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Tim Ellis | Tomorrow’s Harvest
Fold Gallery, Thursday 14 March -
A review by Laurence Noga
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
Tim Ellis’s resonant show at Fold Gallery is intriguing and complex in the way it’s
composed. The scale of these intimate sculptures (often seen from two angles) draws
the audience into compelling and curious relationships with the sets of works. Ellis
uses conflicting impulses to throw us back in time; to position us within an industrialized
world, locating our thoughts both in the ‘then’ and the ‘now’. He hints at the sprawling
metropolis of London before the war, with its explosion of artistic and musical activity,
and the trend towards post-
Tinged with an edgy atmosphere, the exhibition feels like a switchboard of communication.
Ellis creates tension in his sculptures and drawings through an impression of transfiguration,
masking the cigarette card entertainers which populate his work, and allowing the
viewer to imagine these characters in whichever way they choose. He skillfully hand-
On High Ground. Plaster, paper, Perspex, ink and cigarette card
But Ellis has made Dixon a much more mysterious figure. He is masked and surrounded, within the plaster tower, by a network of strange antennae, as though the figure is conducting electromagnetic waves, transmitting and receiving. The drawing in Orange Dusk develops this hidden coding further, with small triangles that are often broken in my imagination, like an early Picasso charcoal drawing with collage. The use of coloured perspex reminds us of Victorian stained glass, and the way in which it brings a subtle inflection of colour and memory.
Orange Dusk. Plaster, paper, Perspex, ink and cigarette card
Perhaps Ellis is hinting at the hidden potential of propaganda. You can’t look inside
these structures, as they feel boarded up. They immediately call to mind sculptors
such as Henri Laurens or Jacques Lipchitz in the way they are constructed -
The Tourist. Plaster, paper, wood, ink and cigarette card
In Hexagon Sun the feeling of conflict is developed further by the patina which camouflages the structure. This work’s deeply polished tonal values enhance the sense of disguise within the angular geometric blocks. Cemented into this work, Elsie Carlisle (a popular English female singer both before and during the war) has a cubist mask which obstructs her view. Her mask calls to mind Alberto Giacometti’s cubist methods, influenced by African and prehistoric art. For example, The Couple, a cubist sculpture made in 1927, is cast in bronze and has two separate heads on a base, with small geometric shapes depicting the features. Ellis references this by flattening out the forms throughout his drawing, and although he recognises the power of Giacometti’s abstract approach, he introduces his own twist in the way he puts things together.
Hexagon Sun. Plaster, cellulose, graphite and cigarette card
All the black constructions have male cigarette cards attached to their sense of
mass. In Split your infinities the shape feels more about what is happening inside;
everything feels more ‘heard’ -
Split Your Infinities. Plaster, cellulose, graphite and cigarette card
Golden Sun Stone. Plaster, cellulose, graphite and cigarette card
The set of figures that span the gallery at the lower level, such as Alpha and Gyro,
ask more serious questions about the exhibition’s standpoint, with its sense of conflict
around time, materials, and the influence of cubist routes. All the works here are
more physical and confrontational. Each has had the original part of its head removed
and replaced by a compressed sculpture, often with a single opening or a recess in
deep shadow. I am reminded of Eduardo Paolozzi’s mechanised approach to his figurative
sculptures, in which there is a pronounced sense of movement: “I like to make use
of everything: “I can't bear to throw things away -
Alpha Plaster, graphite and enamel (Red)
Gyro Plaster, graphite and enamel
Together with his sense of geometry and his sense of humour, Ellis underpins the whole show with a terrific balance of colour. The intermediate tonal control (often set against rogue edges) allows the sense of façade to orchestrate a dialogue with the whole exhibition. ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ brings new life and new directions.