Glasgow-based artist Hayley Tompkins (b. 1971) inventively deploys the materials—including paint, stock photographs, wooden chairs and found objects—that have become a springboard for her process-based experiments in visual perception. For this spare show, titled “Space Kitchen,” a series of 19 small abstractions in shallow plastic storage trays (approximately 9 by 12 or 13 by 18 inches, and about 2 inches deep) were hung around the room, individually or in groups, with generous expanses of wall between them.
Rendered in predominantly pastel hues, the compositions usually feature an unmoored ellipse achieved through pouring, pooling and swirling thin layers of acrylic paint in the bottom of the trays. Amorphous splotches and vivid dots of color, among paint chips and other surface incidents, are punctuated with handmade marks and scumbling. Despite their banal supports, the works have an ethereal, cosmic quality; they seem to glow from within. This effect is augmented by the whiteness of the wall showing through the translucent receptacles. The imagery simultaneously calls to mind a wide range of subjects, from cellular structures to Georgia O’Keeffe’s early watercolor abstractions of morning stars and prairie light and Richard Tuttle’s fragile assemblages.
In Digital Light Pool XXXIII, a crepuscular-white ovoid, rimmed in ocher and feathery green outlines, gleams against the murky background. Faint concentric ovals conjure an illusory depth. The mottled pinkish ellipse of Digital Light Pool XXXII, ringed in coral against a deep purple field, evinces a similar atmospheric effect.
In addition to the paintings on the wall, Tompkins arranged an intimate grouping of images on the floor around one of the columns in the gallery. Here, stock photos of rainbows, computer circuitry, a cockpit panel and a wrench consorted with one of Tompkins’s plastic-tray paintings, a painted twig and a bottle. A sober trio of painted wooden chairs stood at the other end of the gallery. This type of display has become integral to Tompkins’s practice. (She presented similar floor arrangements in the Scottish Pavilion at last year’s Venice Biennale, where she was one of three artists representing Scotland.) She has also fashioned spoons, knives, batteries, cell phones encrusted with paint, bits of ripped paper, pieces of wood, leaves and furniture into contemplative sculptural entities.
The floor-bound works temporarily grounded the otherworldly impression of the paintings, obliging us to approach more closely and consider the lot associatively. Although they seem less spontaneous than the ironically titled “Digital Light Pools,” the blurry color close-ups of rainbows, which are, notably, optical illusions that depend on the viewer’s perspective to be seen, and sharp, black-and-white portraits of machines were nearly as imaginatively potent as their painterly counterparts. Furthermore, by including a painting in the floor display, Tompkins established an odd equivalence between the disparate imagery and materials. The juxtapositions made for an engaging show.