Artist Interview: Tim Lane
25 September 2012
Tim Lane has shown with Antlers since its very beginning. His drawings and paintings, inspired by literature and ancient mythology, have long been attracting attention throughout Bristol and beyond. With its roots in storytelling, it is fitting that his work is featuring in both our Autumn exhibitions ‘Narrative’ and ‘Old Beliefs’. Tim spoke to me about a few of his pieces and his plans for the future.
Tim’s pieces are rich with allusion and carefully crafted from conception to execution. However, the results are not didactic works with rigid directives for interpretation, but multi-layered images that prompt the viewer to find out more for themselves.
‘I love World Mythology, Classical Greek Myth and Hindu Myth particularly, as it has a religious intensity and explains the world in such a visceral, imaginative, dark way. It involves all aspects of life and death, often with an animalistic element, explaining the human condition but as very much part of the animal world. I often ‘animalize’ people with the ‘animal mask’ exhibiting the inner quality of the human character.’
We then go onto to talk about the specific inspirations behind one of his latest pieces, Freki and Munnin, (2012), a graphite on paper work.
‘The Norse god Odin was accompanied by two ravens, and two wolves. The two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, represented thought and memory. He sent them out into the world every day and they were his eyes and ears, bringing him information. The two wolves were named Freki and Geri, meaning hunger and greed. So Freki and Muninn represent both memory and ravenous hunger. Alongside this I was reading about how wolves and ravens interact in the wild. In icy tundra areas, the ravens go off, find the carrion and remember where it is. They then go back and direct the wolves, who are able to break open the carcasses, then both animals feed off the remains. So it’s a kind of a mixture of those two things.’
These references, if not instantly known, do not inhibit the enjoyment of the piece. The highly skilful, detailed work is an intriguing image that encourages the viewer to question and to discover more.
I ask him about his transition from illustration to fine art drawing and he has the answer out before I finish the question: ‘Because I hate being told what to do.’ That being said, he is currently working alongside American surreal horror writer Nicholas Patnaude on a collaborative project with the working title of ‘The Gondolier’.
‘Last year he [Patnaude] won the Emergency Press Award in New York. This gave him the chance to have his book First Aid Medicine published and, being a fan of my work, he asked to use my drawing Faustus for the front cover. As there was a mutual appreciation society between us we decided to do a little informal project between ourselves, based on his short story about a gondalier in Venice being pulled down to the underworld to become the new Charon (the ferryman across the river Styx). I then decided to make concertina book of the story and illustrate it in a sort of stream of consciousness way, letting the images flow, not necessarily relating directly to the writing, but touching on the subtext visually and creating my own related visual narrative.’
Tim also went onto explain that he would like to produce some new work based on some of his favourite pieces of literature such as Dante’s Inferno or 20th Century Russian novel ‘The Master and Margarita’ by Mikhail Bulgakov. I find it odd that Tim tries to separate himself from illustration. To illustrate is to illuminate or shed light upon and Tim’s works do exactly this, adding to and complimenting their source texts. They don’t just reference the stories but explore their themes, challenge ideas, and offer up new perspectives on them, presenting us with not only windows into these worlds, but reflections of our own that are both familiar and unsettling.
Tim is seeking to blur this line, the one between our world and the world of his pieces, even more. He is about to start an MA in Art, Media and Design by Project at the University of the West of England and sees this as a progression to ‘A 3D version of what I’m doing already. I love drawing, love the intricacy of it but this is a chance to make some of the characters come alive.’ This is not a complete departure from his painting and drawing disciplines but seems to be a natural extension of his current practice, taking the stories and creating theatre. Tim speaks very passionately about creating an immersive experience, which the audience is completely involved in and swept up by.
‘I’d like to do something based on a book but do it in a more theatrical way. I want to create a whole world, so that you go along to an evening and it’s a whole experience. I think that art is meant to be skillful; there’s meant to be a certain magic to it. I want people to think about the meaning, the story and the narrative.’
Tim’s ideas for these ‘happenings’ involve everything from detailed décor to costumes, to freaky puppets, and he sees this as a chance to collaborate with other talented Bristol creatives.
‘You look around and there’s so many people who are so talented, and you think, “Well they’re good at this, I’m good at that, why don’t we all just do something together?” I want to get involved with people that I know already that do that sort of theatre, and make something that’s well thought about, well designed and well executed.’
He seems concerned with making something lasting, and dismisses that which is ‘faddish’, and maybe it is for this reason that his works are so rooted in the classics. How could you be more assured of the permanency and importance of your artistic subjects than when engaging with ideas and characters that have been drawn out by Ovid, Dostoyevsky and Goethe? But it is Tim’s treatment of these subjects that tries to show their relevance to us today. His work encourages us to see part of ourselves, perhaps parts of ourselves that we don’t always like to admit to, in a compelling and arresting way.
For more of Tim’s work see http://www.antlersgallery.com/artist/tim-lane
and for information about our current and upcoming exhibitions with Tim ‘Narrative’ and ‘Old Beliefs’ go to the Antlers Project Page http://www.antlersgallery.com/projects