Sue Tompkins uses the spoken and written word delivered in a deceptively simple and direct fashion. The written word comes first: she accumulates copious notes over a period of time then edits and refines them to create disjointed yet succinct texts that combine repeated words with constructed phrases to evoke imagery, emotion and ideas. These eclectic fragments are presented in the gallery as text on newsprint paper or as spoken word performances. Their rhythm and style are indebted to her experience of being in a band, but are also notable for the starkness of their hypnotising delivery. Performances such as Country Grammar 2003, More Cola Wars 2004 and Elephants Galore 2005 are read from up to 300 pages worth of notes: while some pages might contain one word others might have many.
Made up of text that is original, altered or borrowed, the strength of Tompkins’ work is in its disruption of verbal communication. Through complex yet eloquent layerings of repetition, non-sequential juxtaposition and re-contextualisation, Tompkins reinvigorates and gives new meaning to language. Her new work Grease 2006 written over the last eight months, is presented for the first time at Tate Britain.