"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].
"Seventeenth century painters and sculptors believed that the activities of the soul were physically impressed on the face, such that a trained viewer could read them. This was 'physiognomy' and as its name suggests, it was accepted as science at the time, much like astrology. Humanistic interests of the Renaissance revived the Aristotelian concept of correlating facial traits with personality. In addition, practitioners of physiognomic 'science' believed that the face itself distinctly and truthfully mirrored a person's soul...
Renaissance theory urged artists to portray figural and facial expression so that the spectator might experience emotional inspiration by the physiognomic characterization. In addition, handbooks of this period suggested that artists examine the emotional composition of subjects of different age, sex, rank and character. Artists such as Bernini, attempted to interpret their subjects' characters and personal dispositions to gain insight into their souls in order to represent them in art. This effort at translation. from subjective to objective reality was said to be accomplished by reading physical signs evident on the face, by becoming familiar with the sitter through dialogue and by the sitter's recollection and relation to the artist of certain states of mind."
(Wendy Walgate, 1 May 2003)
"A number of key features of the cine-thing begin to emerge from these related articulations. (1) Cinema is understood to grant an expressive and animated life to the normally inanimate thing. (2) These newly enlivened things stand to challenge the usually dominant position of humans with respect to the world of things; they become themselves 'nearly homogenous with man,' 'characters in the drama,' or 'the hero in most any sort of photoplay.' (3) Their personalities or physiognomies suggest an unruliness and irreverence with respect to the audience and filmmaker alike. And (4) there is a sense that cinema's ability to grant life to the thing brings with it a new visual knowledge––that by isolating objects and removing them from their familiar contexts, film allows the viewer experience the usually hidden 'construction and nonhuman life' of things."
('brookhenkel' member of class blog for the spring 2009 thing theory seminar series at Columbia University)
 Fernand Léger 1924. Ballet Mécanique (part 1)
 Fernand Léger 1924. Ballet Mécanique (part 2)