Embedded in resin, the sunset-lit landscape and rhythmically laced constellation of pill patterns in Fred Tomaselli's Ripples Trees, 1994, beg to be touched. The viscous, three-dimensional surface of the poured resin pulls the viewer into a dance with Tomaselli's trademark swirling patterns of intricately arranged, mind-altering substances, the glowing surface opening up a window onto pure visual pleasure. This extraordinarily tactile composition is for the artist a combination of nature, and its mediated cultural representations are meant to "seduce and transport the viewer into the space of the picture while simultaneously revealing the mechanics of that seduction" (F. Tomaselli , Fred Tomaselli Monsters of Paradise, The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, exh. cat, 2004, p. 43). This exuberant creation rises on a foundation of meticulous planning by the artist, who has trained his extraordinary attention to detail on this absorbing, vibrant scene.
With a youth shaped by the theme parks and surf culture of Southern California and a young adulthood defined by the rock concerts and LSD visions of LA's late 1970s milieu, Tomaselli's work represents a unique combination of hyper-reality conveyed through the cool aesthetic of surfboard culture. Floating within the confines of the paint and resin, Tomaselli's virtually camouflaged pills and hemp leaves, selected for their mind-altering and healing properties, are suspended in a state of transfixion, now withheld from the mouth and mind in order to dazzle the eye: "Encapsulated in tamperproof resin, these chemical cocktails can no longer reach the brain through the bloodstream and must now take a different route in altering perception" (F. Tomaselli , ibid., p. 43) In Ripples Trees, drug-induced effects reach us through our vision, absorbed as we are in the beauty radiating from its luminous surface--a surface that elicits our engagement with Tomaselli's hallucinatory and compellingly tactile piece.