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Tim Mara, Coal and Diamonds, 1985
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Tim Mara, Chequered Face
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Tim Mara, Danish Blue
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Tim Mara, Handgrip, 1979
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Tim Mara, Helping Hands
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Tim Mara, Can and Bowl
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Tim Mara, Red Buckets
Tim Mara Artist's Alphabet

J, K and L > J: Juxtaposition back | start | next |

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Juxtaposition is the placing of images, objects or elements in close proximity or side by side. Often this creates unusual or unexpected connections between the chosen images and forces the viewer to consider them together and the space which they occupy.

Tim was particularly interested in the idea of juxtaposition as a visual, aesthetic device. His earliest prints juxtapose lots of images together placing both figures and objects in highly detailed, richly patterned and carefully composed arrangements which appear frozen in a moment of time.

The frenetic and enigmatic atmosphere which is established in these works relies on several juxtapositions from separate image sources which are montaged together creating scenes which have a convincing believability but which are fantastical in conception. The use of juxtaposition in the prints produced from 1970-75 utilises traditional pictorial space and compositional devices such as perspective, golden section, and a naturalistic approach to scale. In them Tim juxtaposes combined domestic and figurative elements which give clues to suggested overall interpretations of the images. If viewed individually the isolated objects could be interpreted as banal or mundane but when they are montaged into the larger scene each element takes on an air of importance and seems re-invested with function and meaning.

The individual elements in these early prints began to take centre stage in his work from the late 1970s until the end of his career whilst his interest in narrative receded.

At first, in the works created for the untitled etching and embossing series produced throughout 1976 and 1977, his use of juxtaposition utilised a simple geometric grid structure of individual Intaglio plates. In them, seemingly unrelated images and objects were placed side by side in an ordered composition.

The selection of objects such as mirrors, TV's, newspapers and various distorted and optical patterns are easily recognisable signature images which, when juxtaposed in this manner, creates a non-sensical sequence which makes the viewer's eye bounce around from image to image. One of these prints, 'Chequered Face', 1977 which consists of 16 small juxtaposed etching plates in different variations, have images which relate and also that deliberately do not. For instance, it includes an image of a dead dog which Tim photographed lying outside his studio in Errol Street, London.

He said of this "I just used it as an image because it had no relationship to anything else really - to test the idea".

Tim said of these prints "I'm interested in the business of looking at one idea from a lot of different ways".

He developed this concept and his preoccupation with the multi faceted nature of ideas and reality in subsequent prints such as 'Danish Blue' 1978 and 'Hand Grip' 1979 where he continued to juxtapose individual, but this time related, images which, when combined, helped give the viewer an understanding of the inherent qualities of the objects depicted and their personality and function.

In 'Danish Blue' he juxtaposes a photo etching of a cheese grater, a colour photo of the cheese it is designed to grate, an embossed impression of the grater and the physical copper wires which are used in the production of Danish blue cheese, all on the same page.

In 'Handgrip' he presents various images relating to notions of imprint, touch and handling and also his own hands, which show evidence of previous contact and interaction with some of the objects depicted. It reveals his interest in the way certain objects are designed very close to human function. A strong relationship is established between the handlebar grip, the clenched fist and the squeezed piece of clay, through juxtaposition.

Both prints use juxtaposition in an exploratory manner, presenting us with a series of clues and suggestions and are typical of the type of analytical investigations and visual puzzles which Tim was obsessed with during this period.

In the 1980s Tim produced a series of works which he wittily titled 'The Black Prints'. In them he edited his use of juxtaposition to produce work of intense simplicity and clarity often involving two combined objects on a dense black ground. The pair of objects not only create unusual and intriguing relationships but also reveal the essential character of often-neglected ordinary things in such a way that they are translated into icons of great importance and beauty through the Artists visual alchemy.

In 'Coal and Diamonds' 1985, he juxtaposes a coal scuttle and a diamond cut glass bowl both using photographic posterisation silkscreen techniques. The objects float on a black ground, hovering in suspended animation but are juxtaposed and positioned with very deliberate purpose, creating both a visual connection and a functional connection which references both their symbolic positioning at opposite ends of the social scale and their object hierarchy; diamonds being condensed carbon at its most refined and coal at its crudest, the first being considered a desirable, precious and valuable material and the second disposable and inexpensive.

Tim said of this print "I was dealing with less information by now and it is not complex in the way it's read, it is simply what it is; what you see and very little else". However, it was done during the same time as the miners' strike revealing his social awareness and contemporary understanding.

A similar, analytical investigation into the appearance and qualities of juxtaposed objects is 'Helping Hands' 1988-90, which shows a magnifying glass which resembles a comical human figure to the left of a 'Britain's Ltd' toy cowboy and horse. The magnifying glass object holds two objects, the first an abstracted print image made up of dots and shapes, which on close scrutiny reveals the image of another cowboy and horse echoing the toy one, and a lighted match which seems to suggest illuminated thought and the moment of discovery (like a fine art equivalent of the cartoon light bulb symbol for a successful idea).

At the time Tim was interested in Rupert Sheldrake's theory of 'morphic resonance' in which the idea was proposed that if a group of people in one part of the world had assimilated certain new information in a given amount of time then a similar group of people elsewhere in the world would understand the same information quicker because it is somehow in the ether and already understood. The distorted image of the cowboy and horse is one of Sheldrake's test images and is typical of Tim's interest in visual puzzles and puns and his desire to reveal his ideas to the viewer over a prolonged period of time.

There are several prints in this series all of which use pairings of juxtaposed objects on similar backgrounds. These backgrounds would later become coloured and increasingly high key in selection as his work developed in the 1990s.

Sometimes, as in 'Hat and Squeezer' from 1991 and 'Can and Bowl' from the following year, the grounds would be split symmetrically to include two, either complementary or opposite colours, amplifying the juxtaposition of images and highlighting the contrasting look and feel of the presented objects. These colourful geometric backgrounds deliberately reference formal minimal painting and the hard-edged abstraction associated with Artists such as Barnett Newman, Elsworth Kelly and Donald Judd, but include his additional exploration of the questioning of identity and differences in ordinary domestic objects. Tim claims the 'high art' aesthetic of this approach for his own and a more accessible, readable interpretation.

In the large format work 'Red Buckets' produced in 1992 Tim juxtaposes two seemingly identical bulbous red plastic buckets with metal handles on a painterly green background. This is the first time he had juxtaposed the same image twice to explore the notion of the uniqueness of an artifact and the idea of singularity and individuality. This print was directly inspired by the anonymous portrait of the Cholmondley sisters in the Tate Britain Museum. His sketchbooks from this period are full of drawn, written and collected references to double images, twins and pairs.

The resulting work is a triumph of technical printing in which the subjects jostle for attention and dominance and even suggest that they are a different scale to each other when they are in fact the same, via an optical illusion, which the repeated image and placement of the objects creates.

Throughout the 1990s until the end of his career, Tim continued to explore the use of juxtaposition making connections between pairs of objects using silkscreen and lithograph techniques sometimes in combination. He was also involved in a number of works which focused on individual, archetypal, anonymous objects created on canvas (see section 'C' to read more).

© Text: Mark Hampson / Images: Belinda Mara
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