Catalog Essay for Big Deal II. Ace Wagstaff.

Tim Andrew- Big Deal.

A lot of people place their strength in being emotionally distant, separate, non-revelatory. It’s an existential coping mechanism for the 21st century as a way of facing the modern horrors of news and media networks, the directness and plight of homeless people on the street asking for change and even as a way of dealing with the irony and sarcasm of loved ones. To wear your heart on your sleeve or to be outwardly honest without a precursor or reason is almost equivalent to being blatantly self-depreciating.

How we face the world, if given any thought, can be one of the most difficult decisions we have to make, and with days ticking over every twenty-four hours, one of the most frequent as well. Do we bear arms? Teeth? Or do we lie down, play dead, negating any possibility that we could be a threat to anything or anyone and be the beta-dog. Humanity has evolved out of need for ‘survival’ and into the need for ‘social’.

Tim Andrew’s work occupies a place in which the alpha-dog lies down, he actively surrenders his honesty and shortcomings with fervour, so purposefully that it can’t be said that he has given up or is conceding to a stronger or more dominant force. Andrew is a renaissance man: producing images, kinetic sculpture, text and video work, all pushing the ethos of asserting humble, sometimes depreciating honesty, all laden with wit and humour.

The amputated arm is a motif of Andrew, not only repeated en masse in macabre, unrealistically perfect piles within the picture planes of his painted work but also stacked up from floor to ceiling in his patented wall paper that clothes the galleries hosting his exhibitions but also as the perpetually bleeding limbs of free standing mechanical sculptures.

The disembodied arms can be viewed as an obvious pun, of being ‘armless, and non-threatening, but can also be seen as self portraits, a relinquishing from the artist of the perceived hold and control over the viewer, and a humbling presentation of physical self, one-upping Van Gogh’s infamous ear. The stylistic quality of the images is closer to a cartoon than reality, disconnected from the horror of an actual severed arm, it is a wannabe of the real.

The greatest martyrs of history give-up their physical body in messianic sacrifices, most the time unwillingly, but Andrew is pre-emptive of his aggressor’s violence, in this case the viewer’s criticisms, and symbolically takes it upon himself to literally disarm. It is a combinative peace offering and sign of independence, for the viewer’s entertainment.

The staple flat green and coloured dripping backgrounds that are employed in Andrew’s paintings are signposts to failure also. The often-used green is in reality a common Dulux brand house paint, ironically titled Van Gough green, which in itself could be argued as being insulting to such a historically important, and similarly self-abusive, artist. The coloured dripping backgrounds address the frailties of a liquid medium; as drips are traditionally considered errors and unsightly blights within painting. Highlighting the shortcomings of a medium or the production of a work is further conveyed in his sculptural work by ensuring construction methods are made visible and structural facades are non-existent.  The work itself reveals the mysticism of process that is traditionally hidden.

This hyper-honesty cum fatalistic-humour flux of Andrew is promoted and presented with such force that it cannot be mistaken for being a last resort or surrender, rather, it’s a purposeful avocation: the scale of the individual works puts them on a mutual plane to the viewer.  Their colouring, and line work is bold, they aren’t isolated islands within a white cube, but instead are supported by their wallpaper-kin, literally backing them up. Video works that feature Andrew dancing - a normally embarrassing action when performed out of context or circumstance - is projected larger than life in a brazen confident presentation of potential humiliation from onlookers. Andrew is not afraid of being afraid.

Contemporary mantras tell us that we are not our limitations or our failings but that they are certainly still a part of who and what we are. History has shown that ignorance of mistakes leads to their repetition, from this rationale we must not mistake Andrew's work as being a selfish, cathartic exercise. There is so much motivation and energy invested on his part, Andrew is more likely trying to lead by example as a counter to the inescapable, idealised and sexualised ‘forever-perfection’ message of modern media: it’s okay to be wrong, it’s fine to give-up, and it’s okay to care. Big deal.

Australia Day 2011 was huge.

Not in the flag wearing, cooking snags on the barbeque, sun-kissed skin, sandy feet and cold beer sense. While my phone buzzed with messages from friends and colleagues encouraging me to pop by their Oz Day celebrations for a quick hello and some lawn chair conversation, I was up a ladder with a staple gun, pair of pliers and a metal rule helping prepare for an exhibition that opens tonight at Gaffa gallery in Sydney. The show is by my best mate Tim Andrew and his show is a Big Deal – in name and scale.

