Artist Statement Excerpt 2012
Materiality and process are central to what I do in the studio. I juxtapose layers of paint though a process that involves both the stratification and dissolution of materials. I build up a surface, create an image, rework it, take it apart, and then start again. Through this type of repetitive process a visual archive of formal, personal and conceptual decision-making is compiled. My interest is in the presence of this historic residue, the tension it creates in a work, and how this information can activate a situation that heightens the ambiguities of time, space and content for a viewer.
Thoughts on Materiality and Making 2010
Materials: Gouache, acrylic, pastel, pencil, ink, marker, crayon, paper, glue and wood.
Working with materials is a way to manipulate a known factor to unleash or confront an unknown. I choose to work with certain materials because of their properties – their color, opacity, or fluidity . . . or their binding quality, fragility, or unpredictability. Materials of course are used to support an idea, yet when their innate properties are released, they push upon idea, confronting the preordained by throwing the work back into the present. My interaction with materials constantly makes me ask, what is this thing, what does it want to be, what do I want it to be, what the hell do I do now? In other words, working with materials is working with a form of conditional chance.
Crisis: The Chinese pictogram for crisis combines the symbol for both danger and opportunity.
The physical properties of a material make it react to another in a specific way. Certain materials attract each other, while other materials repel each other. Some materials can hide that which is below them, concealing a history, punching holes in space while sitting on top. This creates ambiguity, an ambiguity of both space and time. And then there is erosion, another subtractive property, driven by the force of an outside agent where the outcome is again somewhat out of one’s control. Erosion mixes the present with the past, creating a new landscape altogether, or as Terry Winters recently said in a lecture, “using subtraction as a construction device”. Other materials, on the other hand, leave an indelible trail. Always present, always having influence. The only way to react to this material is often to use more of it, to counter its significance by making it more common. Who is leading whom?
Relationships: In making a piece, there is always tension between what I want and what I have.
Sometimes I select a material for the way in which it may support the construction of a particular image, choosing a specific color for instance. Other times I select a material because I am drawn to its base properties – how it exists as a substance, and how it may interact with the materials that are already being used. Both characteristics are important to me, and often the work is about finding a delicate balance, playing with the tension of fragile equilibrium. Working a piece, one material is layered upon another, recording activity over time and activating pictorial space. But it is also just stratified material, paint and marks, a static object without meaning. This contradiction is most appealing to me.
Proposal Excerpt 2006
I have a particular fascination with objects and environments that have accrued the evidence of history over time. My interest is in the presence and origins of historical residue and their effect on how we respond to a given moment. This is territory I have been navigating in my work as an artist for years.
My paintings, as well as my work in other media, are made by layering information. The transparent nature of my working process allows previous layers to be discernible creating a visual archive of formal, personal and conceptual decisions. I work with content culled from various sources. For the past few years my imagery has been derived from photographs and films. My recent sources have included photographs of ruins from the World War II bombings in Europe, the periphery of crime scenes photographs, and a burning house appropriated from film footage that in it has deteriorated with age.
I begin with imagery from my own photographs and videos, as well as appropriated images, both historic and banal, from books, magazines and film. Combining media in an overlay, juxtaposition and reprocessing of visual information, I encourage images and working processes to interact with, contradict, and at times obscure one another. This has the effect of destabilizing the once familiar both visually and conceptually. In looking for a formal language to bridge divergent sources, I aim to cause a disruption of habitual preconceptions. Installation is integral to this process of investigation. Through the installation of the work I intentionally establish relationships between pieces and create the potential for additional layers of connection and disorientation. The finished work takes on a variety of forms including series of paintings, digital prints and drawings, as well as video and sculpture.
My work involves an investigation into the nature of perception and how it affects my state of being, consciousness, and relationship to the world. Within this context, Im interested in the role of conditioning, and the possibility of exposing or circumventing it through the practice of making art.
I work within parameters designed to directly challenge a conditioned response. I am interested in the tension created by set physical or conceptual parameters, and the uncertainty of relinquishing control. With the intention of activating unforeseen and ambiguous situations, my work involves layering and juxtaposing diverse visual information, as well as the element of chance.
My decision making is influenced by both the conceptual and visual ramifications of formal pictorial situations. Over the years I have been particularly interested in exploring the problems inherent in what constitutes an edge. At what point does figure become ground, space become flatness, positive become negative. I often attempt to balance a piece on that line between the recognizable or tangible, and that which is not.
I am also interested in exploring the potential of repetition, both in terms of imagery and in a physical process. Working with the idea of over-examination, and by establishing rules or by just following my curiosity, I force both activity and seeing beyond what is normally considered adequate. In repeatedly putting together and pulling apart elements, new phenomena are stimulated and new questions considered.
I am fascinated not only by the way in which physical process and decision making manipulate the phenomenological aspect of a painting, but also how a painting becomes the concretization of perception. Herein I believe lies an opportunity to investigate those conditions and beliefs which formulate an image of our self, and the world in which we live.
Press Release 2003
Roy Tomlinson's work juxtaposes fragments of appropriated imagery with abstract painting. In a group of large scale works on paper, painted abstract forms float over charcoal drawings of reproduced images. The imagery is culled from diverse sources, such as films, found photographs, and family snapshots. The superimposed painting interacts with and disrupts the drawn image below. Tomlinson says, "As I work to develop an image in charcoal and then respond with an independent layer of oil paint, connections and associations develop and the works become part of a personal landscape."
These altered and partially obscured drawings take on the quality of a hazily recalled memory. When the works are seen together as a group, one piece begins to react with the next like the flickering frames of a film. Tomlinson's palette contributes to the filmic quality of the work. He paints with a reduced palette of black, white and sienna creating richly layered surfaces which have a timeworn quality. Tomlinson's imagery and working process evoke memory and history, reminding us of the unstable nature of both.
It is important to me that the materials and processes I use to construct a painting are grounded to the earth. What I mean is that when I am painting I work with fairly simple things such as mixtures of pigments, oils, and varnishes spread thinly into films. These are tangible things that I can realistically work to understand. Yet, as one layer of paint is laid upon the next these compounds begin to interact with each other, creating unexpected form, bending and filtering light, and altering pictorial space. The same is true about using a simple image such as a flat pattern or a mark. There is little baggage here, no illusional rendition of three dimensional form, no inflated narrative. Still, the repetitive nature of my layering process creates a condition where at some point this imagery will dynamically shift, leaving me once again in an altogether new situation.
Asked to make decisions about something that at one moment seems specific and tangible, and at the next elusive, is not unlike suddenly finding yourself stumbling around in a dark room that was once familiar. This experience can be uprooting and disorienting, yet it is exactly to this place that I want painting to take me. It is here that I believe lies the intrinsic power and beauty of painting. Here is where painting can become a dialogue between that which is known, and that which is incomprehensible. For me, this is one of those wonderful yet dangerous opportunities to look through the blinds of conditioning, prejudice and familiarity, and work with something that is new and often quite unexpected.