25 October - 7 November 2004, Gallery New Quay

This powerful new exhibition by Timothy Bateson combines painting, drawing and print making to present large-scale digitally layered photographic images of intense, erotically charged resonance. Self, sexuality and a sense of the ‘other’ is a continuing theme in Bateson’s work, as explored in previous solo shows, including the recently acclaimed em’bedded at the Horsham Regional Gallery in August 2004.

Originally trained in a modernist tradition in painting and printmaking (LaTrobe and Monash Universities), the inclusion of the photographic image and digital manipulation has recently shifted the focus of Bateson’s art practice. As shown in his earlier exhibitions – Palimpsest in particular - the practice of print-making was his initial interest and inspiration. Through this medium, he explored the idea of taking a simple motif (usually inspired by patterned wallpapers or tablecloths) and investigating ‘the process of layering successive images, peeling back and then laying down another pattern in consecutive veils of mark.’1 By such an approach, Bateson, each skin translucent, provides tantalising glimpses of the surface beneath, his tones - muted, deliberate in their organic earthiness.

In em’bedded and en’shroud Bateson went one stage further, introducing the photograph and the nude – the self portrait exposed for all to see. Yet not necessarily so. ‘Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display…The nude is condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress.’2 With Bateson, his nudity, in response to John Berger, could be seen as positively over-dressed, presented as the works are, with many translucent skins. He has taken his exploration of layering to the next stage.

To many, the depiction of the nude in today’s aesthetic is one of voyeurism, with more than a suggestion (overt or covert) of sex. But there is no ‘sex’ in Bateson’s work, merely the expression and exploration of sexuality - and that of his own. There is nothing pornographic depicted in the imagery. In em’bodiment, we are presented with the male figure (or parts thereof) and invited to be voyeurs. As with the two earlier exhibitions, through a restrictive palette of earthly tones and the intense use of chiaroscuro, em’bodiment presents a duality of expression: the seemingly immediate ‘body beautiful’ narcissistic imagery juxtaposed with the less apparent tortured/bruised figure achieved through illusional intaglio layered surfaces. It is very much about his own journey, his own self-evaluation. Darker than the earlier exhibitions, the figure is stone-like, sculptural. A torso is highlighted, yet the head, swathed in shadow, emphasises something being held back, a looking away from the gaze and evaluation of we, the viewer. The figure is bruised, positioned in a brooding state of time and place, the precise moment stamped by the camera. But the figure is also veiled, the consecutive layers of mark on the body itself accentuating the constant shift of self and thought, the ebb and flow of changing beliefs and values. The precise moment is not so precise afterall.

Video captured imagery in the earlier em’bedded exhibition and time-release photographic self-portraiture in the studio for both en’shroud and now em’bodiment highlight the personal journey that Bateson is exploring. Working alone, this is not about a model - photographer relationship. Strength and weakness, violence and violation, sadness, tenderness, desire, acceptance: the latest exhibition by this young and emerging artist is the true ‘embodiment’ of his work to date.

Keith Lawrence

1 Kerrilee Ninnis - em’bedded catalogue, Horsham Regional Art Gallery
2 John Berger - Ways of Seeing