An interview with critically acclaimed artist John Hammond SWAc

Almost twenty years have passed since Marine House at Beer first exhibited John Hammond’s paintings.

They are perennially popular because of John’s great gift of capturing the true essence of place in his compositions.

With such a long-spanning artistic career, we wanted to touch base with John Hammond to see what inspires the vast oeuvre of work he has conceived.

Tell us a bit about your inspirations and styles. 

I’ve always considered myself to be a painter of light, so I guess it’s no surprise that the work of the impressionists features high in my list of influences. Having said that, although we share the same goals of capturing the light, atmosphere and feel of the subject through a slightly abstracted style, we differ in terms of the technique; the impressionists predominantly worked from ‘light to dark’ using opaque colour mixes (obtained by adding a little white to each mix).  In contrast, the technique I have developed over the years builds the painting from dark to light and often use layers of translucent glazes over and under thicker impasto marks to build the picture surface.  

How have these developed throughout your artistic career? 

Quite often I am asked how does my style develop and “So, what will I paint next?” and the answer is of course deceptively simple – “light”. To paint sunshine is to paint life, and to capture its warmth and glow in paint is an absolute joy for me. For example with a new collection of work is a celebration of that sunlight and the happiness that it brings, as well as capturing the changing atmosphere it provides within different spaces. Maybe rather than “how does you style change?” or “what will you paint next?”, the question should be “where will you paint next?”, and the answer, in this case, was quite simply “I’ll follow the sun”.

What notable changes have taken place in the art world since receiving your honours degree at Bath Academy of Art in 1982? 

I think most artists working over the past 30 or 40 years will agree that the most fundamental change to buying and selling art has been the development of the internet. The most successful artists and galleries, in my opinion, are those who have been able to embrace the new digital world, while at the same time rather than turning their backs on the old ways of viewing and buying art, integrating and getting the best from both worlds. For myself, I can’t imagine selling my work through a platform that doesn’t have a brick and mortar gallery as well as an online presence. The physicality of paintings is undeniable and scale and texture and mark-making ultimately need a first-hand encounter. Online and ‘remote’ sales are of course a major and important part of the modern art market, but it’s great to be able to offer the purchaser an ‘in the flesh’ viewing. It’s usually the repeat buyers or collectors, who have the confidence of knowing what they can expect from their new painting, that buy readily online, but a good returns policy from the gallery is greatly appreciated as an encouragement for new buyers to take the plunge. 

What is your favourite landscape or destination to work with and why? 

All the paintings that I have worked on over the years mean different things to me. Some have great emotional ties or a special memory, but I love to share my work with others and this softens the blow of letting them go. I don’t often paint commissions because unless the subject means something, or speaks to me, it can be difficult to connect on more than just a visual level. The most successful paintings are those that have an almost tangible emotional connection. 

Why do you think it is so important for art to be more accessible? 

To own and love a piece of original artwork is a delight, but of course, for many, the financial commitment can be an obstacle. I welcome all visitors to my exhibitions and to view my work regardless. As I said before the most important thing for me is to share my vision. It is a delightful bonus if somebody decides to invest in giving a painting a new home and of course initiatives like own art which enable this for a wider audience are to be greatly applauded.  

John Hammond’s exhibition is currently on view online at Marine House at Beer.