Tablecloths and Mermaid Cheeks, 2017: David Surman

In the corners of the studio, hanging from the wall, we find salvage. Gleaned from street corners and recycling bins, bits of wood and metal. It takes a magpie's eye to see why Tim Garwood has selected them. A vibrant blue enamel paint, the kind you'd use for a baby boy, covers a length of timber. 'Isn't that fantastic' he says, each piece of crooked metal or splintered wood caught in his enthusiasm. 

 

Tim Garwood is a painter of sudden changes. Looking around the studio, the most ordinary materials are colliding with one another in spectacular ways. A piece of cloth appreciated for its delicate pattern is smothered in household emulsion in the next moment. A perfectly pleasing expanse of yellow acrylic is suddenly destabilised with a gloss black smear. In this high wire act, he's searching for a kind of dynamic between stability and instability. An incongruous mixing of conventional and unconventional art materials yield unpredictable results, from floor stain to artist's oil to brass rivets. 

 

I've been watching the paintings go through many stages, a series of moves and countermoves. When I think I see stability, I quickly learn that for Garwood these early, easier harmonies are to be disregarded. All the elements must exert pressure but also yield when necessary. 

 

He's a performer of sorts, a ring master who makes his materials perform impossible tricks. A decisive gesture in thick paint is made to counterbalance skittering notes in stencilled spray paint. Across a sequence of several paintings a favourite household emulsion is thoroughly tested, a kind of shrimp pink called "Mermaid Cheeks". Pooling, smearing, blotting, dripping - Garwood works continuously across a series of paintings, exploring all the necessary possibilities of the colour. What he's looking for is intensity, the point at which the mundane household paint activates in relation to the rest of the painting. Sometimes this is a sensation of colour, elsewhere it is a textural contrast. Who knew that wood stain streaked so severely when poured over matte acrylic? The ambition is to turn lead into gold, to transform the least precious of materials into a unity of colour and form, to capture the activity of painting in the structure of an "activated" object. 

 

Garwood's abstract painting is full of contextual allusions and escape routes into figuration. Take for example his passion for the humble Ikea chequered tablecloth. Bought in bulk, he stretches them like canvas, stains them, paints and cuts them. The grid pattern becomes deliberately distorted by his various manipulations, creating an ingenious sense of structure and movement into which he can make painterly gestures. And yet at the same time the material directs us out of the painting, to the everyday, the mass produced, the functional. Of quotidian dinners at home. By incorporating kitchen roll, rivets and table cloth he tests the elevated status of painting. At the same time, it demonstrates his supreme confidence in his painting as a site of transfiguration, where materials are both ordinary and engaged as part of a higher structure. 

 

Garwood's recent paintings go further, calling into question the nature of the rectangular support and the conventions of painting presentation. Greater densities of paint and collaged fabric are applied across irregularly shaped supports. These recall biomorphic or geological forms, giant stacked stones, turtle shells or kidney beans, rendered in steamy greens, pinks and blues. At times the frame itself receives paint and other material, completely integrated into the work. Rather than demarcating the painting from its surrounding, these experimental frames extend the painting outward while also poking fun at the way radical painterly gestures are often tastefully contained. Lengths of moulding are cut and dipped, becoming suggestive of vestigial legs or supports with which the painting might achieve motion. Looking at each wall filled with fascinating works in progress, we can say that the paintings are concerned with freedom, in the long experimental tradition of abstract painting. Garwood directs us to see mundane materials anew when liberated in his way. He also wants to free us from any creeping sentimentality about painting and its vaunted processes. 

 

These joyful and kinetic compositions are suggestive of places and things, though these possibilities never get in the way of our appreciation of their abstract unity. This is not an ephemeral art of tuned down sensations; Garwood paints chaotic beauty in a spontaneous yet rigorous way. A new material is tested over several works before being either accepted or rejected, and his regular "palette" for a given period is surprisingly succinct. In this way, he gauges the development of his picturemaking, building a language for each of the varied materials at hand. These are paintings that deliberately resist easy categorisation, and open up abstraction to the vicissitudes of everyday life and the material of the streets.

 

David Surman, 2017.