The artist, 2008
portrait by David Partner
Self Portrait. 2003 oil on canvas 182x91cm
Curriculum Vitae, catalogue essays and artist's statements
Born 1960, married with two children
Chair of Somerset Art Works
'Fungus', Abbott and Holder, Museum Street, London WC1
'Prints' La Rerre, Glastonbury High Street, Somerset
'Vitruvian Man' Open Studio, Bruton, Somerset
Summer Show, Atkinson Gallery, Street, Somerset
Solo show, Hestercombe Garden, Taunton, Somerset
Crucifixion Triptych, Wells Cathedral, Somerset
Solo Show, Landscape: Imprint, Brewhouse Gallery, Taunton, Somerset and part of Orchestra in a Field, Glastonbury Abbey Grounds.
Show of Trees, Yeovil Innovation Centre, Yeovil, Somerset
Solo Show, The Living Tree of Jesse, Wells Cathedral, Somerset
Hambledon Hill, The Art Stable, Child Okeford, Dorset
Art For Life, Taunton and Somerset Hospital, Musgrove Park, Taunton, Somerset
Open Studio, part of Somerset Art Weeks
Case Space, Bruton Museum, Bruton High Street
Somerset Levels, At The Chapel, Bruton, Somerset; with Don McCullin, Luke Piper and James Lynch.
Solo Show, The Air Gallery, Dover Street, London SW1
Summer Show, Trowbridge Gallery, Castle Cary, Somerset
'Somerset Art Weeks', in Bruton with Luke Piper
'Still lives', Kelly Ross Fine Art, Dorset
'Painting the West Country House and Garden', Holburn Museum, Bath.
'Somerset Art Weeks', in Bruton with Luke Piper.
Solo Show, The Chapel, Bruton, Somerset
Solo Show, The Air Gallery, Dover Street, London W1
'Richard Pomeroy and Luke Piper', Red Cross Hall, Bruton, Somerset
Solo show, The Air Gallery, Dover Street, London SW1
'The Urban Scene', JHW Fine Art, Gallery 27, Cork Street, London
'The View', an exhibition about Richmond Hill; Waterstones, Piccadilly, London
and Orleans House Gallery, Twickenham
'Starting a Collection', Art First Contemporary Art, London
'Fresh Art', Business Design Centre, London
Opening Exhibition, European Makers Gallery, Amsterdam
Lead Artist 'Fresh Art', Business Design Centre, London
Solo show, The Air Gallery, Dover Street, London SW1
'Summer Exhibition', JHW Fine Art, Air Gallery, London
'Four Artists', JHW Fine Art, Gallery27, Cork Street, London
'Starting a Collection', Art First, Cork Street, London
'Sacred in Art', Long & Ryle, London
'Good Enough to Eat', Atrium, Cork Street, London
'Cabinet Art', Jason & Rhodes Gallery, London
Solo show, Peg's Club, Covent Garden, London
'A Vision of Albion II:British Landscape Painting, Collyer Bristow Gallery, London
'Paintings from Mill Meadow', touring exhibition with Alexandra Drysdale: Brewery
Arts Centre, Cirencester; Parnham House, Dorset; Dartington Hall, Devon.
'Artists in the Arts', John Jones Gallery
Founded 'Richard Pomeroy Gallery', (now Purdy Hicks Gallery, London)
Photography, painting and drawing by
Don McCullin, James Lynch, Luke Piper and
At The Chapel
19 September - 4 October 2009
as part of Somerset Art Weeks
Monday - Saturday 9am - 11pm
Sunday 11am - 4pm
The Levels are Somerset's reliquary, holding history and myth in its landscape. They are also Britain's largest wetland area, maintaining diverse wildlife and criss-crossed with rhynes and drains that date back centuries. Don McCullin has brought his immense experience as a photojournalist to the Levels; the painters James Lynch, Luke Piper and Richard Pomeroy show three very different responses to this inspiring landscape.
It's easy to believe that the Somerset Levels were busy in Prehistoric times. If you climb Nyland Hill, the caves of Cheddar and Wookey are right beside you, along with the man-made tumuli and barrows scattered across the Mendips where they abut the Levels. Below you spreads the lush watery Levels landscape - an abundant hunting ground for trappers with spears on their shoulders. 5,800 years ago Neolithic people made raised wooden paths over the wetlands below the tor of Glastonbury; these have survived as the oldest trackways in Northern Europe. Recent research has shown that these early Northern Europeans probably had black skin.
