arclight project, where the artist constructs the pieces from the outset using aluminium flat bar fastened together with hinges, painted on all sides and hung on the wall. The final appearance is determined by chance and most significantly gravity, as this will give rise to its final hanging arrangement. Here the important thing is that the works appear self-determining in a way that enables the artist to allow the work a sense of freedom otherwise void in most reductive artwork of this kind. Richard Serra again may be a source of inspiration as much as Agnes Martin’s delicate hues of colour planes. The most fascinating aspect of the Polygons is probably, that the light is neither on the picture plane, nor behind it, but seems to come from within.

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Exhibition view

The Flatland paintings are works that consist of random squares on a flat surface that reveal a three-dimensional world beyond by actually reflecting parts of the paintings immediate environment. The squares themselves are fashioned by a process of finding regular squares within the lines of a loosely drawn grid. If chance allows four lines to intersect to create a square he removes the oil paint from this area of the mirrored surface to reveal tiny, individual, seemingly disconnected, reflections of the world in which we live. The works exist, both as two-dimensional, perspective free, abstract paintings but with portals to the reality of our three-dimensional realm. In a way, this is only the beginning because if you start to include the movement and motion of someone viewing the paintings then angles and reflections change and everything is therefore also relative to the fourth dimension, time.

The title of the series comes from a science fantasy novella called ‘Flatland — A Romance of Many Dimensions’ which was written by an English clergyman and schoolmaster called Edwin Abbott Abbott and published in 1884.

Pseudonymously written by ‘A Square’, Flatland is a charming, if slightly pedestrian, tale of imaginary beings or polygons that live on the Euclidian plane. It is both a comment on Victorian society of the time, as well as an examination of the possibility of further dimensions. The book starts with life on the two-dimensional plane populated by lines, triangles, squares, pentagons, circles and so forth where regularity and the number of sides determine social status. One day ‘A Square’ is visited by a three-dimensional sphere which he cannot comprehend until he is taken to tri-dimensional Spaceland to see for himself. What follows is a pretty complex mathematical exploration into the idea of multiple dimensions beyond those that we know and understand. Unfortunately, towards the end of the book after returning to Flatland enlightened, our two-dimensional hero is actually imprisoned for arguing the existence of other dimensions! The artist read ‘Flatland’ years ago but it was only recently that he started to see some kind of correlation between his work and the book. A major priority of his work, not just the paintings in the Flatland series, is to make art that happens in the no-mans-land between the second and third dimension, somewhere between painting and sculpture where if it is successful it exists in both or neither.

Isabelle von Rundstedt & Tom Henderson August 2017

06 St Germain Zoom in 06 St Germain Zoom out

11, rue de Bonaparte

75006 Paris

T. 0156245420


Opening hours

Every day except Sunday, 10:30 AM – 1 PM / 2:30 PM – 7 PM
Voir aussi l’autre espace sur l’Ile Saint Louis, 4 rue de Bretonvillier, Paris 4e

Venue schedule

The artist

  • Tom Henderson