Paul Tonkin: Paintings
I believe Paul Tonkin’s paintings describe inner experience and can at times make a direct link to nature and the timelessness of things, to events no words can describe. Imagination is the creative force; art as an idea of this world, but not in logical terms – a world of deeper meanings and mysteries, excluding forms of outer knowledge. Imagination creates a new reality and when rightness of form can be achieved the work will not be “understood” but will be recognised.
John Hoyland, 05.03.09, London
Paul Tonkin was born in Southampton in 1951. He attended Canterbury College of Art and moved to London in 1973. He was soon invited to exhibit in the annual Stockwell Depot exhibitions, which were rapidly gaining a reputation for uncompromising abstract sculpture and painting. Anthony Caro and John Hoyland were both regular guests at these events, the latter inviting Tonkin to contribute works to the Hayward Annual, which he was organising in 1980. Tonkin was the youngest painter to take part and was acclaimed for the colour and exuberance of his work. He went on to exhibit at the Whitechapel and the Serpentine galleries and more recently (2006 & 2008) in the Royal Academy Summer exhibition.
Tonkin became involved in music while at college but his lack of any formal training soon brought the realization that parallel careers in music and painting would be impractical. The experience however fostered a lifelong fascination with music making, which informed his approach to visual art.
The paintings are analogous to jazz in their improvisatory technique, simultaneity of pictorial events, allusions from the widest possible range of sources and strong but subtle colour combinations. Working wet into wet with differing consistencies of acrylic paint on canvas pinned to the floor leads to unpredictable results. Like a jazz musician, the artist, working against time, is forced to make quick decisions and to see the picture as a rapidly changing event. All kinds of happenings and “mistakes” are incorporated and absorbed. The process is fluid, instinctive and unorthodox but not arbitrary. The attempt is made to catch the colours (sounds) which are “in the air” waiting to be combined on the canvas, the aim being to discover unimagined orchestrations of unnamable colours.