Musicality, Metaphor & Metonymy: Paintings by Tim Timmerman
January 19 – May 17, 2015
Roger W. Rogers Gallery
• Musicality (noun): The quality of resembling music; being melodious; harmonious.
• Metaphor (noun): 1. A figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance. 2. Something used, or regarded as being used, to represent something else; emblem; symbol.
• Metonymy (noun): A figure of speech that consists of the use of the name of one object or concept for that of another to which it is related, or of which it is part.
Tim Timmerman’s paintings reveal him to be an inveterate collector of objects and stories who is fascinated by human relationships in general, and the dynamics of friendships in particular. His work shows us that we are most human in our friendships because we enact the full and messy spectrum of our humanity in these close relationships, which cast both our virtues and our frailties in high relief. It is as if he wants to remind us that we are at our most fallible and our most noble in our friendships, which are, after all, the lived manifestation of the untidy encounter between our best ideals of loyalty and selflessness, and the unsettling reality of our selfishness and insecurity.
Timmerman confesses that his paintings narrate the events and dynamics of his own friendships. He does so by physically creating small, assemblage characters (often using toys and figurines), which he then casts as protagonists and antagonists in the painted dramas that he stages and paints to illuminate, symbolically and allegorically, the dynamics of real relationships. By having his whimsical and humorous characters act as mirrors to the sometimes painful plots of close relationships, he hopes to create enough distance from the events and emotions to make them more bearable. His use of humor to soften the blow reminds us of Will Rogers, who explained that humor is pain in retrospect. While his allegories are often dark, they do have an underlying optimism. The stories he tells are complex and challenging, but they do give us some hope. Stream, a painting that shows a weeping character whose tears keep the fish he holds in his hands alive, is clearly a meditation on the redemptive potential of sorrow. The deeply personal nature of this work is revealed when we realize that the artist was working on this painting as his father was dying.
As someone for whom faith is important, Timmerman also uses narratives from the Old Testament in his work. He explains that he uses these stories because, like contemporary human relationships, they are messy, filled with seemingly contradictory messages, and they seldom end in the manner we would like them to. In their complexity and inconsistency they are similar to our relationships with the people closest to us.
It’s also clear that Timmerman has made a very careful study of the history of allegorical painting. The compositions of several of his paintings are derived from historical works. Timmerman’s painting Submission and Revelation, Balaam, for instance, is based closely on Paolo Veronese’s 16th century painting Allegory of Love; Infidelity, but rather than slavishly copying the style and sentiment of the source-work, he leavens it with a very contemporary influence, namely the work of German painter Neo Rauch. He also introduces his own imagery, subject matter, and meaning: the scene where Balaam and his donkey are confronted on the road by an angel reminds us of the fact that we don’t always get to do what we want to, and that life and fate often seem frustratingly arbitrary and inconsistent.
Timmerman manages to make work that is sensitive, courageously personal and revealing, and layered in its meaning. In doing so he examines serious subject-matter from a very human perspective, and shows us that we are frail beings, who try to be there for each other despite our failings. He lends a kind of heroism to the everyday struggle to live up to the better angels of our nature when it comes to relationships.
Tim Timmerman is a Professor in the Department of Art & Design at George Fox University, where he teaches Sculpture and Art History. More of his work can be seen on his website: www.timtimmerman.com
-Andries Fourie, Curator, Roger W. Rogers Gallery