For the time I have known him, he has worked as Head of Art and Design at TAFE NSW and held other positions within the TAFE NSW system.
After arriving in Australia from the U.S. in 1996 colour within Totman’s work became gradually more subdued. In 2000 his work changed from the figurative imagery of games and toys to a graphic, symbolic one. Multi-plate and spit-bite etching also became more prominent within his oeuvre.
In 2005/6, whilst travelling, and therefore working with limited printing facilities he worked more prominently in monotype. The monotype, the most painterly of printmaking mediums, is a unique painted or inked impression transferred from an unincised and unregistered matrix.
Many of the deeply red multi-plate monotype works included in Intuition incorporate organic forms that remind the viewer of hastily glimpsed, evanescent bones or muscle tissue encased in blood dyed veils of fugacious muslin scrim. The constant repetitious pumping beat of the Suzanne Vega song ‘Blood Makes Noise’, echoes as foramen within bone are displayed, paths are mapped for the eye, to travel up and down tendons.
Ephemeral, heads of bones, and their smooth, intricate, and usefully organic, delicate openings are sketched out.
The differing shades and tones in the best of the works taper down towards the base of the image like a plant or the origin of a flame. The enticing flame of the campfire
is captured within these works. They hold an intrinsic human allure, one of nature, of growth. The work does not explicitly depict the body but hints at it through the red of the Pindan desert. The work is the visual equivalent of rich, deep, flavored Coonawarra wine. The origins of these works are not only rooted in a depiction of the body, their rich red colour palate is linked in the Australian psyche to the Western Desert, and a nationalistic Australian landscape depiction.
Sydney Nolan’s playful, repetitive, use of printmaking, experimental frottage, and monotype could be linked with these abstract works. The elder artist’s numerous bird and floral depictions incorporate similar muted, complex tones in their backgrounds. Forms found in nature appearing and evolving through the unintentional painterly discovery intrinsic to the processes of monotype.
The second defined style of work within this exhibition is an ‘all over’ abstract patterning, mainly in gouache: an abstract expressionist mad line, providing a flattening of the picture plane.
The imagery Totman confines to the rectangle of the page is reminiscent of scribbly gum textured tree patterning, the patterns of snails on sand, possible images of neurons firing, or conjoined vines. Geographically the imagery seems to hint at the form of the Murrumbidgee River from aerial photographs: the divergent oxbow lakes and continuous, rambling meanders.
Nature in its most micro and macro forms is depicted: Both the quickly scored markings of microscopic creatures, and the sluggard, wanderings of earthworks; their momentous systemic changes.
The excessive number of almost hysterically reproduced swirls, and snakelike kick-backs are detailed, complex in tone, layered, and colliding, to form rich all-over patterns. The works are interesting, alluring, beautiful, in their detail and they continue a dialogue with international abstract expressionist artists.
— Dr. Thomas A. Middlemost
Art Curator, Charles Sturt University Art Collection
Andrew Totman was the 2019 Peebles Print Prize Highly Commended Award winner