Around 300 B.C. groups began to inhabit the Levels near Westhay and Oxenpill, building wooden villages on stilts, and more trackways of brushwood. These people used locally excavated peat as fuel and lived off the abundant birdlife - including pelican - and fish. Their watery surroundings accessed the rivers Brue, Axe and Parrett - convenient trading routes.
The discovery of lead in the Mendips gave the Levels another use - shipping the ingots to the Bristol Channel and out into the world. Roman and Phoenician traders came here, giving rise to the legend that Joseph of Arimatheia visited, bringing his nephew, Jesus (And did those feet ..on England's pleasant pastures green?'), as well as the Holy Grail. The search for the Grail brought King Arthur to the region. The Fosse Way leads to the Levels and another Roman road traverses the Polden Hills to the river Parrett. The Romans also used the Levels' tidal reaches to make salt in pans to the west of Burtle and started to control the water flow.
This water control was continued in earnest by the powerful monastic settlement of Glastonbury. The abbey's bleak ruins reveal the monastery's immense wealth - the longest cathedral in Britain would have been visible from miles around. The vast network of Drains and Rhynes were mostly financed by the monastery. The Rhynes stretch all the way along the flat coastal land between Taunton and Bristol. The tidal reaches of the River Parrett at Burrowbridge were controlled in the C13th. The River Brue was re-directed: it used to flow into the Axe, and now reaches the sea at Burnham. These waterways, the meres formed by peat extraction and constant flooding, create a magnificent habitat for wildfowl, birds of prey, swans, lapwing and starlings. Eels are everywhere. The Levels are Britain's largest wetland area.
Modern English history begins on the Levels with King Alfred's defeat of the Danes at Edington on the Poldens in 878. He had lain in wait for them at Athelney near Selwood just East of Bruton. His defeat of the Danes enabled Alfred to control the vast majority of England, consolidate the English monarchy and create a powerful navy.
In 1685, England's last pitched battle was fought at Westonzoyland. The battle of Sedgemoor witnessed the end of The Duke of Monmouth's attempt to overthrow King James II. A young captain, who played a decisive role fighting for the King, cut his teeth there. His surname was Churchill and he went on to win what is sometimes described as the most important battle the English have ever won - Blenheim in 1704 - and became Duke of Marlborough as a result. (His descendant, Winston, featured more recently). The defeated supporters of Monmouth were transported to the West Indies as white slaves in the sugar plantations. Some thrived in their new home and two descendants have returned this century to the area - and are fair haired and fair skinned inhabitants of Bruton.
Richard Pomeroy, September 09
Formal and Instinctive by Richard Morphet
DISCOVERING his motifs in many countries (including his own), Richard Pomeroy re-presents them in his pictures with a strong focus on visual facts and with a clarity enhanced by the elimination of superfluous detail. His painting processes are comparably straightforward. Curiously, however, the effects are strange. Whether from New Zealand, Scandinavia, Portugal, Devon or even London, each motif transmits the atmosphere of its region of origin, yet it has also been relocated to the world of Pomeroys imagination.
The artist's statement in this catalogue testifies to the transparent directness of his inspiration. The reader may therefore conclude that Pomeroy's pictures record his delight without ambiguity. They operate, however, on more than one level. The very severity of the concentration on an isolated motif opens it, paradoxically, to an increased sense of speculation about events, recent or impending, occurring in the place we are shown. No people can be seen, but their presence is implicit both in the exterior views of buildings and in the very particularly furnished interiors. In each case the quality of the light increases the sense of expectation. Though calm, it is intense. There are parallels with novels and with film. Indeed, even as Pomeroy's buildings and rooms reflect his real life experience they can seem like constructed sets.
There is a similar duality in the role played by his trees. Clearly he is responding directly to their beauty or to their striking form. Yet for all their stillness they seem always to be doing something, in ways that can seem quietly unnerving. Though perfectly credible, one particularly oddly-shaped tree appears to be overpowering the building behind it, not merely by its size but also as a willed action. In the large, contrasting picture of a clump of eucalyptus trees in New Zealand, the branches wander and stretch in a way that is almost animate. The expanse of colour against which they stand out conveys a feeling of agitation. In fact, Pomeroy beat the canvas hard with a rag steeped in oil and varnish, before painting the living lattice of branches with his customary precision.
Many of Pomeroy's pictures present a dialogue between an extensive colour field and the motif set in front of it. The painted ground is either uninflected or all-over in its texture; by contrast the motif leaps out arrestingly, directing attention either to finely detailed metalwork, fencing or natural form or to a progression between a number of simplified blocks. This interaction between the broad and the particular within a single work is so recurrent as to be in itself a central subject of his art. The standing self-portrait in this exhibition provides an interesting variation on this theme. The uncompromising figure stands out from what seems at first to be a cross-section through a bed of fossils, but in fact consists of the painter's own handprints. Complexity of detail is now found more in ground than in motif, but (as if symbolically) Pomeroy here identifies himself literally with both contrasting sections of the pictorial field. At once formal and instinctive, the impulse to set up such an opposition is one of the factors that drives his art.
