The Irish artist Pádraig Timoney (Derry, 1968), who currently lives and works in New York, was the subject of a broad mid-career retrospective at Madre in 2014. Timoney chose Naples as his place of residence and production from 2004 to 2011. His work explores the multiple languages of painting and its conventions through a multitude of styles and media, in many cases unrelated to the history of painting. The tradition of monochrome and photo-realism, as well as figurative representation and gestural Abstraction, Pop Art and Conceptual Art are all covered by his fields of research, which range from painting itself – his principle medium of expression – to photography, sculpture and installation. His visual universe is a radically eclectic field of inquiry, at times disorienting but ultimately coherent.
The diversity that characterizes Timoney’s artistic strategy stems from a critique of the concept of “style” as the unifying factor of experience, with the result of transforming each individual work into a unique and unrepeatable moment of aesthetic and intellectual understanding. Art is here explored in its full potential, as a field capable of containing and amplifying the many ways in which reality is present to our eyes, and the complexity of the ways we relate to images, their significance and their stories.
Many of Timoney’s works can be interpreted as a meditation on the processes and materials of painting, used for their organicity, and their relation to the dimension of time, their instability and mutability. Examples are the two works from the museum’s collection, one belonging to a series of paintings produced by the manual process of mirroring (and thus truly reflecting) and the other from a series of paintings made by rabbit glue mixed with pigment which, instead of reflecting the image, simulates the effect of the reflection.
In the series of works indicated conventionally as Mirrors, the artist enacts the process of preparation by which a glass plate is transformed into a mirror through the application of a thin coating of silver, gold or copper. About these works, the critic and curator Gavin Delahunty wrote: “Timoney has extracted the individual elements required to make a mirror and repurposed them as painting materials. His approach ingeniously deflects the narcissistic impulse of self-reflection by turning our attention back onto the material properties of the mirror itself.” In contrast, in the purely pictorial works made with pigments and rabbit glue applied on canvas, what we are seeing is the simulation of a reflective surface that is not, however, capable of mirroring an image.
Rabbit glue is a material traditionally used in the past for sizing canvases, consequently its use precedes the creation of the image, but in this case, mixed with pigments, it becomes a painting itself, transforming a preparatory and invisible process into a self-image. By juxtaposing these two monochrome fields (the mirror and the mimesis of the mirror) Timoney activates a dialectic of positive and negative, a transparency of vision and vision denied, so interpreting the painting as a space in constant transition and transformation.