Timothy Hull (b. 1979) has been wrapped up in the realm of both the representation of antiquity as a subject matter and the dynamism of the cultural appropriation. Digging in the past without staying trapped and passive in it, the American artist develops an elegant iconography which aims to unveil classical aesthetics of the past beautifully rendered in the perspective of our contemporary times. Being inspired from history, Hull concentrates his work on a creative fusion charging his paintings with thoughtful ideas of cultural appropriation. Motifs of ancient Greek imagery, such as the male figures of Kouros or various Greek letters along with other Coptic references, dominate his recent paintings of Ammonis the Alexandrian Poet (2016), Cupbearers and Observes in the Adron (2015).
Words: Yannis Kostarias
Almost all of his artwork expresses pale hues and minimalistic painterly gestures building a kind of poetic and elegant character. This light-toned suggestiveness emphasises the painterly potential and maximizes the final effect of the painting. Minimized gestures in a dialectic system of letters, geometries and shapes provide a fairly enhancing vocabulary and a visual sensibility whose ability to involve the viewer with the painting’s content is unmissable.
Apparently, Hull also flirts with the art of abstraction; in the majority of his work there is a strong commitment to explore abstract art by drawing or painting. The syntax of his abstract language is linked with symbols, irregular shapes and lines that highlight their connection with the rich source of Greek, Roman and Arabic iconography. Observing Hull’s imagery, Cy Twombly’s work was reflected in my mind, as this American master painter also developed his artistic expression around the Greco-Roman past in his own creative way.
Patterns from Attic vases or Greek sculptures, for instance, have a dominant presence on Hull’s painterly visualizations. His ideas seem to come from careful research on the ancient art history and even the poetry until their eventual depiction on canvas. The artist underlines that he has “been interested in Greek philosophy from the pre-Socratics to the Hellenistic period and that interest spilled into culture, sex, theater and epic poetry. I also have been in love with the poetry of CP Cavafy who folded ancient history into a Twentieth century gay sensibility”. Another common trait between these two artists, Cavafy and Hull, is the reuse of history, language or even sexuality of an old civilization through their personal interpretation and contemporary prism. The story behind the young Ammonis is a common base for both artists either to write a poem or to make a painting; “For Ammonis, Who Died at 29, in 610”.
Born in 1979 in Warwick, New York, Timothy Hull now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He received his Bachelor from the New York University in 2002 and after four years the artist completed his Master in Fine Arts at the Parsons School of Design in New York. His work has been presented in many countries around the world, such as Italy, France, Austria, Spain, Japan, England and across the US. Furthermore, Hull has a strong experience in curatorial projects (Cover Version, Open Apple Shift 3), while his public art sculpture, Accelerated Rain, was successfully commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
In his interview with Art Verge, Timothy Hull shares his approach on his beautiful compositions and other art issues, while providing some important insights about his daily life.
Art Verge: Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Timothy Hull: It’s a slow process, a building up of surface, texture and pattern.
AV: How would you define your work in few words?
TH: Justified Ancients Liberation Zulu.
AV: Can you name any artists you take inspiration from?
TH: I have been inspired by Marc Camille Chaimowicz on many levels. I also love Sophie Theresa Trenka Dalton, her work pulls ancient history into the contemporary age.
AV: Greek art patterns, symbols and letters seem to dominate your recent body of work. Where of how does this inspiration/Greekness come from?
TH: I have been interested in Greek philosophy from the pre-Socratics to the Hellenistic period and that interest spilled into culture, sex, theater and epic poetry. I also have been in love with the poetry of CP Cavafy who folded ancient history into a Twentieth century gay sensibility.
AV: Creating a new painting can be a solitary process. If this applies to you, when you concentrate on a new art work does it affect your social life at all?
TH: No, because I am a day time worker and when I’m involved in a painting it mostly consumes me during the day when everyone’s busy anyway.
AV: How do you know when an art work is finished?
TH: How do you know when you’re finished making love? That’s Jackson Pollock’s ham-fisted answer to that question!
AV: What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space like, and how does it affect your process?
TH: Well, i just moved to a new studio space after having the same one in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for over 10 years. My new studio is in an old carriage house in the countryside. It’s lovely but I haven’t been in it long enough to know how it’s going to effect my process but I have very high hopes that it will be remarkably transformative.
AV: Which exhibition did you last visit?
TH: The David Hockney retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York. It was thrilling.
AV: What do you hope audiences will take from your work?
TH: A sense, a scent, a fleeting thought.
AV: What does your mother think about your art?
TH: She’s my toughest critic! I know I can always rely on her to call bullshit.
AV: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
TH: Total and complete morning person.
AV: Is the glass half empty or half full?
TH: Always half full. I’ll be happy there’s still water to drink!
AV: What are your plans for the near future?
TH: To settle into my new studio space and life in the country. I’m also focusing on my Tarot reading business called Eleven Horseshoe Tarot.