Foreword from The Charnel House catalogue
Over the last decade Tom de Freston has developed a body of work that is ambitious in its intent, courageous in its determination to tackle major themes of the tragicomedy of human existence, and self-knowing in its reference to the rich iconography of art history and literature. From his earlier paintings exploring Shakespearian themes of violence and power within theatrical tableaux, de Freston has refocused his work to address contemporary themes of human conflict associated with the so-called ‘War on Terror’.
Implicit within each of de Freston’s paintings there is a consciously unresolved tension between opposites: beauty and horror, tragedy and comedy, the sublime and the ridiculous, and between the gestural qualities of passages of scumbled paint and hard-edged flatness. Freely quoting from great artworks of the past by the likes of Michael Andrews, Francis Bacon, Patrick Caulfield, Théodore Géricault, Pablo Picasso and Titian, de Freston’s paintings represent archetypal moments such as the Deposition, Lamentation, Last Judgement, or the hapless Actaeon’s discovery of Diana, in order to make forceful and uncomfortable statements about the darkest moments of humanity.
De Freston repeatedly depicts thresholds – not just in the physical sense of doorways or platforms like gangplanks above a chasm – but also in the sense of the point at which one starts to feel or react to something: a painterly provocation.