London, February 2003, taken from the catalogue
Boat Houses by Raina Haig
I am blind in the centre of my field of vision. When I look directly at something, it is not there. The peripheral field of view is where I find the visual world, for me a world of form, movement and colour, without detail. To look at Richard Pomeroys work, however, gives me a refreshing, strangely new sensation of seeing.
Take Boat Houses, for example. In the centre of the view, an area associated with blindness for me, there are graphic, three dimensional forms, vividly real. In the peripheral view, where I expect form, is unbounded blue swirling space. My mind, like an imaginative child, rushes to fill this space with story. The result; a series of animating narratives.
Logic tells me I am looking at a two dimensional plane, but my mind-eye sees otherwise. Rain rolls, physically moving, round the roofs of a building which I cosily inhabit, a special waterproof place, where I contemplate the boundless forces of nature. If I still my mood, the swirls turn from stormy weather to fluffy clouds and gently swilling waters. Or, I can inhabit, instead, the area of blue swirls. Now, outside the buildings, lam swept, even hurled towards newly painted facades and sturdy wooden stilts, salt-soaked by my imagination.
Stylised, simplified, visual information is a powerful stimulant to a ready imagination. What I see is limited all the time, so I have developed a mental impulse to complete the picture. I am poised, in the face of the slightest visual stimulus, to animate, to superimpose, to enliven, in order to know. This, I suppose, is why I respond to the graphic power of Richards work with such alacrity.
Boat Houses, a generous painting, invites me to project into it mentally. It is the start to a story, which I, the viewer, can complete according to my mood and imaginative will. These boathouses and blue swirls, painted with such startling clarity of vision, are, still, just a suggestion, a bare idea, for the mind of the viewer to develop.
Looking at this painting is so relaxing. Primary and secondary colours stimulate the eye to drink, nourish neural pathways. The buildings and blue swirls provide a place for the mind, at once, to repose and move, It is a version of that wonderful, old fashioned obsession with a well kept spot, set within an ever changing timeless moment of nature.
2003, taken from the catalogue
Richard Pomeroy's recent paintings by Tony Godfrey
Refinement and sensuality are not normally seen as synonyms: indeed they may well be seen as opposites. But Richard Pomeroy's recent paintings show a simultaneous endency towards greater refinement and greater sensuality. In these paintings we see motifs derived from his travels: a cottage nestled against a honeycomb of hedges in Exmoor; a cluster of farmhouses outlined against the sea in Brittany. In both the transition from reality to the painting and from painting to painting (for he returns to the same motif again and again) we see a constant desire to refine and refine, as though he were seeking the essence of the scent of a moment.
With the moment, the scent so distilled as a motif against colour, paint and texture it becomes poignant - so much depends upon it, much as when a melody stands out from tone, timbre and rhythm. Such a desire to refine a moment, memory or sensation, getting rid of extraneous chatter or noise, is not uncommon in serious painting today - the work of Alex Katz is only the most obvious example. Such a desire is not however necessarily ascetic: the arch refiner, Piet Mondrian, is normally seen as such, but yet when his paintings are actually encountered in the flesh rather than in reproduction they surprise by their touch and contained sumptuousness. In Pomeroy's paintings the motif - a few lines, blocks, shapes - crystallises as a memory much as the bend of a nose or a curve of a lip can epitomise a face.
Memory is sensual here: the precise lines have an elegance to them, and elegance is in itself a sensual or sexy attribute; the place is recalled as thing itself, as a skin. But most especially, the backgrounds of these recent paintings are filled with a heightened feeling for paint, colour, texture, surface that is caressed, pushed, stroked, tousled, loved. These landscapes are imagines as spaces to be in: his other interest, in interiors, emphasizes his attraction for lived spaces.
There is a freshness to them, a sense of things seen clearly in clean air, that is at once comforting and exhilarating.
Tony Godfrey, London,
July 2000, taken from the catalogue.
Tyre Tread and Fall
These new paintings overlay physical impressions of myself or tractor tyre tread marks, with the wildflowers of local Somerset hedgerows, creating a juxtaposition that highlights the disjointed relationship between nature and man.
