Interviews & Write Up’s
“Neil Tomkins is an anomaly; that kind of laid back cool you’d imagine would be hitching a ride to a waterfall in the 60s.”
NEIL TOMKINS INTERVIEW
By James Watkins
“A modern-day alchemist holed up in his studio trying his best to make sense of himself, the world, and his place in it. He wasn’t pretending to have any real answers; painting wasn’t an answer, it was a distraction, therapy and an unanswerable question, like a mathematical equation that will never be solved.”
I’m sitting with Neil Tomkins, the person who penned that fairly profound opening statement, in his studio.
We are veritably surrounded by saws, hammers, gnarled pieces of driftwood, succulents, canvas materials, aerosol cans, neatly arranged paint brushes, opened art books, milk crates full of old sketch pads, drawings and of course, countless paintings.
He sits at a table; long unkempt hair, hand-weaved crystal necklace dangling from his neck, both wrists full of bracelets, singlet, a large platypus tattoo across his shoulder (which he designed), paint-covered pants and bare feet that look like they’ve spent plenty of time out of shoes. Staring down at a painting, he’s meditatively pushing red pigment over a previously painted brown when he begins talking.
“Even when I was a little baby, I was lucid dreaming. When I was just starting to walk I was having a lot of flying dreams. I felt very connected to the idea of astral projection, leaving my body in my sleep. When I was four, I used to create whole villages and civilisations out of plasticine”. He tells me, without looking up from his painting. “I’d get a board and I’d mould coloured plasticine and make trees and forests and villages and cities and temples full of warriors”. He seems to think that everything he’s just said was totally common behaviour for a four year old. It’s worth mentioning, that for the entirety of this interview he was constantly painting on a number of different surfaces. Wherever he is, art just seems to continually pour out of Tomkins, and it seems that is has always been this way. “I was always drawing when I was young. I was just always drawing.”
“We journey through the physical landscape. Its effects on the self grow and form ideas over time; these ideas become a spirit of self and leave marks on the greater environment. Our feet leave prints. Those prints exist as memory and as history. That mark whether it continues to exist for a month or a lifetime becomes something organic. It is perceived, eaten and becomes entwined with the public. For it is owned by the public.”