‘For as long as I can remember, I’ve played the same people-watching game. I imagine what strangers walking past do,
who they love and what’s in their pockets. My work is a development of this simple idea,
I paint characters, not figures. I present their stories’. – Naomi Tomkys
Tomkys engages with a broad range of subject matters from tourists punting to festival goers. She portrays a world of authenticity, reflecting the joys and idiosyncrasies of daily life. Her influences are eclectic ranging from the humanity of Edward Hopper to the narratives of Paula Rego.
Although her subject matter varies, a merging of past and present plays a significant part in all of Tomkys’ work acting as shorthand for our cultural familiarities. It can be seen in a child wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt on a school trip or a group of Cambridge men in their uniform of Panama hats as the sun comes out. Each painting reflects a cinematic approach to her own interests in dynamic composition, nostalgia, and storytelling.
‘My aim is to reflect a sense of personality in my paintings by collecting drawn people and
inviting you to see what you will. I want my work to muster a familiar happiness,
to laugh at the small things and feel a little warmer’ – Naomi Tomkys
Tomkys describes her work as straddling realism and impressionism with changing looseness of brushstroke reflecting the tales being told. She uses traditional oil painting techniques including chiaroscuro, imprimatura, mass tone and glazing to explore her subjects. A limited classical palette, primarily focussing on skin tones, results in a controlled, explorative and joyous body of work celebrating colour.
Tomkys has shown in group and one-man shows both nationally and internationally, including The Mall Gallery, Sak and Catto Contemporary, and in exhibitions and collections as far afield as Texas and Dubai. She exhibits regularly with the Cambridge Drawing Society and Open Studios. In 2022, Tomkys received an Arts Council Award to develop her practice.