Tim Wilson

See Me, Feel Me
31Grand February 2004

Tim Wilson, "See Me, Feel Me" (2002-2003), Oil on canvas, Commission from the collection of Stephen Heighton. Courtesy of 31Grand.

The Raveonettes’ electric hum emanates from a small radio at the back of 31Grand Gallery and nicely complements the festive mood of Tim Wilson’s paintings in See Me, Feel Me. Wilson himself sits at the back of the gallery, chatting with the managers. When I ask, he politely informs me that the flowers in his paintings are called baby’s breath and come from plastic models in a toy train set.

Toys are in evidence everywhere in Wilson’s paintings, the largest of which is the finest. Its title is that of the show, "See Me, Feel Me," and it depicts an array of toys interacting along the painting’s sprawling 156-inch expanse. The toys seem simultaneously lewd and benign as they interact in a bucolic setting of toy train flowers. In the center of the forest, rendered in hot reds, pinks, and yellows, one of Barbie’s relatives spreads her legs and thrusts her chest forward in a dance of seduction (where does Wilson shop for his toys?). A crowd of cowboys, ghouls, and small-eyed gnomes look on from the underbrush. Another pair of legs descends from the top center of the canvas, the second dancer’s torso invisible to the viewer. The painting’s air of late night barroom revelry is pronounced, as though Bacchus had just lured the toys forth from their Lower East Side dive with the promise of fun in the forest.

Another painting, entitled "Rush," shows a monarch butterfly descending on a bottle of liquid incense in the same halcyon landscape, capturing Wilson’s concern with heightened pleasure as a form of distraction. Toys serve such a purpose for children as aids in creating imaginative fantasy. Drugs and the entertainment and forgetfulness found in barrooms serve similar ends for adults, the difference being that the latter undertake such distractions also as means of dealing with suffering. Wilson’s titles—"One Life to Live," "See No Evil," and "Hear No Evil"—further confirm his belief in the old adage, "Ignorance is bliss." What you don’t know can’t hurt you as long as the pleasures of the moment remain potent enough to keep you from investigating.

Wilson’s paintings are true to his purposes. Their immaculate surfaces are as free from blemish as his pictorial worlds are liberated from human suffering. He lovingly crafts his images in layer upon layer of paint, glaze, and varnish. There is not a hint of texture to their surfaces. The only form is that described by the delicate, baroque atmosphere Wilson creates with his brush. Light literally shimmers off the surfaces.

Wilson’s vision is both complete and limited. The illusionary world he creates remains coherent in terms of the rules it sets for itself. His stubby characters and hedonistic themes are honest and do not shy away from what they are: bald celebrations of sensual existence. Nonetheless, Wilson’s stubborn exclusion of certain less-than-savory elements of human experience from his work limits its scope.

ADVERTISEMENTS