Maralynn Cherry | Charlie Black


A hundred thousand finger prints floated to the floor - LEONARD COHEN

Drawing touches the page like fingerprints embedded into the surface. Moods shift. A choreography of touch, many layered slips across paper, clay, and clear Mylar.

Richard Toms has created a series of graphic works that engage the viewer in a thoughtful consideration of the 'bodyscape' as expressive, dramatic, historically memorable and vulnerable. Life drawing transforms itself into a cabaret of experience where positive and negative space reflect the sensitive nature of one's nakedness.

Toms is an eclectic artist constantly experimenting with new materials and techniques such as printmaking, painting, sculpture, photography and collage. His wide scope and exploration cause him to layer and juxtapose the rough with the refined. Graceful lyrical lines flip to the staccato moves that smudge and blur; stark black and white contrasts edge themselves against intricate networks of crosshatching and brushstrokes. Techniques here transform into new language constructs-lines that visually represent poetic metaphor.

While working on these drawings Toms has been simultaneously shaping small figures in clay and covering them with black or white acrylic paint. Held in the hand, they fit into the palm like smooth beach stones. The intimacy of touch and fragile beauty of the body is reflected sensitively here. One feels these pieces are deliberately not monumental in scale.

In a series of scratch drawings on Mylar Toms has etched away black acrylic paint, revealing stark dramatic gestures. The female figure is transformed into a persona of confidence, a theatrical heroine. These pieces imply the printer's touch, recalling woodblock cuts and intaglio plates. Munch, Kirchner, and Matisse come to mind as strokes mimic historical references. I think of Mati Hari, Sarah Bernhardt, Edith Piaf, Holly Cole or the exotic figures of Delacroix. Playing with these classic poses allows Toms to counterpoint them to his small life drawings of the female. These sepia toned figures are smudged creating a blurred veil over the postures. Dramatic gesture versus that which is vulnerable. In these two series he manages to compare 'the body as theatre' with 'the body as fragile and intimate'.

Give me back my fingerprints my fingertips are raw - COHEN

Four large drawings in black and white depict both the male and female figure. Dark background surfaces absorb these bodies into the shadows. Watercolour pencils and acrylic medium are mixed; layering these works with graphic line and painterly strokes that sculpt and weave the flesh. Two depictions of the male crop away the head and limbs revealing the lower torso. One drawing rounds the female form into a foetus like position. Another shapes a fitting relationship between the male and female body as if together they are formed into a single tree trunk. The figure is fraught with illusions, symbols, taboos and frailty. Toms relocates fragments of the body, drawing back into them, seeking new relationships.

The body/figure is the anatomy of our placement in time and space. As the world passes through the body and leaves it leaves marks behind.

By Maralynn Cherry

© Richard Toms, 2024