Andre Thomkins @ Hauser and Wirth Gallery London

 ‘Swedish artist André Thomkins’ idea of ‘lackskin painting’ might sound somewhat bizarre, but the results are in a league of their own, Katrina Quarton takes a look into the late artists’ first exhibition in the UK.’

It is not often these days that you see a late artist’s debut in the UK let alone London, and this is what initially caught my eye about André Thomkins. After that was the mention of ‘lackskins’, an idea I’d never come across before, I concluded this combination must lead to something interesting, and thus persuaded myself to go down to Hauser and Wirth to satisfy my curiosity.

As I entered the calm and uninhibited gallery I was greeted by some very large, very vibrant, yet delicate pictures. This took me totally by surprise as upon reading the term ‘lackskin’ I was under the conception of some kind of relief or something more physically sculptural. However the surprise what rather pleasant despite my preference in media being 3D, as upon first impression the works are certainly like nothing I’d ever seen before, and after taking in the initial surprise of the lackskin pictures, I slowly found myself edging closer to the pictures to gain more insight into these bizarre, yet elegant visions.

The works are simply composed of blocks of colour, and within those, are a whole variety of mark makings, all of which seemed so natural, despite being quite obviously orchestrated into a visual form. The more I looked, the more minute details I’d see, the more I’d try to consider how these works were possible, and the more I liked this art I’d never seen before.

While my vision slowly wandered round the space, the presence of five monotone pictures came to my attention, they were in comparison about half the size of the ones I was initially greeted with, however they made just as much impact as the others, and in reflection of my visit were probably the ones that intrigued me the most. They were mostly of landscapes, in which they would retain a particularly curvy appearance, again, with plenty of detail within the simplistic outlines, and yet they still retained this amazingly fluid look about them despite being firmly fixed on paper, each section looked like it had been carefully peeled off another surface and delicately placed.

When I’d had my fill of the surrounding work, I ventured downstairs into the basement, where I heard the most peculiar music (that if I were to summarize as an object it would be that of a ping pong ball on the verge of shattering). I peered round a corner and discovered a charming black and while film about Thomkins’ technique of painting, and also discovered that the music I could hear was Thomkins’ attempt at musically interpreting his visual formations.

It turns out that Thomkins’ lackskin painting was the artist’s equivalent of doing marble painting at primary school, where you would float an oil based substance on water and shape it by pushing it around until you formed a kind of picture, except in lackskin painting the medium was lacquer and you could manipulate it better as the lacquer would form a skin over the water hence the term lackskin, the film shows an interesting view of Thomkins creating one of his mono works whilst explaining how the process works. What I find almost ironic about the technique is that it happens purely by accident, which puts it on the same plate as many other great discoveries.

Thomkins may not be alive now, and may not have sought the limelight in his day, but my journey to see his lackskins was well worth the visit and was in a nutshell refreshing to view, the works really are intriguing pieces to see in close proximity, and the uncrowded gallery provides a great space in order to lose yourself in them.

Katrina Quarton
BA Fine Art & Critical Theory


(Picture) André Thomkins. Untitled, 1961 - 1964 Lackskin on paper 192 x 165 cm / 75 5/8 x 65 in
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