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Tim Mara, Two-bar Electric Fire, 1995-96
Tim Mara Artist's Alphabet

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The majority of Tim’s work consists of editioned print works on paper, but at various stages in his career he did produce several unique works most notably the canvas pieces that he produced during his research sabbatical from The Royal College of Art which he undertook in 1995/6.

At the time the canvases were a new and exciting departure for Tim not only because they were ‘one offs’, but because it enabled him to upscale the size of his work and produce work in a very physical way which escaped the limitations and restrictions of glazed frames and paper substrates.

He produced five variations of his images on canvas all of which are 1220 x 1220 cm square. These include a cardboard box, chain mail glove, chandelier and two bar electric fire in 1995/6 and a year later, steps.

The painted canvas was mounted onto MDF boards on wooden stretchers which were then printed using posterisation silkscreen techniques and finished by adding extra highlights and details painted in oil paint. Each canvas took approximately 3 weeks to produce and several stencils and overprinting which were highly technical and often incredibly labour intensive. The making of these works proved to be extremely problematic as the canvas substrate was flexible and unstable leading to difficulties with registration and the cracking of inks. Various attempts were made to create a stable satisfactory work and many early unsuccessful experiments of these images had to be destroyed or abandoned.

The remaining prints are a triumph of both artistic and technical knowledge and are among the best work that the Artist produced. Tim said of these canvas prints;

I’ve been wanting to do this for some time. It gives the work an incredible status and scale, monumental almost, like a Spanish still life.

I was worried that the prints would come out rough textured which would have been naff but they are more perfect in a way than works on paper: canvas is very forgiving and the registration is very tolerant. The electric fire was bought in Woolworth’s, I wouldn’t have used it if it had not still been available over the counter. It had to be an object that wasn’t too individual, too specialist so I could make the object my own and do something with it with no distractions at all.

I photographed it, broke the photo down into its component parts, and then added the different layers of tonality in a painted way, so the object has become for me what it always ought to have been. Printed but also painted”.

Another period of experimentation for the Artist that led to the creation of unique objects, was in 1992/3 when he produced a number of playful Xerox based works and also constructed boxes (to read about the Xerox works see 'X' in the Artists Alphabet).

The two existing constructions, which have been posthumously titled 'Constructed Box 1' and 'Constructed Box 2', are both fantastic examples of the Artist's playful experimentation and interest in the possibility of everyday objects; in this case children's toy soldiers and animals. The toys involved were produced by the famous English toy company "Britain's Ltd" whose factory was based for many years in the Borough of Walthamstow, London where the Artist and his family have lived for over 30 years.

Many local housewives in this area would earn extra pin money from The Britain's Company by piecing together and constructing the toy figures and in some cases painting them to prescribed designs. Tim was given the figures used in these boxes by his studio neighbours and good friends, Tom and Joyce Hoffman, who had found a small stock of these in their garden shed and, having previously seen Tim use these figures in his 1989 print 'Helping Hands', thought he would enjoy them. (He would also use one of the toys from this gift in his 1991 print 'Viva Plastica').

The constructions are both hand painted assemblages whose toy figures are contained within 3 tier wooden boxes and are painted in brightly coloured Humbrol enamel paints. They are unusual in that they do not utilise any printmaking methods and are purely hand painted, and constructed, although they do relate to themes, interests and concepts in previous and subsequent prints such as camouflage, patternation, optical perception, surreal narrative and the elevation of the everyday object to a thing of great beauty. The boxes are also evidence of Tim's interest in and debt to Pop Art especially in the work of Peter Blake, Eduardo Paolozzi and Andy Warhol, all of whom he had much respect for.

The constructions were never exhibited during his lifetime but were a constant presence in his Walthamstow studio showing that he had a genuine fondness for them. They are exquisitely crafted, definitively considered and extremely humorous in their invention.

 
© Text: Mark Hampson / Images: Belinda Mara
 
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