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The Secret Garden                  2017


Although we could call him a "landscape painter'', yet there seems always a whiff of the planetary in Paul Hamlyn's imagery of tree and leaf and stone, a sense of the cosmic as well as the microcosmic. Our close encounter with the markings on the silvery pale bark of a branch is somehow inflected with the detachment of a scientist - or a visiting astronaut. I think of Tarkovsky's Solaris, where the scientist Kris stares into organic plant life and sees it in its cosmic identity - where man is marginal. In a favourite book of Hamlyn's, The Unquiet Landscape, Christopher Neve proposes an English tradition of "thinking in paint"; artists like Paul Nash and Sutherland "have come to regard the landscape as representing states of mind"

I first met Hamlyn in his mid twenties. Trained as a pharmacist, he had returned from a long spell working in remotest Nepal, to join an exceptionally gifted painting year at Saint Martin's (including, among others, Peter Doig and David Harrison). After an MA at Goldsmiths he continued to paint at Cubitt Studios in the midst of his comrades (a well as completing each week a political caricature for The Observer), seldom exhibiting.

I think his true breakthrough came when he began to spend more time in Suffolk above the ocean at Shingle Street- painting not the sea, but the woodland behind; and not the woods, so much as his reveries. He speaks of the "randomness" of the natural forms that he observes and sometimes draws and how they free his imagination in a way that the architecture of the city never could: "The shapes of Nature are more compatible with the shapes of the Mind, than the side of a wall." Those states, induced in the still intimacy of tree trunk and foliage, could be relived back in London. In 'The Other Bank', its as though some essence of Nature (hidden in the heap of actual branches he keeps in the studio corner) has been pharmaceutically distilled, to re-emerge as patches of surprising and beautiful colour.

In Hamlyn's pictures man almost disappears, and planetary eggs and bubbles float among the foliage; we are made in a fresh way "To see the world in a grain of sand…and eternity in an hour".

Timothy Hyman 2017

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