Reviews of the Artist
TWO POINTS OF VIEW
Dominique Nahas : John Tomlinson has an ear to his own heart and mind : in Primacy of the Sense of Touch and Other Manifest Wonders in “drawing BIG”
by Dominique Nahas © 2015
John Tomlinson writes that in his series Modes of Escape, Dark Storms and The Misery of Men drawing male heads and men’s bodies placed in circumstances that seem imperiled or portentously ambiguous are means to an end. Such subject matter and locales are vehicles allowing for the expression of unalloyed authenticity. In his notes he writes: “I believe that I am orchestrating an experience for myself, mapping my inner journey, leaving traces…each composition portrays a vestige of personal experience…” I like his use of the word “vestige.” Indeed, in Tomlinson’s 2015 three- panel window drawing, his graphite-on polyester-film triptych entitled The Misery of Men” consisting of “ I don’t want to listen to that”, “ I didn’t say that” and “What did you call me? ” there is a remarkable impression that what he is depicting (or perhaps dredging-up with difficulty and yet with honesty and vulnerability) are the very sensations of phantom-limb, infantile conversations, vestigial encounters and re-encounters that he has had with himself over his lifetime. Tomlinson has an ear to his own heart and mind. What he bears luminous testimony to, perhaps, are the echoes and reverberations of what one might call scripts handed over to us as children by parental authority and our corresponding counter-defense pushback positions of rejection and self-reproach. I am moved by Tomlinson’s unwavering bravery as he unmasks himself while putting down the self-defensive armor at the service of shining light on the demons of inner doubt and insecurity that form the substrate self-consciousness for so many.
Dominique Nahas is an independent curator and critic based in Manhattan. During his long career in the arts as a writer and arts advocate Nahas organized and curated the first American retrospectives of internationally prominent artists Nancy Spero, Les Levine and Osvaldo Romberg. A former museum director and curator he currently teaches critical studies in the fine art department at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute.
Anthony Biancoviso : John Tomlinson : The Misery of Men
Anthony Biancoviso, Ph.D. © 2015
John Tomlinson’s artist’s statement for Misery of Men describes not only the physical process used to create the work but also some of his psychological processes and past personal experiences. Dominique Nahas’s essay excessively focuses his attention and comments on these past personal experiences. Unfortunately, Tomlinson’s artist statement made it very easy for the critic to change the subject matter by focusing on the personal, and leads the discussion away from the universality of Tomlinson’s Misery of Men.
Mr. Nahas starts with selectively quoting from the artists statement : “…what he is depicting (or perhaps dredging-up with difficulty and yet with honesty and vulnerability) are the very sensations of phantom-limb, infantile conversations, vestigial encounters and re-encounters that he has had with himself over his life time.” Here is a sample of how the art critic shifts the focus to the artist’s past and creates “art gossip”, which many people enjoy reading because it can be informative, interesting, and entertaining in a voyeuristic way. Although Tomlinson draws upon (pun intended) his past and truthfully self-discloses personal experiences to explore how men relate to one another, the art work is not about him, it is about men.
This form of distraction may be very welcome when some viewers are confronted with a serious work of art. Tomlinson’s drawings invite reflection and self-confrontation. His Misery of Men may arouse unwanted emotions, thoughts, and memories for the viewer, offering them the chance to raise their consciousness. His drawings present an opportunity to increase self-awareness and contemplate the human condition as it relates to the viewer.
It is disappointing that this review does not address the aesthetic value of Tomlinson’s new work. You will have to see Tomlinson’s Misery of Men to appreciate how creatively and skillfully he uses his highly developed aesthetic sensibilities and the simplest of art materials in spontaneous ways. I encourage you to go see Tomlinson’s new work when you have the desire to confront a serious a work of art.
Anthony N. Biancoviso, Ph.D. is an artist/ceramicist. He had a 27-year career as a certified psychologist at the Manhattan Veterans Affairs Medical Center, including 17 years as a clinical psychologist in the V.A. Mental Hygiene Clinic and 10 years as a counseling psychologist in the V.A. Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program. He was Adjunct Associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University, New York. He is the creator of the new group method Planned Group Counseling and is co-author of a book about the method, Planned Group Counseling: An Alternative Group Method for Reluctant Chemically Dependent and Psychiatric Patients