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On John Tomlinson : Tomlinson has an ear to his own heart and mind

from the essay Primacy of the Sense of Touch and Other Manifest Wonders in drawing BIG

by Dominique Nahas © 2015

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.


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 What did you call me? ” ,“ I didn’t say that” and “ I don’t want to listen to that”, 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. 

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