Naples

Padraig Timoney

Galleria Raucci/Santamaria

A large group of paintings, extremely diverse in size, technique, and subject, were hung on the largest wall of the gallery, without any obvious common denominator. The viewer received no help in understanding the mechanisms that determined Padraig Timoney’s choices—a reticence typical of this Irish artist’s work. In this exhibition, “One Year Speaks Clear Some Years’ Peaks Clear,” Timoney drew us along a difficult path, in search of a theme.

Arranged on the upper portion of the wall, on a large canvas hung lengthwise, appeared some multicolored lettering. With difficulty, one could read the words DITHYRMETHITIC ACID—the title of the painting (all works 2005). The words are created within a minuscule grid made from small pieces of wood glued on to the canvas. Each letter is made up of colored squares, like pixels, while the spaces between the characters are painted with three narrow vertical stripes that seem like shadows. The effect is disorienting, as if Timoney were amusing himself by creating a sort of visual tongue-twister, where the play of colors and the optical effect created by the grid make reading the words a difficult and less than pleasant experience. But what does this word, so difficult to read and to pronounce, mean? According to the dictionary, absolutely nothing. It is a term invented by the artist to indicate an imaginary molecule: an acid that has the function of preserving desire.

The creation of a substance that can preserve a perishable emotion is an ambition with no hope of being realized. But Timoney tries to imagine its composition, painting it on canvas as if it were the structure of a new type of DNA. This quasi-scientific process is very similar to the impulse that led Timoney to create a series of works based on negative/positive oppositions, among them The Portage, a painting that looks like a shadow against a black background, created using black ink and rabbit-skin glue. The image is indistinct and seems like some type of reflection of light that reveals the outline of two oarsmen carrying a canoe. Beyond the subject, what matters is the process that has allowed its realization, for in fact, what seems painted is only bare canvas, the image having been created where a resist applied to the back of the canvas prevented the ink from being washed away by boiling water.

Timoney makes us perceive things that are not there: the absence of paint or the presence of chemical substances that, in fact, do not exist at all. And we might continue on in this vein. In Imagine this pumpkin is a superhuge concrete boat that has crashed into a small volcanic island in the bay of Naples, knocking the top off it and causing an eruption, Timoney achieves a true process of transformation of meaning. He painted a simple still life of a slice of pumpkin and some igneous rocks resting on a table in his studio, inventing an epic tale about them and using the work’s title to make us look beyond the visible appearance of things.

Filippo Romeo

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.