I produce three-dimensional sculptural collages, using a range of historical sources, found objects, techniques and materials. The totemic appearance and utilitarian finish to the sculptures harks back to another age, reminiscent of relics from a long forgotten society.
The sculptures are constructed and sculpted from reclaimed and sourced human-made fragments from a variety of environments. Recycled aeroplane parts, repurposed scientific and industrial machinery is juxtaposed against debris collected from the city and architectural elements sourced from reclamation yards. It is important the sculptures are as sustainable as possible and have as minimal impact environmentally. The found forms are subsequently distilled and reconstructed to create objects that could potentially serve, offer a function, or imply alternative narratives to a specific location. The titles appear to offer explanations to enlighten and explain.
I am always keen to reboot older ideas and use them to reflect contemporary concerns. My works act as distorted transmitters or signposts to the past, alluding to an alternative history, where present day concerns are played out.
Tim Ellis 2021
Tim Ellis’s unique approach to art-making crafts a ubiquitous logic from the haphazard and coincidental. By drawing mental and tactile relations between materials and subtly altering their forms, Ellis highlights a sensitive interlacing between artifice and natural order. In Ellis’s work found objects such as plates, vases, and Christmas tree ornaments are reconfigured to become assemblages of totemic significance. His practice revolves around his idea that “a being has a primeval desire to want to belong to something greater than oneself. This ‘wanting to belong’ manifests itself in both the production and consumption of cultural artefacts. Whether in isolation or as a collection, artefacts are dependent on a creator, mediator and audience. My work juxtaposes a culturally diverse collection of objects questioning their value and original purpose. The viewer is forced to engage in the notions of value, authorship and display.” Ellis often treats his readymade components with slight interventions, such as faux finishing bric-a-brac so they appear as more stately materials, or editing motifs to co-relate to other objects in the group. Through these minute alterations Ellis strives to engender his work. Conceiving each piece as male or female, he fabricates an instinctive harmony or ‘genetic bonding’ through the objects’ aesthetic handling. In his museological presentation, paintings are completed on pillowcases, and elaborate stands are designed at both plinth and kitchen countertop height, some replicate Victorian plant stands; blurring the domestic and exotic, their familiar scaling becomes a template of karmic measurement. His sculptures, which stand in as archaic transmitters, receive and refract all the various elements from their mysterious towers: Chinoiserie and Delft pottery, Viking shields, alchemical orbs, and trade union-like banners, prized relics both real and fake, all speaking the same cryptic language of universality and timelessness.
Patricia Ellis - Newspeak : British Art Now - The Saatchi Gallery
The role of Modernism is one of the ongoing interests in contemporary art. What can the function of art be after Utopia has fallen? And how can we imagine a new and better future without repeating the naiveté of the past. The painting of Tim Ellis draw on the legacy of these debates and emphasise the very discussion about them as part of the political process.
Ellis’ ongoing series ‘United In Different Guises’ references the aesthetics of collective entries and their communicative symbols. Of standard size, made from fabric and displaying patina of wear and use, they immediately recall flags or ensigns. But instead of using iconography of nation states, union chapter, noble houses, corporate logos, or sports teams, Ellis confronts us with compositions that explicitly eschew any heraldry, figuration or colours reminiscent of existing bodies. They are abstract compositions lacking functional or symbolic use. Without such immediate utilitarian referentiality, the paintings become non-referential signs that can acquire their own meaning. And it is the moment in which Tim Ellis’s paintings also become political objects: their function of any prescribed interpretation defies the traditional authority of flags, banners and standards. Instead of dictating meaning, Ellis is leaving the meaning of his flags up for collective discussion and individual decision – a concept in the best Modernist tradition.
Daniel F. Herrmann – The London Open - Whitechapel Gallery London
Tim Ellis centers his work around the idea ‘That a Being has a primeval desire to want to belong to something greater than oneself’ He talks about the ‘wanting to belong’ manifesting itself in both the production and consumption of art and craft objects. ‘Whether in isolation or as a collection art and craft objects are dependent on a creator, mediator and audience, as a consequence they inherit their aspirations, values and intentions.’
Ellis examines the process where by art and craft objects from one culture come into close contact with another. This coming together leads to an exchange in value and shift in meaning. Ellis conducts in-depth research into cultural products, how they are made, used and displayed. Sometimes using found objects and other times abstracting from pre-existing designs, these are transformed to form totemic sculptures and paintings. The material decisions and finishing given to the objects and paintings suggest a utility, beyond that of their original function.
Whether displayed singularly or grouped in an installation the strategies employed in staging the works allow them to appear as ready-mades. The harmonious interaction between surface, object and display only serve to heighten the illusion. Ellis is seamlessly able to weave together historical fact and invention allowing an engagement with notions of symbolism, artifact and artifice.
Tim Ellis 2011
The paintings are part of an ongoing series that share the same title, 'United in Different Guises' and are numbered accordingly. The title refers to a proposed shared function. This function sits somewhere between a communicative role and the symbolic. The source imagery used is a mixture of signage and design which is reconstructed to form gendered symbols. The paintings' scale and material quality mimic the appearance of flags and banners. By folding, scuffing and gradually ageing the paintings, a suggested utility appears. What is left is an object that questions notions of symbolism and authenticity, allowing the work to function beyond the realms of painting.
