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Tom Palin

PhD Work

The Condition of Painting: Reconsidering Medium Specificity

This project addresses how the reduction of painting to linguistic schemas has rendered the material object of painting redundant. The conception of painting as image – free of material baggage and operable through language alone – serves to disguise the temporal nature of the manner by which a painting is constructed. A painting’s surface is built incrementally and, in its stillness, offers clues to what it has been – perhaps the only clues to what it is. I will redress this in two ways. First, through a body of studio practice I will demonstrate the indispensability of spatiotemporal concerns in respect of the processes and object of painting. My painting is reliant on responsiveness to methods of making, and I will foreground the image’s construction, staging it as an imbrication of language and material in time. Secondly, I will engage in a written inquiry comprising of five chapters. In Chapter 1, I attest to my concerns as a painter. Chapter 2 embarks on an investigation into the notion of a medium within the post-medium condition. Chapter 3 will consider the positioning of painting: examining philosophical omissions and historiographical oversights, which have, together, contributed to misunderstandings. Chapter 4 seeks, through the work of Martin Heidegger and Friedrich Hölderlin, to negotiate a new ontological model for the medium of painting, and Chapter 5 re-considers my recent practice – and position on medium – through the lens of the aforementioned inquiry.    


  • PhD


    School of Arts & Humanities


    Arts & Humanities Research, 2014–2018

  • My practice draws from landscape painting, combining a concern for the medium of paint and the processes of involuntary memory. Of particular interest is the relationship between the object and image of painting, and of the confluence of material and language.

    The distinction between subject and surface within modernist criticism assigns an autonomous, atemporal identity to both language and material, confining each to a position of periodic absence through a posited engagement with the other.

    In painting, this legacy of separation (of the paint from what it represents) has resulted in an unhelpful schism between exponents of ‘ideas’ and those concerned with formalist aesthetics, the materiality of the works, and immanent conditions of encounter.

    My work makes use of Heidegger’s contention that ‘entities are grasped in their Being as presence’, to be understood in respect of temporal structures. To foreground the interconnectedness of language and material is therefore to attempt to make visible the conditions of disclosure that underpin a painting’s ontological identity. 

    I approach this through the generation and dissolution of moments of representation (the result of recollections brought about by and through the processes of painting) in reciprocal response to a heightening and reduction of the empirical characteristics of the painted object — colour, scale, texture, edges, tonality, the layering of material and the marks of the brush. 

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons) Fine Art, Liverpool John Moores University, 1996; Research Fellow in Drawing & Painting, St Helens College, ESF Funded, 1999; PGCE (Post-Compulsory Education), Liverpool John Moores University, 2004; MA (Art History & Cultural Studies), University of Manchester, 2006
  • Experience

  • Principal Lecturer in Fine Art. Leeds Arts University, 2017–; Lecturer in Fine Art and Critical Studies, Leeds College of Art, Leeds, 2006–2017; Co- Founder & Workshop Leader, Hydra Arts, Liverpool, 2006–; Lecturer in Drawing, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, 2012–2017; Lecturer in Painting, St Helens College, St Helens, 2007–2012; Lecturer in Art History, Manchester City College, Manchester, 2008; Workshop Leader, The Lowry, Salford Quays, 2003–2013; Adult and Community Arts Tutor, Liverpool & Knowsley Councils, 2003–2007; Supply Teacher, Select Education, Liverpool, 2001–2003; Art Tutor, Knowsley Community College, Liverpool, 2000–2001; Co Founder & Curator, Parking Space Gallery, Liverpool, 1998–2099
  • Exhibitions

  • Tom Palin, Small Paintings, Gallery on The Green, Settle, 2017; Enzo Marra and Tom Palin, Cornerstone Gallery, Liverpool, 2016; Painting, Fo’Show!, Lady Beck, Leeds, 2016; The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, Burlington House, London, 2015; Still, Studio 24, Leeds, 2014; The Marmite Prize For Painting, The Tannery, London, 2013; Local Imagination, San Francisco Art Institute, 2012; Tom Palin: The Big County: Works on Paper, The Victoria Gallery, Liverpool, 2011; Tom Palin: In Two Minds. Ashton Under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, 2010
  • Awards

  • British Institution Award, The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London, 2015; Second Prize, Motorcade/FlashParade Open. Bristol, 2011; First Prize, The Wirral Open, Williamson Art Gallery, Birkenhead, 2011.; First Prize, The Gilchrist Fisher Award, Rebecca Hossack, London, 2004; The Emerson Group Award. MAFA Open, Bury Art Gallery & Museum, Greater Manchester, 2002; The Feiweles Trust Bursary & Residency, The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2002; The Young Artist of The Year Award. The Hunting Arts Prizes, Royal College of Art, London, 2000; Student Award, St. Helens Open, St. Helens College, St Helens, 1997
  • Publications

  • Online: Tom/Palin / Maurice Utrillo: Nothing But Good, Netherlands, 2015; Tom Palin: Biographical Sketch, Sachet Mixte Men, Edition 14. CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2015; Tom Palin: Artist Statements 1993-2012. Workshop Press, Leeds, 2013; Readings in a Rumour of the End of Art. Workshop Press, Leeds, 2012; Pride of Place: A Painter’s Perspective. YSP Press, 2002