Stay Informed

Log in to discuss, stay updated and voice your opinion

Gallery Search

“I got off my bicycle and stared at it. It would last five minutes at most, then it would be gone and not seen any more. It had never been seen before, it would never be again, its existence five minutes. Such is the difference between what we see in the heavens and what we see on earth.”

John Stewart Collis, writing on clouds; Points of View in Dorset; Places, an Anthology of Britain chosen by Ronald Blythe; Oxford University Press, 1981

David Gommon was an intrepid cyclist who never learned to drive. He cycled to Scotland in his teens to visit his mother’s homeland. In his twenties he went on a cycling tour of Dorset with a fellow art student. There in a pub in a small village he met a slightly tipsy man reciting poetry at the bar. This man, Mr Pooley, invited him to stay at his cottage, and it was through this meeting that he discovered Thomas Hardy and his second home. He fell in love with Dorset and the Pooley family.

It was his discovery of the Dorset landscape around Hartgrove as a young man in the 1930’s that opened his eyes to a particular and ancient landscape which he explored and returned to in his paintings throughout his life. As he looked hard at the form of this landscape he developed an eye for what lay beneath the surface, the forces that had formed it and a sense of its hidden history.

At the same time he was developing an eye for the way the light that fell on the solid earth was modelled by the interaction of sky and clouds, a meeting of the timeless with the ephemeral, “the difference between what we see in the heavens and what we see on earth.”

However, in 1938, in his mid 20’s the second cataclysmic event of the C20th was about to happen, and the atmosphere was charged with latent violence. For a painter who had been immersing himself in the landscapes and rural life of Dorset, and who tried to express the joy and beauty of the creation in his work the tension between reality and his inner creative life must have become unbearable. For an artist to have the right to bear the title he or she must seek the truth and express that truth with all their creative gifts. He stopped painting altogether in 1938, only starting again in 1944.

After his marriage, and settling with Jean in Little Billing Northamptonshire, he gradually began to paint again, working from what was around him. His approach was varied; he worked in oil, gouache, pencil and ink. Materials were expensive; he frequently used whatever he could find to paint on, some supports less durable than others. He focussed on the essence of the English and Welsh landscapes that he loved, and that he transformed through his painterly imagination into their essential forms.

Gradually his vision of Dorset invested itself in other places that became important to him. He painted the surface life of the trees and hedgerows on the landform illuminated and modelled by the clouds and sky of Northamptonshire, Sir Meirionydd, The Gower, Northumberland and the Black Mountains. All are viewed and expressed through his feeling for what lies beneath.

A series of paintings of cricket matches that he painted in the 1960’s render the players as figures carved in an iron-age landscape, or as standing stones. They are treated as a part of the landscape, timeless and steeped in the essence of the place they occupy.

It is in his later garden paintings-1975-85, of his and Jean Gommon’s enclosed walled garden in Hardingstone that he brings together all of the elements of his landscape paintings, but with intimacy and a powerful sense of a personal space. This is his own space that can be reinvented and displayed in every season and time of day or night, a paradise garden that embodied everything that he loved about life, landscape and the creation.

He could read the underlying structure of a landscape and reveal its inner life and character with great simplicity. His are living, vibrant landscapes where the trees are in motion and the air full of clouds and birds. This is an astonishing accomplishment for such a true Londoner who was first transformed by his contact with Dorset, and later through his working life in rural Northamptonshire. He retired early to give himself time to paint freely; there was so much that he needed to paint. He remained full of ideas and continued to vigorously develop his “personal and eloquent language” until his sudden death in 1987. He left a legacy of over 450 works.