Timothy Percival | British visual artist, based in London
What is the general idea behind your paintings?
The general idea behind these is the questioning of whether things are actually what they are or how they are perceived. Most of these shadows are as prominent as the actual physical things, and the light is as prominent as the reflections of the lights. So the distortions come from the distortions of glass.
A few years ago I lost much of my sight, so much of what I see is vignetted which has influenced my work significantly. It managed to communicate this idea quite well, so when translating it to paint, I thought stick with the black and white - that is the main point of it.
What would you say your differentiating factor is?
I think it would be egotistical of myself to say my work doesn't fit in a genre. My ascetic is connected with a lot of the early 1900 French literature I have read, often set in Paris.
Would you say you are trying to convince the viewer to avoid making assumptions about what they are seeing?
That is exactly right. Alluding by example.
What do you see as some of the myths in the art world?
I am not too sceptical of the art world; any industry is an industry because it exploits. If you produce something in a genre you are exploiting that genre, so it works both ways. I am never too damning on the corporations because they are just run by people.
From seeing a handful of graduation shows recently, the one thing that struck me is that all of the artists have been told they need to have their thing. As a result, all of them had this overlaid aesthetic. They weren't particularly communicating anything significant.
For example, in photography it is very much about, okay this is a project about my mother, which is a valid conversation piece if it could relate to someone else's mother. But it didn't seem to, and if you were to capitalise from it, who would want a picture of your mother?
Unless it communicated something else. They haven't been taught the conceptual, or the value of backstory. They almost resent talking about their work as they don't think it holds any value.
Do you think there is any value in learning the technical?
I think there is value in the technical, but I suppose the advantages of technical is to present realism. Whilst now we have photography to arguably replace that.
However, it seems that technicality is getting in the way of the communicating. The opposite is also true, if you have mastered something you will be able to communicate many things with a single discipline. As long as you are communicating something that is the most important thing.
How do you choose your settings?
A lot of experimentation. The actual output to produce is relatively fast, because there is a very strict language. But that language took a reasonable amount of time to build up. It was only over the last six months that it has actually worked. A lot of them came from real places, or photographs I have taken of many things. They are all real circumstances, hopefully that comes across in the atmosphere.
If someone asked you what you did at a dinner party, what would you say?
I hate that question. It is terrible, it implies that your job dictates your personality in some way. I guess I would play it by ear, on who I believe they are and what they will understand.
Having parents as scientists, how did they take your career choices?
I am from a relatively technical background - my parents were both scientists, and I studied maths, computing and physics at A level. Since then, I have shunned science a reasonable amount, from the point of view that it is all down to perception and most things are philosophical. I think I have maybe shunned my upbringing a little. Although, I always question like a scientist.
Were there particular lessons you learned from your parents?
I think the biggest one is to always question why.
Also, the idea that people do not actually know what they are doing. I think this is a very prominent thing I have found in the last few years. I started a couple of businesses in the last 5 years or so, and it was almost harrowing how easy it is to present yourself as a business. Three months on the job and you are an expert!
In your opinion, what is your relationship with branding?
Really good question. I think it is all about formal coherence. You need to represent who you are - it is impossible to act out of character. I suppose you just need to be honest in what you create.
Is there a particular book you have read which has influenced this body of work?
There is. A big one which has influenced me is Fernando Pessoa 'Book of Disquiet'. He was a poet based in Lisbon in the early 1900's. He seems to be quite damning on his life as a whole, wonderfully existential. He has many incredible quotes, not really heard of outside of Portugal.
The book resonated with me because there are many short sections with a couple of sentences to a handful of paragraphs, and it paints this picture beautifully. He paints these wonderful scenarios and then sort of lets people get on within them, it isn't plot driven in any way. It is based around the setting and idea, and then letting people run by it.
Do you keep a journal?
I have never found journals great from the point of view that you already have this boundary from yourself to the page. So that is going to be a bigger filter than your brain thinking things over. If you can manage to get it down to a perfect phrase, sure make notes. I have probably missed out a lot on that.
If you had 4 weeks to train me, how would you go about it?
I would get you to learn a great deal in whatever capacity it is. I suppose the most obvious one is to get you to galleries. Then if you cannot create anything from being in a gallery then there is probably no chance.
I think it is about excitement and being inspired, giving yourself something worth communicating.
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