Tom Young claims he learns as much from his art students as they learn from him. But his latest exhibition ‘From London to the Levant’ shows that his family has also taught him a thing or two. Young can plot author Virginia Woolf, Victorian artist Marianne North and author William Thackeray on his family tree and his distinct, poetic style has earned him commissions across the world. ‘I was taught by my grandmother and she was taught by her mother and she was taught by her mother,’ Young explains, ‘there has always been a tradition for romantic expression in my family.’
It is his journeys away from home to France, Italy, Lebanon and Syria that inspired the new exhibition of 20 canvasses. ‘The exhibition forms a focus of my journeys over the last few years,’ he explains. ‘It is about home and where I’m from but also about where I’ve gone.’ St Pauls from the River Thames, a large depiction of a hazy London morning was inspired by Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway who described the city as ‘wrapped in the soft mesh of the grey-blue morning air.’
St Pauls from the River Thames
Although Young’s paintings might appear soft to the eye, they are extremely textured. ‘I like to think I’m painting for blind people,’ he explains. The paint is applied using a palette knife, often cutting deep into the canvas, with brushstrokes adding the finishing touches. ‘When you think about the texture of a building or landscape you think about its sensuality,’ he says.
The style can be noted particularly in his paintings of Lebanon and Syria ? the crowds and clutter of downtown Beirut and the imposing columns and ancient ruins in Great Colonnade at Palmyra. Interestingly Young found Lebanon shared many similarities with France and Italy. ‘I found it very attractive. The light is Mediterranean so it can look quite similar,’ he maintains, ‘plus French is often spoken.’
Great Colonnade at Palmyra
On his return he hosted an exhibition with Lebanese artists to raise money for charity before journeying back to Lebanon to run drawing workshops for orphans. He held two workshops: the first focusing on relating to one another by drawing portraits and the second encouraging the children to express what they liked and how they want their city to be. ‘There is so much conflict and some of my painting refers to it. But this exhibition is about beauty and escape ? a celebration of beauty,’ Young says.
Light on the Lagoon, Venice
His paintings of Venice and the Lot valley in France, where he will be holding a summer school next September, exemplify this celebration. ‘I spend a long time preparing my mind before I paint,’ he explains. ‘But once I’ve started each painting only takes about three days.’ Young’s prolific work ethic has enabled him to host eight solo exhibitions in London and two in New York. Private and corporate collections including Allen and Overy, Linklaters, and the Mellon Foundation have invested in his work.
Valeilles, South West London
Freedom is extremely important to Young’s work: the freedom to paint where and what he likes but he also enjoys the ‘mission’ element of a commission. ‘I like going on a journey with a specific person in mind,’ he says. Next month Young is venturing to India having been commissioned by a university friend. ‘It will be great ? I’m travelling to Bombay and Rajastan and will hopefully go to Ladak. I’m already envisaging a painting of the Taj Mahal.’
For more information on Tom Young’s paintings or his summer school in the Lot valley please visit www.tomyoung.com
The exhibition ‘From London to the Levant’ runs until January 22 at the Adam Street Club, London 9:30am ? midnight +44(0)207 379 8000.