Tony Fomison was born in Ōtautahi and studied at Linwood High School. He went on to study sculpture at the School of Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury where he studied under Rudi Gopas.
After moving to Auckland in 1973, Fomison was heavily influenced by Pasifika culture which became evident in his painting style. Around this time, his interest in traditional Tā moko also surfaced. Fomison himself was tattooed with a traditional Samoan pe’a by master tattooist Sua Sulu’ape Paulo II, a privilege accorded to only a few pakeha.
In 1985 he was the inaugural recipient of the Rita Angus Residency. He painted a large body of work during his career and has since become a leading influential figure in New Zealand modern art.
He died in 1990, at the age of fifty.