Ocean View

John Hammond French studies


French leisure

So now we come to the group of French paintings.

To start off, this is a painting loosely based on the boules courts in St Malo, but to be honest, it’s one of those scenes that you’ll see in any French market town throughout the whole of France, particularly on a Sunday morning when the cars are made to shift out of the car parks to make way for these guys to come out and play their Sunday boules match. This painting’s actually entitled “For the Match” which I think sums up the fact that it’s just that moment in time where perhaps this is the deciding throw of the entire match. Which way is it going to go? That’s the question. There’s no shortage of help and advice from these guys in the shadows. I like the idea that a painting has a little bit of a narrative to it like that and perhaps every time you look at this painting you can decide on a different outcome to the match.

This painting in many ways is a painting based on childhood memories, Water Weed and Sticklebacks. It reminds me so much of my childhood, days spent along the river bank. And here we are in France, a scene again that is probably familiar to many people. But one of the great things about this painting is that it gives me the opportunity to paint one of my favourite subjects which, of course, is water. I love to paint water. It’s an extremely evocative part of a painting and very informative. A body of water can tell you so much about what’s going on with the weather conditions and the atmosphere of a place. In this particular case, obviously the sky is a brilliant blue, the sun is out, the water’s very still, there’s no rippling. So it tells you so much about the weather conditions, so much about the atmosphere of a place. And capturing that is really key to capturing the whole atmosphere of the scene.

So in this painting we have a group of Breton cattle grazing under the trees at the edge of an orchard. It’s a subject that I return to time and time again, both in this country and in France, as you see here. I think one of the fascinating things is the peaceful kind of feeling that you can get from this scene. It’s a subject that will be familiar to a lot of people and perhaps will just remind people of those kind of lazy summer days listening to the cattle rustling around and chomping on the cud. It’s a very peaceful piece, but in this case a little splash of spice I think thrown in by these wonderful flashes of red from this poppy field.