Tony Fomison attended the Canterbury University School of Fine Art from 1957 to 1960, where he studied under Rudi Gopas. While still at university, Fomison became interested in Maori pictographs, undertaking an archaeological survey of the South Canterbury area on behalf of the Canterbury Museum. Fomison travelled to England, Spain and France on an Arts Advisory Board grant between 1964-7; in 1967, he was hospitalised in England as a result of his heroin addiction. Fomison began to paint again while in Banstead Hospital, and continued to paint after his return to Christchurch.
Fomison moved to Auckland in 1973, where he took up residence in the inner city suburb of Ponsonby, which was at that time home to a thriving Polynesian community. In 1979 Fomison received the pe’a, the traditional Samoan men’s tattoo, from Paulo Sulu’ape II and Fuiamono Tuiasau. Fomison’s work is characterised by chiaroscuro depictions of faces and figures against dark backgrounds. He also produced a number of self-portraits, as well as pastiches of works by Holbein, Ceruti and Caravaggio.