13 March - 1 April 2007, TJ Bateson Studio Gallery

‘And fields invested with puerperal gleams’
William Wordsworth

An enclosed space, a plot of land defined by borders, serried rows, ordered and determined, or a wilder, open but still protected pasture, is an immediate response to the concept of ‘field’. But the opposite is also true – fields of study or inquiry, whilst by definition within certain limits and constraints, can also be almost infinitesimal, a discipline of thought and research enabling exploration of ideas and their connections.

Tim Bateson’s body of work continues, with Fields, to explore and develop the connections and inspirations of his earlier work. Fields (2007) revisits themes and motifs encountered in the earlier en’shroud (2004) exhibition. It is contemplative, it is work of quiet, abstract moments, reminiscent of space and time with a sense of organic repetition and order. Fields is a distilling of thought and practice from earlier work – Spheres (2006) was ordered, precise. In Fields we see a softening of line, a sense of ‘woolly-edgedness’ slipping between the plains and the layers of paint and surface. Inevitably, there will be a reference drawn to Indigenous work, an assumed landscape seen from above, but this will be drawn more from the title of the exhibition than the work itself. It is computer screens, pixels and pixellation that are more likely referenced, a mix of media the inevitable development of his work in painting, drawing, print-making, photography and computer software.

Central to the exhibition is Fields – a four canvas painting and drawing that forms the core and inspiration for the rest of the work. Dominant, it encapsulates the thought processes of this whole body of work, the ideas explored in the canvas and its creation referenced throughout. Indeed, the smaller works utilise imagery from Fields, organically grafted, based, as with so much of Tim’s previous work, on a concept of ‘family’.

Through his own field of inquiry and creativity, the use of digital photographs, tonal drop outs, toner layers, metallic omni-chrom, reversed inkjet transfers of Fields all form the matrix of the smaller works, followed by a working of each piece with considered marks. The result produces a level of repetition and replication inherent in the ‘family genealogy’ but which are individual entities in their own right.

The exploration of colour continues to be a key factor in Tim’s work – an indescribable palette that is becoming synonymous with the artist. Muted and earthy tones with a contemplative nature (influenced by Ian Fairweather and, in particular, Monastery (1961)), are mixed on the artist’s board. A surface quality of the paint from its matt to dry finish is his interest (language falls short as a descriptor for what we, the beholder, can describe), as highlighted by the range of colour and tone in the two larger paintings in the exhibition.

There are two noticeable exclusions in this exhibition from his previous work. The first is the diminishing of the lace and fabric Mantra so dominant in earlier work. The three pieces #7, #8 and #9 en’shroud - 04 highlight the overlaying juxtaposition of the Mantra and reverence such mark was held. Its removal and the conscious reduction in the influence of William Morris and his patterned overlay of mark results in a less decorative and more exposed body of work.

The second, touched upon in en’shroud, excluded completely in Spheres and now seemingly consigned permanently, as it were, to the darkroom, is the use of the narcissistic photographic self imagery of previous exhibitions to explore his own sexuality. Those works and their intense use of chiaroscuro, a restrictive palette of dark earthly tones and the layered illusional intaglio layered surfaces have been replaced by equally layered surfaces, but calmer, more fearless in the exposure of thought and pattern. Gone are the graphic elements and references, creating work of a quieter but, in some ways, less immediate and accessible, nature.

With the removal of self and his Mantra, the work has been stripped down to its bare minimum. Or has it? Layers of mark have always been consistent within Tim’s work – look closer and see layer upon layer, mark upon mark. Look straight on but then look upon the work from different angles. The work may be a move away from William Morris and a decorative aesthetic, but Morris’ own words are relevant to an artist who works in the abstract and whose aesthetic is about repetition of line and mark.

‘In all patterns that are meant to fill the eye and satisfy the mind, there should be a certain mystery. We should not be able to reach the whole thing at once, nor desire to do so, nor be compelled by that desire to go on tracing line after line.’
William Morris

Keith Lawrence