My works reflects the complexity of an infinite cosmos in which everything is connected. As a result, the art I make depicts the universe from the micro to the macro scale with an intricate play of light and form. This awe of nature moves me to paint lengthy series that are inspired by various areas of science. By painting subjects such as the 118 Elements of the Periodic Table and the 110 objects in space of the Messier Catalogue, I explore the underlying architecture of the cosmos with its vast range of scale and infinite patterns.
As astrophysicist, Neil de Grasse Tyson says, “we are in the universe and the universe is in us.” With my art, I work to impart to the viewer a heightened sense of our place in this wildly wonderful universe.
Throughout her lengthy career, Karen Tompkins’ artistic process has focused on revealing the mystery of the universe. By engaging with scientific knowledge, she creates large bodies of work that shed light on nature from the very smallest,
sub-atomic particles, to the largest structures in the universe, such as galactic filaments. With her new series, Speed of Light, Tompkins explores the underlying architecture of the cosmos with its vast scale and infinite patterns. She describes the speed of light as, “the light that engages us and moves us through space and time. It is a trail of beauty, from the microscopic light of dendrites in the brain, to flashes of light on water and on to the far reaches of the universe in filaments of glowing galaxy clusters.”
An awe of nature and the universe, moves her to investigate the luminous objects whose light fills the night sky. Her work references the 110 luminous objects of deep space catalogued by astronomer, Charles Messier as the subject of her series. In 1771, Messier, a comet hunter, was frustrated by objects which resembled, but were not comets, so he compiled a list of them, to avoid wasting time on them. These lights, swirling and blazing through space, are known today to be galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters. Revealed with piercing points of light in this dazzling series of paintings, Tompkins evokes the mystery and complexity of nature, that inspired the 19th century artists, Frederic Church and Thomas Cole, as well as contemporary artists such as Olafur Eliasson and Tomas Saraceno.
It is Tompkins' belief that we are all made of the “star stuff” which composes the universe and binds us to the ecstatic pulse of nature. These works reflect the complexity of an infinite cosmos in which everything is connected. With Speed of Light, Tompkins depicts the universe from the micro to the macro scale in an intricate play of light and form.
Tompkins has participated in over forty solo and group exhibitions during the course of her career. She studied painting and drawing at the Academy of Fine Art in Rome and at the Pratt Institute Graduate School in Brooklyn, New York. Her work is included in numerous private, corporate and museum collections.
Karen is a full-time practicing, professional artist who lives and works in New York, NY.