Artist Interview: Amy Timms

Our first interview is with Amy Timms. Amy’s bright gouache paintings of doe and decaying organs have been captivating our gallery visitors for the past year. Using the plants and animals that inhabit her surroundings, she invites the viewer to question their preconceptions of the nature of beauty and the beauty of nature. We asked her to talk about her creative process.

Amy Timms, in her studio

Amy in her studio

What is it about these particular animals that draws you to them?

I grew up in Wiltshire and from a young age was encouraged in my interest in nature and art. I identify most with the flora and fauna that I encountered on a daily basis. I have a particular fondness for deer. The chalk downs and woods of home are full of roe and fallow deer, but this never stops that exhilarating feeling of glimpsing one, it will always be a special experience.

Ribbons also feature heavily in my work. The west-country is a place seeped in local folklore and traditions. It is quite common to pass a hawthorn bush and find a coloured ribbon tied to it. These are known colloquially as clouties or wish-ribbons and are a form of sympathetic magic. You simply choose a ribbon or cloth specific to the wish in mind, for example red for love, you then tie the ribbon to a branch making the wish. As the ribbon rots so the wish will gradually come true, or so they say.

Amy Timms - Butterfly Beat (for Blog)

‘Butterfly Beat’ (2011), Gouache on paper.

I know you compose pieces that contain flora and fauna that are from similar geographical areas and are found at the same time of year as each other. How important is this kind of accuracy to you and your work?

Again my pastoral upbringing has a part to play in this. One soon gets to know what time of year and month it is by the appearance of certain animals and plants. I consider myself to be a naturalist, be it an amateur one, and I feel it important that there is some scientific truth in all my work. Of course I do take some artistic license for the sake of colour and composition, I must admit that I haven’t come across any real foxes with ribbons tied to their paws or fungi growing from their backs. Certainly the resident vixen of our neighbourhood has an insolent manner and mange.

Amy Timms - Butterfly Doe (for Blog)

‘Butterfly Doe’ (2010), Gouache on paper.

There’s an interesting tension in your work between the superficial lightness of the colour schemes and style and the darker, more gruesome subject matter.

My choice of dead animals or anatomy as the focus of my paintings is not intentionally meant to shock or be considered grotesque. I am fascinated by the natural world and try to draw from life as much as possible. Many of the subjects within my works are direct studies from animals that I have found or been given and of course animals are so much easier to draw when they don’t move!

I consider all things in nature to be beautiful, be it the magnificence of a red deer stag or the intricacies of the hue and marbling of its internal organs. The French term for a still life is “nature morte” literally nature dead. A vase of cut flowers is, in itself, a collection of dying life forms, to paint this would not be seen as gruesome, so why should portraying a recently deceased animal be any different? The warm colour palettes and neutral space of my backgrounds are very important in communicating this. I aim to charm the viewer with these subtleties, often adding butterflies and ribbons in the hope that they will consider the subject matter in a different light; to see the beauty that I see.

Amy Timms - Foxfire

‘Foxfire’ (2011), Gouache on paper.

Amy Timms - Foxy Clean up crop

Amy cleaning up her vixen in the studio

Your background in illustration is evident in your work, how do you feel about creating these types of pieces in the larger context of the contemporary art scene at the moment? Is this something you think about?

I’m very grateful for my background training in illustration, it has given me an invaluable understanding in draughtsmanship. However, I no longer consider my work to be illustrative. Illustrations are created to do a job of work, for example to accompany the narrative of a story. My paintings are simply an expression of my thoughts, feelings and ideas, my love of nature. Wildlife Art is considered rather low-brow in fine art circles, I definitely aim for my work to move away from the more traditional, representational forms, incorporating more conceptual themes and perhaps changing peoples pre-conceptions along the way.

I don’t really give much thought to the current art scene, obviously I am aware to some degree of what other artists are doing, but mainly I paint for myself and hope that some sort of audience will appreciate it.

Amy Timm's studio

Amy's studio

Would you define yourself as a ‘Bristol Artist’, and if so how important is that to your identity as an artist?

Although I currently reside here, I don’t really see myself as a uniquely Bristol artist. I’d say principally I am a British artist. I have a great love of Scotland and I try to get up to Edinburgh every three months or so. I’m learning the art of taxidermy and my tutor lives up there. The vast bleakness of the highlands really excites me, what with its rolling heather moors and inky blue skies and of course the red deer…it always comes back to the deer with me! With every visit I feel that I leave a little bit more of my heart behind.

Amy Timms - Defeated (for Blog)

‘Defeated’ (2012), Gouache on paper.

And finally, how has your relationship with Antlers shaped your work?

Antlers has definitely given me a lot of support and encouragement during the completion of my first year as a painter (again, it must be down to the deer thing). I’m very pleased to be considered one of their core artists and I’m really looking forward to our upcoming exhibitions and my first solo show, some time later this year.

Questions by Celia Archer

Photography by Gabriella May

Amy Timms’ work can be seen exhibited at the next Antlers Show ‘Other Nature’ at Frameless Gallery, 20 Clerkenwell Green, London, 19 – 31 March 2012, 11 – 7pm: http://www.facebook.com/events/261501307257538/

 To see more of Amy’s work or to purchase a piece for yourself go to her page on our website: http://www.antlersgallery.com/artist/amy-timms/

 

 

Timelapse video made over 24 days of Amy creating her latest painting ‘Defeated’. Video by Richard Broomhall (www.fracturedether.co.uk) with music by Sheelanagig (sheelanagig.co.uk)