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06 SEPTEMBER 2011

Riduan Tomkins' formal use of figuration

"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].

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TAGS

abstraction • Alberto Giacometti • Aotearoa New Zealandauthentic residueChristchurchcolour fielddancedesign formalismfigurationfiguresfigures in spaceflat spaceflat surface • flattened proscenium • formformal elements • formal issues • frozenHenri Matisselegitimacyminimalist artmodernismmodernist traditionPablo Picassopainting • pentimenti • pentimento • proscenium arch • reflexive aesthetic practices • Riduan Tomkins • scale • School of Fine Arts • strike a pose • tableautableau vivant • Ted Bracey • theatricaltragicomictrapezeUniversity of Canterbury • vaudeville • visual language

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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