It’s a brilliant collection of work (and I say this not just because Tim is my friend – it just so happens all my friends make brilliant work – it’s not why we are friends – but it certainly seems the case that I have remarkably talented friends). Sculptures, paintings, film, prints and giant wall-paper murals cover the walls. Though one can see his love of colour and him commentary on the idea of fakeness – what I love about Tim’s work is that he strives to be as authentic as possible. He’s not shallow, or trying to present anything other than who he is. He’s a white, male artist in his early thirties – and his work speaks of his interests and anxieties: there’s mild horror themes and deeply personal confessions and opinions.

Perhaps my favourite of his works is his wall of painting titles without paintings attached… numbered and scattered in random sequences – this mural is like a huge advent calender of ideas, confessions, pieces of advice, quirky sentences and self-referential jokes. Some of my favourites include:
33. I like being alone in my studio, I have a lot of time to think, which is great except I have a lot of time to think.
163. Camping is an a front to progress and civilization.
9. It brings me no consolation to know that as a pessimist I’m more likely to be correct.
42. Sometimes when I’m at the gym, I see trailing across my chest, the outline of the cord from my earphones that i pass under my T-shirt to prevent from catching on things. I pretend its a vein in my muscle and for that moment, I feel quite impressive.
136. You’d love me to succeed, just so I’d be wrong.
69. This’ll be misquoted.
5. Having no values hurts.
162. When I was younger I had much higher self esteem and I felt I would get done everything I wanted done.
62. We are the successful product of aeons of breeding. We bear the inherited legacy of many generations. So, not screwing up is kind of a big deal.
149. I just can’t trust someone who doesn’t like mango.

I am very new to the visual art world – and I’m catching up quickly as I can… it does help inform my thinking about theatre, about set design and audience… I find it refreshing to be in the company of visual artists – they are a very interesting bunch. Often they are in the pursuit of communicating to an audience and sometimes they are in the pursuit of making something beautiful or unique or fascinating. What I like about Tim’s work is that it is utterly epic and utterly brave… and sometimes I think of it in terms of Epic theatre especially the idea “the epic approach to play production utilizes a montage technique of fragmentation, contrast and contradiction, and interruptions.” And I think that is true of Tim’s work – there is a flow, and a narrative which is undermined or when you think a little deeper, look a little closer – you find something more.

Tonight is the opening night of Tim’s show… and I wonder what everyone will think. He’s a nice guy. He’s an interesting thinker. And yes – that is a photo of him with a box on his head. Because despite his fierce intellectual intensity – he is very funny, sometimes silly, supremely confident, utterly self-aware and he has no shame in revealing his ugly/weird/awkward/goofiness whilst remaining mild mannered and very polite.

If you are free tonight, come check it out… you can come tell me which painting title you like best, there are about 190 to choose from.

A teeming school of severed limbs offering help or forgiveness? A painting of pineapples interrupted by vicious dogs? A room full of painting titles without paintings that are both confessional and funny? Technicolour fountain sculptures bubble simulated blood from plastic severed limbs.

Tim Andrew’s work is provocative, gruesome, funny and utterly awkward. Shifting from serious to the banal, from sincere to nonsense, his work is bold, bright and demands attention, but is by no means easy. It occupies an ambivalent position between abject horror and comic absurdity. For Tim, art making is about presenting something to the world that expresses itself and its maker honestly and boldly. Tim says, “I’m using a kind of visual logic that I suppose one wouldn’t typically expect. I think it’s paramount to make bold statements, but it isn’t really important that they’re clear. In fact it’s mostly better if they’re not.”

Tim Andrew is a Sydney based artist who grew up in the Blue Mountains. Tim was a finalist in the Brett Whiteley Traveling Art Scholarship and was a recent finalist in the Mosman Art Prize and The Marrickville Art Prize. His work has been published in Australian and international art and design periodicals. He has recently exhibited work in Melbourne, Sydney and Tokyo and is currently completing his Masters in Fine Art at Sydney College of the Arts.

“Tim Andrew wants to be your friend. He finds you interesting and you, no doubt will find him interesting.” – Ace Wagstaff,, 2009

What: Big Deal, Solo Exhibition of new paintings and sculptures
When: Exhibition: 27th January 2011 – 7th February 2011, Mon-Fri:10am-6pm,Sat: 11am-5pm
Opening Night: Thursday 27th January 2011 6pm-8pm
Location: Gallery One, Gaffa, 281 Clarence Street, Sydney