TJ Bateson - 'Temporality'
Wednesday 28 February - Sunday 25 March 2012
TJ Bateson is intrigued by the notion that through the extended contemplation of a field of limited colour and tonality, the subtle shifts and nuances will begin to take on an amplified resonance. It is from this position that Temporality has evolved and the work is a celebration of the artist’s favourite themes of a confined palette, the spatial construction of an image and the joy of the viscosity and inherent qualities of paint. They are nostalgic works for the artist as forms from a previous time hauntingly resurfaced beneath his hand.
By its definition, nostalgia is an emotional response, an imagined memory sentimentally held high in the mind but actually removed from how the event or time referenced really was. It is a fantasy, a construction, and thereby touches upon the romantic.
These works reference time and place but Bateson does not go out and absorb physical spaces to replicate in the studio. Rather, he creates a mapping of thoughts, a visualisation of his cognition, reacting to the paint itself rather than being inspired by natural external forms.
Temporality is the state or quality of being temporary, as opposed to being perpetual, so as a thematic link it is concerned with time and space and things that are fleeting. It relates to the musings of many modern philosophers about how time is not necessarily linear in it progression from past-present-future but can be encountered by the mind in many more cyclical, holistic or relative ways.
Also relevant is the relationship to the temporal lobe of the brain – that part that is associated with (amongst other things) memory, emotions, hearing, language and learning. It works in order to perceive and remember objects, faces and detailed settings and scenery, and is necessary in order to navigate space by knowing where we have been and where we are going.
Click here for artwork by TJ Bateson
The journey of this new work has been one relevant to the cyclical nature of time and memory.
It is clearly not a linear time depicting a journey of moments sequenced through an existing natural landscape. It is more of a wandering back in the mind and a drawing up fragments of the past. Bateson has been enjoying limited tonality and his greys for decades and often finds the motifs and forms encountered in the past now reappearing like friends in new work. The challenge that the artist sets himself is to create again with boundaries carefully chosen to focus the attention to what he has determined – it is not a haphazard splashing of paint in expressive freedom but a carefully controlled series of marks and his own tailored and refined aesthetic.
In interview, Bateson will tell you clearly that he is not interested in landscape in the material arrangement of its hills and valleys, coastlines or forests, escarpments or plains. His pictorial investigations are rather about a space that exists in the mind, and imagined, remembered or reconfigured space.
The current works revisit the impressions and responses that he has had in the past to his surrounding spaces. They are a journey into the familiar, a visual deja-vu of paint and gesture, but this time without the reliance upon the old academic learned tricks of his youth.
Gone is the highly glossy varnished oil paint glowing beneath its glaze, gone too are the rich colours and bold contrasts. Instead, the field of paint is reduced and subdued, the gestures controlled, and the artist glories in his beloved greys and the invitingly tactile matte effects of acrylic and gouache. His collection of grey paints each with its own character now brownish, now violet, now a wonderful pale green is no accidental process of mismanaging the cleaning of his brushes. Each grey is carefully balanced like the flavours in a chef’s dish and every creation carefully saved in plastic containers and mourned over when finished.
It is from the delight of using these limited tones that Bateson has investigated over the years the way we see and understand luminosity and minute differences and details. What will the eye search for and reveal when things are not direct or immediately obvious?
Bateson is intrigued by muted colour and tonality and how the brain will process the visual stimulus provided. He likens it to taking a range of tonal value from 0 to 100 and imagining what can be done only within the limited range of 70-80. What will the brain do when the contrast is pared right down? It is like walking from the daylight into a darkened room and waiting until the eyes adjust and forms can be made out clearly. At first, the forms seem so dark: eventually we see detail and not just trace the outline of objects.
The artist enjoys making work about the things that most people do not see, finding beauty in the things that would be passed over. Like the phenomenon of shop-blindness when familiarity causes an invisibility to occur around certain areas needing attention. He is concerned that our society has become one of auto correct and auto white balance and this creates an unreal expectation in our visual awareness. Everything becomes an unnatural balanced perfection and does not produce the response the artist may have intended. Bateson stated that he hopes this show will optically challenge people to refocus and to adjust to see what is at first glance invisible. He is calling to attention the colours and tones that are whispered not shouted, painstakingly uncovering the delicate differences like the shifting vapours of a cloud.
His response to the place and time of ‘being’ is an impression of the distilled atmospheres of landscape and space. The works no longer represent any landscape in a physical sense and only alludes to the elemental flowing of nature.
The brooding force of a tempestuous sky, gentle shadows appearing and dissolving with the diffused softness of an overcast sky, the snippets of reflected forms rippling across murky liquids, or mists in a state of flux – nature’s constant flowing restlessness.
Similarly, Bateson derives great delight from controlling and managing the heaviness and weight of a liquid, understanding the viscosity of paint and what the final effect will be once it has changed in its nature and dried. He practices artifice and layering to create the vapours and shifting time within the image space.
Bateson's work live within a contemplative space, a space of cognition initially for the artist but which then become a space for the viewer to respond, to remember, to connect, to love, to hurt, to criticise or to restore. The canvas space becomes representative of the space between the temples – the temples of the brain where our amazing capacity to imagine resides.
It is an intriguing question that Temporality poses to call us to a fresh vision, a quieter space of contemplation and discovery. It is a practice we could do well to take out into the rest of our lives. If one slows down it is possible to gain fascination and pleasure watching swirling suds making infinitely new patterns in the dishwater, observing puddles and pavements as bikes and pedestrians sully the boundaries, or watching the almost invisible but still perceptible movement of heat haze.
Click here for artwork by TJ Bateson