Transcend: A retrospective exhibition and memorial to Tom French, the brilliant young painter

Tom French. All images courtesy of Unit London

On Christmas Day, after a brave and courageous battle with cancer, one fought with characteristic dignity and strength, artist Tom French sadly passed away.

To pay tribute to his life and work, Unit London is presenting Transcend, a major retrospective of his work, featuring pieces that were created in the knowledge that they would most likely be his last.

"In his final months, Tom poured every morsel of hope, determination and strength into this body of work," says the Gallery. "He spoke of the tranquillity it instilled in him – the therapeutic nature of executing a skill that you have been honing your entire life. And the joy of continuing to find variation in something so familiar, to find foreign pleasures in native spaces. In some ways, the chaotic mess that is premature illness was brought to heel by Tom through his work."

Transcend brings together two of Tom's most prominent bodies of work: the Parallax and Duality paintings – black and white, figurative combinations of photorealism and abstraction. Essentially, they are charcoal drawings, enhanced with acrylics, oils, spraypaint and even gold-leafing.

"The fragmented presentation of Tom's characters is representative of the way in which we perceive the external world, both visually and psychologically," the Gallery continues. "When viewing a figure we do not see it as a whole, our eyes roam, shifting focus and settling on various points of interest; we construct an individual subjective image, one that is, by definition, fragmented. Tom imbued with a kind of melancholic defiance, even at the last he was experimenting with new methods and ideas: the Parallax paintings were his first to incorporate the use of colour, not only did he find this therapeutic, it's also a pointed inclusion of the most subjective of artistic mediums, thoroughly justifying the choice of 'Parallax'."

Tom French (1982-2019) grew up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and, as the son of an artist, enjoyed visiting galleries, painting and reading comic books. After school he began studying at the Newcastle School of Art and Design and went on to the Sheffield Institute of Art and Design, achieving a first-class BA Honours in 2005. Tom had solo shows in both the UK and US, including the extended sold-out show Flux at Lawrence Alkin Gallery in 2014.

His work appeared at the London Art Fair and Scope New York and Scope Miami Beach. In 2013 his work was featured on the cover of Los Angeles Where and Upstart Magazine. Elsewhere, he created the cover art for the soundtrack of the cult film Donnie Darko.

Transcend by Tom French opens at Unit London on 30 January to the 29 February 2020. Our thoughts to Tom's family and friends.

Parallax 4, 2019 © Tom French

Parallax 4, 2019 © Tom French

Vessel, 2018 © Tom French

Vessel, 2018 © Tom French

Parallax 4, 2019 © Tom French

Parallax 4, 2019 © Tom French

Dualities 6, 2019 © Tom French

Dualities 6, 2019 © Tom French

Parallax 3, 2019 © Tom French

Parallax 3, 2019 © Tom French

Dualities 7, 2019 © Tom French

Dualities 7, 2019 © Tom French

Parallax 2, 2019 © Tom French

Parallax 2, 2019 © Tom French