David Gommon at The Art Stable

ANYONE who visited the recent David Gommon exhibition at The Art Stable at Child Okeford will surely want to see the new show, from 7th September to 5th October, with more of the fine work of this unfairly neglected artist.

It is fair to say that Gommon (1913-1987) was relatively unknown before Kelly Ross, who owns the gallery at Gold Hill Organic Farm, gave local art lovers a chance to discover this sensitive and clever painter whose life and works mirror the development and movements within British Art in the first half of the 20th century.

Critics describe Gommon’s work as having “a Romantic sensibility, with echoes of Paul Nash’s late landscapes, John Craxton’s undulating hills, Graham Sutherland’s eerie Surrealism, and with some of the bright colour palette of Christopher Wood.”

Born the year before the First World War broke out, Gommon’s early childhood would have been inflected by war, his adulthood marred by a second conflagration. He believed that his art counted for nothing in the face of the suffering he saw.  Once peace broke out, Gommon turned to teaching, only slowly returning to painting during the school holidays, but continued to explore and adapt artistically throughout the rest of his life.

Gommon was also an eloquent and evocative writer.  In his writing, rediscovered recently by his son, Peter, he describes early trips to Dorset, and the memory of a hut on Chesil Beach which he shared with a friend: “of lying on my camp bed at night listening to Chekov’s ‘Uncle Vanya’. It was a windy night and the hut swayed and lurched, rose from the ground, squeaked and returned to the earth with a shudder.” He travelled widely but regularly returned to Dorset, staying for a summer in the Blackmore Vale.

There is a particularly interesting link to Child Okeford in a journal entry that mentions Hambledon Hill, the Iron Age hillfort which overlooks Gold Hill Organic Farm: “Our favourite village was Childe Okeford, just below Hambledon Hill. We would climb Hambledon Hill and having walked round its ditches, and from the very top picked out all the landmarks like Alfred’s Tower in Somerset.”

Pictured: Edge of the Wood, oil on board, 1969; Sunbeam Garden, Jasmine Cottage, gouache, 1981.