What is Painting? What is Sculpture? What is Installation? The artist Tim Ralston is continually experimenting with the inter-disciplinary nature of contemporary art. His ephemeral, architecturally scaled, site-responsive paintings intervene and slice through the spaces they temporarily inhabit.
Ralston’s artworks are concerned with our connection to the landscape, and the specious nature of landscape as seen throughout art history. Within the confined parameters of this genre the artist makes work that examines what landscape painting can be. The traditional understanding of landscape is turned on its head, there is no ostensible depiction of nature in the works but rather they are an abstraction of the landscape; a visual realisation of his energetic relationship and response to an environment - informed by the politics of green space within the urban environment and how nature may be reintroduced into an existing architectural framework.
Ralston’s immersive paintings deconstruct the medium to its constituent parts, focusing on the support and surface. Experienced in the construction of painting panels he lets the rules inherent in this aspect of the practice inform the aesthetics. Viewed in the round the paintings become three-dimensional objects, challenging our perception of painting and the classic landscape genre.
The context in which Ralston’s artworks are viewed is important, the viewer and the site activating them. Preferring to show in non-art spaces; abandoned multi-storey car parks and decaying buildings, what is fundamental to all of his paintings is the dialogue with the place they will inhabit. Using measurements, plans and photographs, he builds up a thorough understanding of the architectural characteristics of where the paintings will be shown. Back in the studio he draws potential structures and constructs maquettes or speculative proposals, “artists tend to be particular about how their works are exhibited, (Judd) and notoriously focused on the particularities of installation spaces.” (1)
For his exhibition at The Foundry Gallery, Ralston will be carving the space in two with a floor to ceiling constructed painting intervention which he has developed in his studio in Portugal – PADA, which he set up in 2018 with Diana Cerezino in a derelict industrial park in Lisbon.
Working in plywood the paintings have been well-thought-out and prefabricated in sections so they can be reconstructed in London. The work itself does not fix directly to the wall, floor or ceiling, instead they use the elastic potential within the materials themselves to provide the force to temporarily wedge and consequently clamp the work into the gallery.
Ralston uses primers, oils and industrial paint which are applied layer upon layer onto the plywood’s surface in an attempt to retain the initial energy and rawness from the construction, his subconscious gestures are led by his working process and the media itself. He then goes on to painstakingly sand back the countless layers, this extensive process and his attention to detail reveal an image that is hard won; a smooth reflective surface where luminous colours appear, the paint permeating the knots, grains and imperfections of the timber.
Within this exhibition Ralston is also showing new smaller works, paintings that follow these construction principles. Translating an ephemeral practice in to something constant has brought new challenges overcome by a willingness to embrace the raw energy of the process where his interventions exist “somewhere between painting and sculpture” (2) Ralston challenges our very understanding of landscape both as an actuality and as an abstract concept, their temporality a quiet nod to the transient nature of landscape.