Tim Braden’s Paleis van Decoratie (Palace of Decoration) is not your typical palace. You won’t find gilded picture frames, glossy upholstery, cascading drapery, or rococo ornamentation; there is nary a fountain or neo-classical sculpture in sight. Instead, a red and white Art Deco style sign greets visitors of Galerie Juliette Jongma, where the British artist’s decorative exploits are on display. Past this theatrical welcome Braden offers a more democratic view of design with a series of colorful and romantic paintings that blur the lines between decoration and art.
To say that all elements have been reduced to decoration or that decoration has been elevated to art would imply an initial hierarchy that Braden’s work seemingly undermines. With flat and colorful stretches of paint Braden smears the boundaries between decoration and representation, with textiles and wallpaper in his figurative works rendered with the same attention and detail as three-dimensional objects. In other paintings entire canvases give way to nature-themed tapestry and textile motifs that almost replicate their two-dimensional subjects.
The obvious showstopper is Studio (2010), a lush and gorgeous interior in which all elements of the composition are some form of decorative art or craft. The work is conceptually reminiscent of Matisse’s The Red Studio, and as in that seminal painting, Braden’s studio is a flat and colorful space in which each object has not fully emerged from the apricot-colored background. Forms are incomplete and non-contiguous, lacking contours and depth. Yet somehow the panels of decoration add up to something greater, an implied space celebrating pattern, craft, and design. In the foreground Braden gives credit where credit is due, parenthetically citing the French master with a book open to an image of The Goldfish Bowl.
Braden paints with fauve sensibilities throughout, employing bright colors, isolated forms, and a flattened perspective. In smaller paintings like Interior (Titian/Tartan) – the title says it all – he treats space much as he does in Studio, complicating the domestic relationships between fine art and design. As he tends to do in his projects, Braden zooms in and out of his subject, exploring it from different angles and positions. In the sub-series Making Is Thinking, for example, he focuses more on artists and craft-production, depicting applied and decorative arts as productive and creative practices.
The exhibition’s signature work also shows artists practicing their craft. Here, a row of painters – stand-ins for the artist himself, perhaps – works on the other paintings in the series. In The Shock of the New Robert Hughes characterizes Matisse’s The Red Studio as “a poem about how painting refers to itself: how art nourishes itself from other art and how … art can form its own republic of pleasure… a paradise.” Expanding on this sentiment, Braden’s Palace gathers diverse forms of creative practice into its aesthetic republic. It consumes itself like an Ouroboros, as Art and Decoration tirelessly cannibalize and nurture one another behind its embellished gates.
~ Andrea Alessi, a writer living in the Netherlands.
"Paleis van Decoratie"
17 April – 29 May 2010
Paleis van Decoratie (Palace of Decoration) is the second solo exhibition of Tim Braden (UK, 1975) at Galerie Juliette Jongma. It consists of a group of new paintings, in which the artist disseminates the notion of ‘decoration’ by oscillating between both its functional and autonomous manifestations, activating it as a stylistic element and as subject matter at the same time.
In Braden’s earlier work, themes like memory and dislocation were addressed through representations of the ‘travelling man’ in our collective unconscious – an image in which the romantic concept of the explorer/scientist strongly resonated. In this new series, Braden shifts his attention to a specific artistic application of natural classification: the production of the decorative pattern, based on natural motifs, and its incorporation into everyday life. As is typical for Braden’s artistic approach, he zooms in on the results of his research – the decorative motifs themselves - and amplifies their painterly qualities by enlarging them (in works like Fabric Painting and Tapestry). At the same time, he offers a panoramic representation of the socio-cultural context in which these images are produced (in works like Paleis van Decoratie and Textile Workshop).
In his 1907 study Abstraktion und Einfühlung, Wilhelm Worringer argues that stylisation and the use of ornamental motifs is not to be interpreted as artistic primitivism, but rather that they are the purest and most direct expression of a society’s spiritual register. Braden thematises the physical crafts-side of artistic labour in three paintings in the exhibition entitled Making is Thinking. Here, he seems to point towards the need for a re-evaluation of Worringer’s ideas, questioning the primacy of rationalism in our contemporary, discourse-heavy art world.
Tim Braden studied at the Ruskin school of fine art at Oxford University in Oxford and did a post graduate at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. In 2009 the artist had solo exhibitions at SE8 in London, Ludlow38 in New York and a group exhibition in the Henry Moore institute in Leeds and the Pumphouse gallery in London.