|| Riduan Tomkins
1941 - 2009
One of the most influential painters to come to New Zealand in the past twenty years wass British born Riduan Tomkins. Tomkins studied at the Royal college of Art in London in the 1960s and exhibited at the Whitechapel and Waddington Galleries In London as well as being represented by the renowned art dealer, Betty Parsons in London and New York. His work has also been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art.
Tomkins’ international pedigree is unquestionable, as is his influence upon a younger generation of New Zealand painters – Shane Cotton, and Seraphine Pick amongst them. From 1985 – 1995 Riduan Tomkins was senior lecturer in painting at the University of Canterbury: his painterly approach coupled with the intellectual rigour of his work, left an indelible impression upon much new painting emerging from Ilam, from the mid 80s to the present (an influence that yet remains to be properly credited).
Something of a gypsy (Tomkins did not stay around long enough to gather disciples) he moved to Indonesia in 2001 where he was a founding member of the Central Kalimantan Cultural Collective. Recognising the needs of local artisans and artists, Tomkins put forward a proposal to develop the underused museum into a cultural centre and open an arts department at the Kalimantan University. The community liked the proposal so for five years he worked with the local people to help establish the centre.
Tomkins’ more recent work reflects the time he spent living in Indonesia. While addressing formal painterly concerns – what he calls ‘pictorial propositions’ – his work blurs the boundaries between formal abstraction and figurative/narrative work. It does so with sophistication, grace, and wit. And, in a country where the shadow of McCahon is still cast over much contemporary painting - Tomkins’ work frequently possesses the uncommon quality of joy.