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Tim Mara Artist's Alphabet

Q: Quotations > Quotes On Subject Matter & Individual Pieces

back to the alphabet grid On his print 'Mirror Man' he said in 1970:

"The conception of the painting was largely from outside of myself - or so it seemed and consequently any concrete meaning for it always escapes me although meaning (at present) is the most important thing about it for me".

"I began with only 3/16th's of it in my mind and over the following months, I just let the rest of it suggest itself".

"I called it 'Mirror Man' because there is a piece of music by that name that I particularly like and because I occur on the work in a mirror on the 12th square. I think of it as being abstract".

Seventeen years later he added:

"'Mirror Man' was born out of crisis, I was fed up with doing problem solving projects - they were fairly well resolved, but who wants to solve the staffs problems anyway? Patrick Hughes was my tutor and was right to call my bluff. He said you don't have to do projects anymore - get on with being an Artist in your own right; let's see what you can do. I just put all my resources together and had a sense of wanting to be narrative. I'd decided to set up sixteen one foot squares within a four foot square framework and make images all over them. I had seen some black and white friesa cows in the snow which intrigued me - just sufficient detail to tell what sort of attitude they were standing in and what they were so I had a starting point and I knew about silkscreen and I knew about line photography. I hadn't known what to do in certain of the sections until it dawned on me - what I was really interested in was the way things refer back to themselves in a circle".

On the picnic series Tim comments:

"They operate as stills and each carries hints of what might have happened in the others, but there is no particular starting point. The idea of a sort of after sales service was appealing - people having bought or borrowed a print and then suddenly seeing something in it that they had never seen before. The dog and record player in 'Girl on Picnic' are a parallel of the HMV label and are a kind of going on that might not be noticed. The connections are there if people wish to make them. I used to think that all painting was about was making an image that hid other images, I realise it's not anymore, but by this time I still liked the idea of having little secrets.

He again echoes some of the ideas concerning this series saying of it:

I was interested in the idea that people might not discover these things at the time, that they'd buy the print because they liked the image and only later notice the underlying images. It would be a kind of after sales punch to keep it alive.

About 'Power Cuts Imminent' he said:

"If you had a power cut one set (TV) would go off fractionally before the other - you couldn't perceive it as a human being - it's just a theory. The idea is that the image takes place between the blink and the flash. The activity, even though it is momentary, is supposed to represent a lifetime".

Of the doors in the related prints such as 'The Launderette', 'Laundromat', and '4 Door Salon' he said:

"I like doors, because the door is like a person - it has something to put your hand on - it is shaped so you walk through it - some doors have port holes so you can look through so they are almost like the negative of a person".

Of the 'Chequered Face' he comments:

"Some of the images relate and some don't. The dog just happened to be lying outside the studio. It was dead - I just used it as an image because it had no relationship to anything else really - to test the idea".

In 'Coal & Diamonds' he said he was:

"Dealing with less information here - it's not complex in the way it's read it's simply what it is - it's what you see and very little else".

He added:

"Coal & Diamonds' are made of carbon and represent both ends of the social scale - they are different ends of the same element".

From the same series is 'Helping Hands' of which Tim wrote:

"Rupert Sheldrake was writing about his theory of 'morphic resonance' at the time. The idea being that if a group of people in New York take a given amount of time to assimilate new information, then a similar group of people in London will understand the same information more quickly because it is somehow in the ether. The picture of the horse and rider is one of the test images he used. Not everyone can see what it is. I found the magnifying glass, which was called 'Helping Hands'. That print is full of visual puzzles. It's good if viewers see more in the print the more they look at it. Maybe they only see the horse and rider when they get home".

On 'Self-Portrait with Family' Tim said:

"The farther you get from it the more all the images look like me, the closer you get the more they look like who they really are".

"As my Father's image slowly emerged in the developing tray the darker it got, the more it looked like me, the older man transforming into the younger one. At stages it looked like what I'll probably look like in ten or fifteen years time or like him as a young man"

"As you move away you begin to lose that image (individual family members) and then they are all my portraits. I was interested in things that are also something else. 'Guiness' used to do faces in their ads. If you turned them upside down it was a different person. I've always liked that".

In the exhibition guide to the exhibition 'Ties That Bind - The Family In Contemporary Art' Tim repeated many of these thoughts and added:

"The use of myself with my own immediate family is significant for me. I feel that there is a parallel in the way the work varies with the viewing distance and the way that my parents, my brothers and myself and my children are genetic variations of one another in time.

I have a long-standing interest in pictures that contain a double image - for example, optical illusions such as two profiles becoming a candlestick and the old woman becoming a young one. Years ago 'Guiness' advertised using faces that changed personality when turned upside down. I particularly like this sort of double image, as it is only possible to read one image at a time.

My own piece in this exhibition grew out of my occasional use of the photographic half tone dot system in my Printmaking, coarse large dots will read perfectly well from a distance whereas fine dots, or continuous tone is needed to make a picture readable for close viewing. I hit on the idea of using the larger dot system with conventional toned photography to create a picture that would read differently from near and afar".

And concerning his 1987 work 'The Journal'. Tim is quoted as saying:

"I'd been thinking about my earlier work and wanted to fuse everything together, so I bought a newspaper back in. There are things like opposites - I wanted a face that was whitened and a face that was dark - a black in the background and black in the foreground - the two halves working against each other. The statuesque figures suspended momentarily in their contrasting poses emphasise the division".

"Because one half is colour on black and the other is black on colour, I wanted them to inter-relate but I didn't want to do the second half until I'd done the first - then I knew where I was working. Most of the print is hand painted, hand cut, hand everything until the final third. The photographic stencils are used when the descriptive bits begin to go in, but the basic colours are held and just get richer".

Regarding the subject matter of the featured newspaper he commented:

"It's a certain type of information that is common to both areas, I wanted an equivalent for out times of what happened in Guernica. Hence, the head line "US launch Libyan attack from British bases". More than that I was thinking of a kind of cultural imperialism. I mean I like the United States but a lot of American culture seems to be feisted upon us and there are things like "Madrid says no to El Whopper" - It's a hamburger and they wouldn't allow a MacDonald's' to be built in Madrid. It's a bit like saying this is Guernica and it's still going on, like a war in modern dress".

About 'Self Portrait with Overcoat' he said:

"I bought this tweed coat and wore it a lot. People would recognise me from a distance because of that coat: clothes become characteristic of the person who is wearing them; they become part of the identity kit. The image was born out of my working processes. When we start out we make work related to our experiences of life. As we go on our work is made from experiences in our work".

On his canvas prints produced from 1995-97 he said:

"I've been wanting to do this for some time. It gives the work an incredible status and scale, monumental, almost, like a Spanish still life. I was worried that the prints would come out rough, textured, which would have been naff, but they are more perfect in a way than the prints on paper. Canvas is very forgiving and the registration is very tolerant. The electric fire was bought in Woolworth's. I wouldn't have used it had it not still been available over the counter. It had to be an object, which wasn't too individual, too special - so I could make the object my own, and do something with it. With no distractions at all. I photographed it, broke the photo down into it's component parts, and then added the different layers of tonality in a painterly way so the object has become for me what it always ought to have been - printed but also painted".

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© Text: Mark Hampson / Images: Belinda Mara
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