Tony Fomison

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1939, d.1990


  • 1971
  • Oil on canvas
  • Purchased 1973
  • 1740 x 1790mm
  • 73/243

Talk to the hand. The character in Tony Fomision’s No! holds up his hand to the viewer in a gesture of defiance and refusal as he looks away. The antagonistic stance is based on an image cut from a 1966 newspaper of a local blacksmith horrified at the idea of a proposed urban subdivision near his village. This work was completed after Fomison returned to Christchurch from his overseas sojourn, a moment in which he developed his mature style: Overseas I had found a way of painting that is my way of painting, derived completely from my drawings. I had got on the right track after being put on the wrong track at Art School. Much of Fomison’s subject matter is gritty with a psychological intensity, as seen in No!, where the subject actively rejects the viewer, refusing to acknowledge them. Fomison stated: My paintings are brutal and lonely, and try to make the statement that the personal condition is more important, that self-knowledge is more important, than just painting flowers and landscapes.

(No! That’s wrong XXXXXX, 25 June 2016 – 30 April 2017)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Brought to light, November 2009- 22 February 2011

    Typical of Fomison’s work in its intensity and edgy mood, this work was inspired by a Sunday Times photograph the artist saw in England. He often found his subject matter in the chance discovery of photographs or illustrations. The blacksmith, depicted here with ‘broad and sinewy hands’ and an angry face, captivated Fomison, who saw himself as an outsider and often explored that theme in his work. The Gallery archives contain a hand-written account of the circumstances in which this work was painted, including the type of canvas used and the various locations Fomison moved to (such as the flat he shared with Philip Clairmont in Riccarton) while in the process of completing ‘No!’

  • This work, typical in its intensity and edgy mood, was inspired by a newspaper photograph Tony Fomison saw when he was in England. Protesting against a proposed motorway, a man was emphatically refusing to sell his property. Fomison often found his subject matter in almost chance discoveries of photographs or illustrations. He saw himself as an outsider and his work often explored that theme. His paintings are characteristically dark with simplified forms and dramatic compositions. Almost monotonal, they belong to the expressionist style in which the forms and colours are distorted for maximum emotional impact. Fomison was born in Christchurch and studied at the University of Canterbury between 1957 -1960. An Arts Advisory Board grant took him to England and Europe in 1963. In 1973 he moved to Auckland where a lifelong interest in Māori and Polynesian cultures was often incorporated into his work. He died in Whangarei. (Opening Gallery hang, 2003)

    Note: the reference to a motorway protest is now known to wrong. The man was protesting a plan to build housing in his village.