I use anything - hands, shirts, bundles of leaves - to move the background paint around the canvas to create the right mood/context for the subject painted on top. The hedgerow flower paintings draw attention to the brutality of modern farming, and tractor tyre tread marks in the mud illustrate that dramatically with an instantly recognisable and powerful calligraphy. To achieve the same definition in paint I asked a local farmer to drive over prepared canvas. The resulting marks make a distinctive pattern with strong intrusive/destructive connotations and create a background for paintings of native flowers, a metaphor for humanity's destruction of the environment
To make the 'Fall' paintings I fall or lower myself onto wet paint, reminiscent of Jasper Johns and Yves Klein. The resulting image - part x-ray, part memory, part theatrical performance - forms the backdrop to flowers and insects. These images evoke Adam's fall from the Garden of Eden, Icarus, and the 'jumpers' who fell from the Twin Towers on 9/11. Yet despite the troubled evocations there is also a sense of ecstasy, of man plunging into nature and art, an echo of the seventeenth century poet, Andrew Marvell's sensuous lines: -
'Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass
Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade'
Bruton, Somerset, 2008
Here, in Somerset, I walk the landscape every day and witness every change in season and weather. It's a vital and increasing part of what happens in the studio, getting accross the vigour of spring or the mystery of deep woods. There's a new freedom to much of the work - perhaps inspired by these new surroundings or by trips walking and stalking in Scotland. The act of stalking draws you much deeper into the landscape, seeming to increase the scale of an already spacious environment. I want to catch that space and yet let the paint flow freely at the same time, so much so that in some of the paintings the paint alone does most of the talking. Other paintings have carefully painted subjects on a free background - combining an explosive energy with delicate introspection.
The process in the studio follows much the same pattern as the last show from subject to finished painting. By the time the prepared canvas is on the wall I have a good idea of what will go on it. I will have visited the subject many times, taken photographs and held it in my head. From photos and memories come small gouache studies on board or paper.
I'll make preparatory marks in charcoal on the canvas to begin fixing the chosen image on the much larger scale of the oils. Even if it's just a few lines, the positioning of those lines will be precise and time consuming - a great deal of just looking - familiarising myself with the composition. These lines can take more than a day to get down satisfactorily, and for most of the paintings the drawing will be very detailed.
For the first layer of paint the canvas usually lies on the floor, to stop unwanted dribbles. I mix paint with dammar varnish, stand oil and turpentine to get a good consistency, and pour it on. More recently I mix several colours and the initial application can become complicated and involved. I use large brushes - some for wallpaper pasting - cloth, hands, clothes, objects, anything to get the paint to do what I want. It's an hour or so of very intense work. I'll sweep, dab, dribble, spray, beat with cloth, flick, splash and tease the paint untill it's just right. It's crucial that this does not become a long drawn out session - the first layer must have fresh energy and directness; it must be paint first of all, image second.
With any luck the initial charcoal drawing shows through - even if it doesn't, it's fixed enough in my mind - and, when the first layer is dry I'll begin the carefull process of painting the image.
Richard Pomeroy 2006
You know the thrill sometimes experienced in front of a particular view or place? Perhaps you come over the brow of a hill, the landscape opens up and it's wonderful and your mind concentrates on that alone for a second or so, really enjoying it and taking it all in. The same might happen in front of a perfect building or special clump of trees - or a person. The eye eliminates unnecessary detail and sucks in all the good stuff to store it away for retrieval during gloomy times
Those few moments of concentration -for me its inspiration- are what I hope to re-create in these new paintings.. So I use colour and brushmarks to give energy and a sense of place and concentrate solely on the subject which caught my attention using detail and light to create atmosphere. The results should be bold and vigorous and contain at least some of that initial thrill.
'Landscape is an expression of, and reason for, particular characteristics of peoples, and is a crucial homing device for those in search of their identity. In this way the land performs an essential task in acting as an ark for culture. I want these paintings to pierce the skin of the landscape; to reach and reflect the lives of the people who made it, and were made by it.'
'My paintings are both straightforward portrayals of a particular place and symbolic images.They are about fertility, suffering, mystery and energy rather than beauty and I hope are more compelling and provocative as a result.'
'When I first walked down the muddy lane and emerged from thick hedges to the steep valley of Mill Meadow in Devon I felt an exhilaration that I've been trying to recapture in paint ever since. Here was a place with the colour, exuberance, dramatic composition and details needed to express my own feelings for the natural world. The elastic energy in the shapes of the fields, sense of struggle in the unkempt woods and broad swathes of grass and bracken gave me an insight into the part aggressive, part loving relationship man has with nature. That relationship is most deeply expressed in landscape which has been tilled over generations and Mill Meadow valley captivates all that it entails, from fertility to abuse.'