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Alumni in the ANU Art Collection: Tim Price

Born in Melbourne in 1979, Tim Price grew up in Cooma NSW and Canberra ACT. Currently he lives in Sydney, having previously practised in Hobart and Melbourne. Price’s painting themes and styles continually evolve and inform each other, and include figuration, landscape, abstraction, painting from life and from found images. His themes encompass contemporary life, history, and reworking found imagery.

Price completed his BFA with First Class Honours at the Australian National University in 2007 and his Doctorate at ANU in 2018.

Tim Price’s painting Projector, 2008 was gifted to The ANU Art Collection in 2022 by Peter Maloney and Mark Bayly. It is painting in acrylic on linen and is 66 x 87 cm. Lucy Chetcuti corresponded with Price recently to discuss his practice in the context of Projector.

Lucy Chetcuti: How do objects facilitate the visual language within your work?

Tim Price: Most of my paintings around 2008 were based on the world around me – I was looking at the way painting can reconfigure the world of objects and space. I would do a quick line drawing of a place and then use it to make a painting. So the drawing would simplify and break the world down a bit. Then when I painted, I would sort of flesh the objects out again with colour, pattern, and tone. In Projector I was juxtaposing different types of spaces. I played around with the spatial depth by painting samples of textiles and prints into it, such as the orange and yellow chair. I used fabric pattern to make a really obvious three-dimensional shape. Then with the black jumper hanging from the chair, I painted it flat, with a pink line around it so that it doesn’t quite sit naturalistically in the space. I played around with the objects in the painting, and I sampled textiles to create ‘crazy’ spaces. Projector doesn’t look crazy, but I used that word in my head a lot at the time.

LC: Can you talk about the use of silhouettes and negative space in Projector?

TP: The use of silhouettes came about through my sampling of commercial design prints, which end up looking quite flat in certain places.

The negative spaces resulted from linear under-painting on the white undercoat. It was in part chance at the time, I just thought that it looked cool and so I left it. But that’s the kind of process and painterly language I was trying to set up for myself then, having a plan but also improvising.

LC: What qualities were you hoping to achieve with the use of organic patterning?

TP: At the time, it was pretty simple. I love patterns and textiles and I’d be at op-shops and seeing patterning everywhere and so I started using it in my paintings. I’d do it in quite a literal way and just copy a sample of the pattern onto a section of the painting. I liked the spatial juxtapositions created, where I’d introduce a flat, patterned section into a tonally created 3D space. There wasn’t much more to it than that, but I’ve developed it over the intervening years.

LC: Can you tell me about the conceptual basis of Projector?

TP: I wanted to ‘authentically’ paint the world around me. I’d be at places and events that were significant to me, like protests or gigs, and I’d do a drawing of the scene which I would take back to the studio and turn it into a painting. I never tried to do a painting on site because the logistics were too hard. Looking back, I needed a level of separation otherwise the way my painting brain worked, I would have just tried to paint it realistically. In the studio I was free to invent, and that’s where the patterns and prints came in.

I wanted to make authentic paintings of daily life, but I didn’t notice how contrived it was to paint these scenes in the studio. I wasn’t using photos, just simple line drawings, and when the painting was finished it didn’t look much like the event it was based on. I’ve already mentioned that I had the word ‘crazy’ in my thoughts a lot. That was a value I was after in the studio, but I never gave much thought to the tension this set up between an ‘authentic experience’ and ‘crazy’ invented painting.

LC: Have elements of this series carried through to recent works? What are you working on now?

TP: I still use patterning and textiles, but in a far more integrated way. While I don’t copy a small section of a pattern into my painting anymore, my style of painting has continued to be influenced by patterns and textiles. A stylistic change started under the influence of Nigel Lendon, who introduced Afghan war rugs to people at ANU School of Art. I was looking at Afghan rugs a lot, and one day based a painting on one. My ideas and style have continued to develop from there.

I give a lot of thought to how artists have used textiles and patterns in the past. It’s not ubiquitous, but a lot of artists have and do use them. Matisse, for example, totally developed his style in relation to textiles and pattern. He is very important to me because his paintings are decorative but they’re of real-life things. His decorative style is what makes the painting feel so meaningful.

I still base my paintings on my drawings, but because both have now developed, it looks a bit different these days. I make up drawings from my imagination, which I never did when I was painting Projector.

I continue to base my paintings on events and objects I see in my daily life, but I use photos as a source material for my paintings. Because I use photos, the paintings can look more realistic, but I’m not trying to make an authentic painting like I used to. I’m playing around with a blend of reality and invention.

Tim’s forthcoming solo exhibition Leaves Twinkle Twinkle opens at Gallery 9 in Sydney on Wednesday April 10

You can follow Tim Price on instagram

The Drill Hall Gallery is grateful to Mark Bayly and Peter Maloney, who generously gifted this work to the Australian National University Art Collection in 2022.

The Drill Hall Gallery acknowledges the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, the traditional custodians of the Canberra region, and recognises their continuous connection to culture, community and Country.