Tim Ellis - John Moores Painting Prize - Liverpool Museums
Wondering about the unexpressed possibilities of the artefact, altering the purpose to which it was originally put with the intention of reassessing its value and function, bringing out the process that leads a found object to take on a different cultural value.
Tim Ellis’s practice is based on the juxtaposition of culturally different materials and objects and probes both their formal value and their original purpose, obliging the viewer to raise questions about notions of functionality, authorship and display. Through mental relations and the imperceptible alteration of forms, the young English artist declares a sort of relative commitment to the concept of artefact and that of artifice, to the principle of creativity and seriality.
The title of the exhibition refers to the idea of being threatened by the weight of history, while it is laid out as if it were a proposal for the beginning of a new ideology. Both sculpture and painting – models, trophies and testimonies to something bigger – focus their tension on that juncture in perennial balance between the fact and the historical object, between its manufacture and its distribution, suggesting reflections on the role of artifice within the process of production of meaning.
On this occasion the paintings use exactly the same emblem, a sort of iconic monument or totemic construction whose colour varies with the season and the time of day, and in this way opposes the inevitable ravages of time. These works continue the series of progressively numbered paintings grouped under the title United in Different Guises. Proposing as they do a dual function, with a role of representation as well as communication, at the root of their imagery lies an intentional fusion of signs and design, a visual strategy that is then recomposed and codified under a more generically symbolic appearance. Through technical devices such as the bending of the support, the scratching and the progressive and gradual aging of the surface and the colour, the painting itself is transformed into a succession of functional propositions. What is offered to the gaze is in the end an object that brings into question the notions of symbolism and authenticity, allowing the final image to go beyond the confines of painting itself.
Rita Selveggio - Sons of Pioneers - Furini Contemporary, Rome
Tim Ellis’s series ‘United in Different Guises’ features a number of paintings that are reminiscent of militaristic banners or flags. They are folded, scuffed, gradually aged and hung by bulldog clips, taking on the look of textiles recovered from ancient or forgotten republics. Ellis uses a variety of source imagery for his works, ranging from advertising and design magazines to artistic movements such as Art Nouveau and elements of Zen symbolism such as the Enso circle. ‘I collect vast amounts of images and design motifs into a glossary for potential use’, the artist explains. ‘I draw my own designs inspired by them. The colours are chosen in a similar manner, but are intuitively worked and changed for each painting’. Usually, Ellis conceives of each painting as either male or female. His work – containing nods to contemporary artists such as Gert & Uwe Tobias; one can even find (perhaps less visceral) suggestions of origins in Viennese Actionist performances by Artists such as Herman Nitsch – are loaded with cultural and historical significance. In addition to art and design history, his syntax is sourced from his daily life and surroundings in Contemporary London. ‘Windows and doors that I pass on the street, the world I inhabit, provide me with an index of images to abstract into my paintings’. What Ellis creates amounts to a subversion of historical referencing, or codified language system that questions notions of symbolism and authenticity and appears to defy chronological or cultural classification.
100 Painters of Tomorrow - Thames and Hudson
Gregor Muir, Barry Schwabsky, Valeria Napoleone, Kurts Beers, Cecily Brown, Tony Godfrey, Yuko Hasegawa, Suzanne Hudson, Jacky Klein, Philip Tinari.
Tim Ellis’ most recent work combines his interest in aesthetic art movements with his love of organic and geometric patterns to form hybrid artworks that map spaces and represent abstract diagrams and journeys. Following on from the earliest cartographers who looked to the sky rather than the earth for their starting points, Ellis follows in a rich tradition of creating maps that are rich with undiscernible abstract codes and symbols.
‘My drawings are a way of mapping or charting territories on paper and creating abstract worlds of pattern and geometry that move the eye around the surface and a long a journey’.
Maps have always held a fascination to the artist because they allow you to travel without leaving a space. It is possible to conjure your own stories or imagine the landscape as you travel through a map. The artist translates these ideas to handmade paper, each sheet in-bedded with fragments and matter from locations all around the world and splices these against exotic block printed papers, rich with patterned information, each specific to a locality. Ellis Fuses together and layers the information, treating each work as a frame within a frame, blending different compositions and spaces together. Each piece is built up of layers of information ranging from cryptic diagrams, bloc printed patterns, abstract codes and symbols all formed by the artist making sense of both the physical and virtual environment surrounding him. The sculptures and relief works are extensions of this idea and can be seen as 3 dimensional maps, each piece having its own clearly defined terroir with gullies, valleys and pitfalls, filled with contradictory information and changing patterns depending on different viewing point.
Research has always been an important factor in the development and Ellis sights ‘The Pattern and Decoration Movement’, ‘The Arts and Crafts’,’ Japanese block prints and wallpaper design as integral to the work, along with Chinese Suzhou windows, that frame ornate landscapes with abstract and symbolic patterns. The artist has always been keen to reboot and investigate older ideas and aesthetics, reordering and splicing different genres together to create hybrid works. In essence the artist studio is a melting pot of cultures and perhaps reflects the exchanges in knowledge over the centuries that crossed physical and metaphorical boundaries.
In Bloom - Press Release