During my internship last summer, I worked in a gallery surrounded by Timothy Cummings’ paintings. In between the trips to source coffee for my boss or post fed-ex packages I would leaf through the artist’s paintings that were in storage in the gallery’s basement. Whenever the other employees left the office us interns would discuss how difficult it would be to just take one of the paintings – they wouldn’t realistically notice for a few weeks, would they?
What I love about his work is that it seems as if his figures have been extracted from a Botticelli altarpiece and transplanted into a kid’s dream, or a sort of apocalyptic Eden. It’s all very paradoxical. His subjects are at that awkward age between childhood and maturity and the inquisitive gaze that falls on the viewer is ambiguous. A particular favourite piece might be Painting Lesson: Is the figure aware of her (or his?) sexuality; is her cocked head just innocently observing?
Critical perception of Timothy Cummings’ work has often focused on his lack of official training. Painting Lesson, a smaller canvas for Cummings, seems to be a playful response to the media’s tendency to highlight this particular aspect of his biography. The rainbow silhouette that dominates the left side of the canvas evokes lessons learned in preschool painting class, as does the impasto pallete at the top of work. Yet reflected in the rainbow silhouette is a finely painted and brocade-clad figure that offers a counterpoint to the more abstract forms. The finesse of the figure defiantly shows: “who needs formal training?”
The contrast of various styles makes this Cummings piece stand out from his usual repertoire. Works such as A Rare Flower or Clairvoyant are more conventionally ‘complete’; they have a sort of ‘Renaissance luminosity’. Yet everything in Painting Lesson seems to be a pastiche of styles, even the canvas itself is pasted together creating a sort of quilt-like surface. The decision to leave areas of the canvas raw and the gobs of paint preserved as a palette above the subjects’ heads make the work seem unfinished. Yet, as the name might suggest, Painting Lesson seems to pose an answer to some of those perpetual dilemmas facing artists. ‘When is my piece complete?’ is confronted by the direct gaze of the figure who defiantly declares ‘Right now’. It’s quite a rebellious painting.
I kinda think Cummings’ work has a little something for everyone. Whether you’re a traditionalist and believe conventional painting skills as necessary to create ‘good art’, or you like something a little more conceptual, you can’t really go wrong with a little bit of Timothy Cummings.
Check out Cummings’ work at here.
Figgy Guyver is the Deputy Editor of ART & FASHION at Prancing Through LIFE. She’s also the Art Editor of The Student newspaper. In a shocking revelation for Art Editors around the world Figgy is the kind of person you might describe as ‘artsy’. She enjoys the works of Mark Rothko and in her free time wonders how sushi would feel. It is a great question.
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(Images sourced from: www.cclarkgallery.com)
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