Published: 11 March 2020
We have a unique bond with our pets. They are brought not only into our households, but into our lives as well. We form an emotional attachment and nurture them, showing pets love and affection. The intimacy and tenderness that we associate with our pets develops through companionship.
Dogs for example, man's best friend, are said to be a companion species for us. However, these animals have to develop their own skills of communication too, an emotional labour in itself. The companionship flows both ways. 'Companion', I recently learned, is a word that originally meant to share bread together, 'Com-panis' in Latin. Literally, together with bread. In a recent series of paintings by East Anglian artist, Tessa Newcomb, she breaks bread with our furry friends. Painting pets in the innocence of a beachside walk – prominent, squat and foregrounded – Tessa shows that they are leading the exchange between us and them. These are paintings from the ground up, charming and lovingly recreated at the hands of Tessa.
Hunting for Gold | Oil on board | 17" x 29" | £1450
Community and kinship carry on throughout Tessa's work. Father and Sons is a painting that speaks of family industry, local knowledge and rich history. Fisherman with their catch or fishmongers sorting their trade, they are defiant against the tide of modern industries that might threaten their business. Despite the intensity of their expressions, their livelihood is healthy and prosperous – the wealth of fish reminding us that local knowledge goes a long way. It's another intimate scene, dimly lit and constrained by the space they are given, a character looks us in the eye as they handle fish – a challenge perhaps that we shouldn't forget the importance of their trade, for they know it intimately. Tessa makes reference to the importance of treasuring things across a number of other works too. Take for example her painted boxes – Bits and Pieces – an item to house and preserve memories.
Tessa's paintings can be seen as an attempt to preserve legacy too, as invaluable as oral histories in reminding us of first-hand accounts. This is Tessa painting directly in the land she loves, each painting as authentic as spoken word. They are poems or vignettes, packets of images to open and explore, fleetingly described and as transient as the snowdrops in her painting Snowdrops and Bird. The invitation is to engage and cherish – to make kin with our companions and community, as like the bird or the snowdrop, we don't know how long they will stay.