Artist Tom Climent fuses the real and abstract in his exhibition at the Alley Theatre

Cork born painter Tom Climent graduated from Crawford College in 1995. His large canvases, the vibrant hues deeply influenced by his Spanish heritage, swiftly won him a loyal following. In 1996 he received the prestigious Victor Treacy award and the year after won the Tony O'Malley travel scholarship. Adopting French influences to accompany the Spanish ones of his early years, Climent currently lives in Cork. The article below is from the programme of his current exhibition at the Alley Theatre in Strabane, entitled Ashlar.

Tom Climent’s work has been steadily evolving over the years, its constraints being his devotion to the process of painting and his use of deeply saturated colour and intricately worked surfaces. His new show features architectural forms, which hover between background and foreground, emerging from turbulent areas of atmospheric colour and texture that suggest heightened natural phenomena (sunrise, sunset, mist, storm), or some unreal landscape of the imagination. The buildings are fixed points, beacons of light, while all around the tempest rages.
Mihrab by Tom Climents
The artist is drawn to church and tower shapes, not for religious reasons, but as illustrations of the notion of a sanctuary or place of refuge, a category that also seems to include the cottage. The precision and the idiosyncrasy of the buildings’ design contrast with the more intuitive painting of the dramatically layered, non-figurative context in which the building is placed.

The Italianate Basilica in 'Bethel pavilion' seems to hover in a blur of colour, as if seen from a fast moving train. Others, like 'Mihrab', are viewed hauntingly through a patina of age. The hypnotic quality of the artist’s fusion of real and abstract recalls TS Eliot’s lines: 'human kind/Cannot bear very much reality.'

Conventional distinctions between background and foreground are confounded, as the architectural shapes loom up and recede before our eyes. The walls and roofs of buildings become planes, deeply textured blocks of colour. A fruitful tension is created between the closely observed buildings and the strangeness of the colours around, a new variation on the play between abstract and representational that has always characterised Climent’s work.

The buildings prompt memories of real places, the colours evoke alternately Ireland and the Mediterranean, recalling the artist’s part-Spanish background. As always, the artist leaves it to the viewers to bring their own interpretation to the painting, to go in and explore the painting, or simply enjoy the rich juxtaposition of colour, form and texture. Either way, the experience is immensely stimulating and satisfying.

Alannah Hopkin