"Hilarious and frequently surreal, the stop–motion extravaganza A Town Called Panic has endless charms and raucous laughs for children from eight to eighty. Based on the Belgian animated cult TV series (which was released by Wallace & Gromits Aardman Studios), Panic stars three plastic toys named Cowboy, Indian and Horse who share a rambling house in a rural town that never fails to attract the weirdest events.
Cowboy and Indians plan to gift Horse with a homemade barbeque backfires when they accidentally buy 50 million bricks. Whoops! This sets off a perilously wacky chain of events as the trio travel to the center of the earth, trek across frozen tundra and discover a parallel underwater universe of pointy–headed (and dishonest!) creatures. Each speedy character is voiced – and animated – as if they are filled with laughing gas. With panic a permanent feature of life in this papier–mâché burg, will Horse and his equine paramour – flame–tressed music teacher Madame Longray (Jeanne Balibar) – ever find a quiet moment alone? A sort of Gallic Monty Python crossed with Art Clokey on acid, A Town Called Panic is zany, brainy and altogether insane–y!."
"Figuration itself is not inconsistent with the Modernist tradition since, even the most abstract of Modernist work makes references to things outside itself, yet, of all the features in Tomkins' work, the distinctive way in which he uses figuration seems to set it apart from the rest. Giacometti–like (although informed by Picasso and Matisse) troupes of figures edge around the paintings always playing some formal role but never solely in virtue of their form, scale, colour or location. Typically they point, both literally and figuratively, to formal elements in the Works, including, curiously enough, each other – but they also fly on trapezes, hold safety nets, dance and strike poses. None of the figures, however, are merely incidental to formal issues and although interdependent with them they have, as well, a life of their own. This invites interpretation, at least to the extent that we find ourselves reflecting on how and why the figures appear to us as they do – like mute vandevillians whose master, Tomkins, having rendered them onto some flattened proscenium, orchestrates their participation in a frozen theatrical tragicomic tableau. However, we cannot know the purpose of such entertainments beyond their capacity to intrigue and amuse us."
(Ted Bracey, 1987)
2) Ted Bracey (1987). Robert McDougall Art Gallery [now Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu].
The short 16mm film; "A Little Death" evolved from an earlier (speculative) project entitled "Into The Void". This project problematised issues of space (zone, boundary, intersection) through their instigation as narrative actors. The project enquired: How do 3D people live up to idealised 2D representations? What happens if an individual who doesn't 'belong' is given the chance to 'fit in' & remains dislocated? As Frank turns to reach out and touch his surrounds he finds them to be flat and lifeless representations – literally a 2D world of backdrops hanging one foot in front of his face – mirrors of his own subjectivity. Will he locate himself within this shifting but lifeless tableau or escape into the void beyond?
(Simon Perkins & Paul Swadel, September 1993)
[The project was conceptualised in part as a play on Edouard Manet's 'Olympia' (and its reframing of Titian's 'The Venus of Urbino'.]