Hayley Tompkins



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Not on display

Hayley Tompkins born 1971
Watercolour on board
Support: 438 × 320 mm
Purchased 2011


Architecture 2004 is a watercolour painting on a wooden board. Tompkins first painted the wood support with layers of gesso to build up a textured base layer, before painting fine geometric lines over this surface. In a similar way to the wall paintings she was making at the same time, the painted line in Architecture has a hesitant, indeterminate look. This work is typical of Tompkins’s paintings on wood from this period, which are often geometric, linear and lightly coloured. Architecture, however, is larger than others of the same type. The emphasis for Tompkins was on how directly and finely she could paint the lines and shapes. The title came after the work was complete, once the artist had thought about the geometry within it and the idea of a scaffold or structure suggested by its lines. She has commented:

In the painting the darker lines that run diagonally up the painting (like a staircase), appear to ‘support’ the ‘building’ of the grey square, so that one line supports the other. The grey square also appears almost like a mirage or ghost in its faintness, like an imagined square compared to the darker lines … I was trying to suggest the idea of the purpose of the lines to construct or build, a built environment … Something I hadn’t planned for, when installed on the wall, was that it had the final appearance of almost becoming like the wall itself, so there was an illusionist, visual play element to it as well.
(Email correspondence with Tate curator Katharine Stout, 2 May 2011.)

The work was first exhibited in the exhibition Becks Futures at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London in 2004.

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 Day Series 2007 (Tate T13535), Proto portrait 2008 (Tate T13536), Metabuilt II 2008 (Tate T13538), Metabuilt XXIV 2009 (Tate T13537) and No Title 2011 (Tate T13540).

Further reading
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.

Katharine Stout
May 2011

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