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Metabuilt II consists of a found screw-driver which has been over-painted with gouache paint. Like Metabuilt XXIV 2009 (Tate T13537) it is part of Tompkins’s Metabuilt series, which developed out of her practice of painting objects (see, for example, Day Series 2007, Tate T13535). There are thirty works in the Metabuilt series, which was completed in 2009. Like the Day Series, the Metabuilt works are concerned with measuring time, or finding an equivalent in art for time or for a particular event. Tompkins has described the works as ‘a form of recording device’ (email correspondence with Tate curator Katharine Stout, 2 May 2011). Each of the selected objects in the series is densely over-painted, and on some of the stick pieces like Metabuilt XXIV there are attachments, such as fragments of photographs. Tompkins saw the photographs as a means with which to connect to the film, Interstice 2008, that she was making at the same time: ‘I felt like I had dealt with a lot of abstract imagery before, but now wanted to re-insert a recognisable reality, however fragmentary.’ (2 May 2011.) Tompkins used metallic paint in this series so that the objects had the surface appearance of being metal. She devised the title Metabuilt because she wanted to use the word ‘built’, instead of building, to suggest a past event or to refer to the way that an artwork contains and holds time within it. She has further commented:
Meta as a prefix interested me, I later went on to use other Greek prefixes such as Supra, Tele as titles … Meta in Greek means ‘beyond’ or ‘after’, so the idea of being beyond, as if trying to show a reality underneath – like Wordsworth when he speaks in his poetry of trying to see into ‘the life of things’. These works were about constructing component parts, joining, linking elements of memory.
(2 May 2011.)
Tompkins makes paintings in watercolour and gouache on small fragments of board, sheets of paper and at times directly onto the wall, and also applies paint to found and constructed objects. Other examples which demonstrate the range of her practice are Metabuilt XXIV, Day Series, Architecture 2004 (Tate T13539), Proto portrait 2008 (Tate T13536), and No Title 2011 (Tate T13540).
Daniel Baumann, Pati Hertling and Karla Black, Hayley Tompkins, Edinburgh 2011.
Nicola Moorby and Katharine Stout, ‘Abstraction and Improvisation’, in Alison Smith (ed.), Watercolour, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2011, pp.184–5, 195.