Padraig Timoney

Laure Genillard

Padraig Timoney thinks about art, about what it is, and how—in the face of what one knows, remembers, and experiences—it can distinguish itself from the ordinary and extraordinary things of life. The outcome of this ratiocination is work of such formal and physical diversity that it is impossible to assume it all falls into a certain category of art object. The Hunter Became the Hunted (all works 1997), a piece that also provided the title of the exhibition, is a blank videotape bought in a Hollywood supermarket. The purchase in itself was an unremarkable gesture, but its excessive nature becomes clear when we are told that Timoney spent two days flying from the UK to Los Angeles and back again for the sole purpose of making the acquisition. The tape, still unused and unlabeled, sits low down in an open framework of tubing—a cube, six or seven feet on each side—strongly lit by tungsten lamps placed high on each corner. The whole thing is more than a little mad, but pointless only if we nurture a misguided urge to see art’s potential to absorb the viewer as akin to, and in competition with, the all-consuming nature of celluloid spectacle.

Three Time Loser reproduces Richard Hamilton’s Lux 50, 1979, a painting of a table with a state-of-the-art tuner inserted into it. Hamilton’s joke was that the tuner was real, so by attaching speakers to the socket board running across the bottom of his painting you could hear your favorite radio station. Lux 50 exploited the fact that the technology available at the time allowed the electronics of the tuner to be contained in a space no deeper than an ordinary stretcher. For his version, Timoney constructed a fairly boxy support, but where the tuner should be there is a rectangular hole. The work is a close copy of Hamilton’s, but there is a black “mark” running across it that is not in the original. Whether the streak was on the reproduction from which Timoney made his copy, or was left by the person who apparently ripped out the tuner and made off with it, is not clear. Any way you look at it, though, someone else got there first.

Two other canvases worried away at issues surrounding technology, spectacle, and representation. Burglar is a lush, blue-black monochrome painting, its otherwise even surface interrupted by a small red dot and, just underneath, a set of four green numbers and a small symbol. This work represents the darkened space of a sitting room at night, with the TV on pause and a video still sitting in the machine below. Lazy Limpets has a patterned surface that derives from a photograph of the Mississippi Timoney shot from an airplane. Much of the image shows farmland organized into strictly defined rectangular plots, but in certain places where the divisions are less rigid it is as though the ground has been smeared. The mollusks referred to in the title are stuck onto the canvas, supporting a papier-mâché parachute canopy that projects outward from the painting’s surface. Here, large and small technologies related to flight, photography, and artmaking combine to invert a myriad of relationships.

Wash Stand, the final work in the show, is just what its title suggests—a metal framework with ceramic tile surfaces to hold a basin, jug, and mirror. Like the other works, this piece, which was fabricated in Italy, points to distinctions between artifice and creativity, and between originality, copying, borrowing, and theft. These continual qualifications led one to believe that somewhere in among them the real presence of art was shielded.

Michael Archer