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Mark Titmarsh's recent show continues the obsessive iconography he has established during the last three years – the emblematic face; the Klein blue and the red monochrome washes; the eclectic referencing to both art-historical and philosophical figures; and the continued use of found objects as the base for his anti-perspective depth painting.
Titmarsh's painting is a seductively passive viewing experience, despite the sometimes overloaded surface. Each layer of image is carefully applied and even the exploding expressionist brush stroke confirms the presence of the artist's shaky hand. Titmarsh is a collagist whose background in film making is signaled not only by the careful arrangement of elements, as in the film editing technique, but also in the continuation of his many thematic concerns.
This show, as well as his contributions to Perspecta, is significant for the emergence of his newfound painterly exuberance. A viewer of Titmarsh's work in recent years would no doubt be confronted by the basic technique he had used to convey his ideas. To use the most straightforward technique is to foreground the content over the style. Here, however, we find that Titmarsh has begun his most painterly period thus far. We are confronted with some intriguing problems.
Titmarsh has stated that he does not wish his work to be discussed within the context of appropriation and quotation. This leaves me with no option but to contemplate the surface of these paintings and I find an amusingly benign face looking back at me. These works speak so strongly of their maker's hand that it seems almost impossible to regard them as anything more than texts to be deciphered. There are surfaces here that express a love of painting but it seems that works painted with acrylic and not oils can only reference to that particular amour. In Titmarsh's work the ironic and the sincere co-exist happily and make a strange combination. Titmarsh seems to be entering a period that will leave behind the illustrative nature of his earlier pieces and move into a period that will allow both the narrative and plastic possibilities of the painterly surface to exist within the same framework.
Titmarsh is a sincere ironist, celebrating his own subjectivity and placing himself within the arthistorical lineage but includes Picabia, Picasso, Nitzsche, the Minimalists of the 1960's and The Beastie Boys. It's an eclectic range of forebears that an artist must gather to make sense out of one's contemporary surroundings and to some this may seem infuriatingly obscure, but it is to Titmarsh's credit that he is able to synthesise these elements into a personal voice.
By loading these works with so much visual information one is confronted with many possible readings. On the one hand there is the art-historical referencing and on the other there seems to be Titmarsh's emerging tendency to the art object: to create that which is desirable both as an aesthetic object and that which speaks with a narrative voice. The frission created by the disparity between his seemingly obtuse intentionality within the textual reference and the works as aesthetic objects is confronting because of this very disparity. I'm not arguing for some easily readable exposition or to simply gaze open mouthed at the beautiful object: I am wondering, perhaps, about focus. As Titmarsh learns the skill of the painter he is in danger of forgetting what the beginnings of his work were.
Titmarsh is at a point of change. Not only in his work but also as an exhibiting artist. I would argue that what has made Titmarsh's work so interesting thus far is not the qualities of the paint but his willingness to bring forth subject matter and reference points that few of his contemporaries are willing to do. I am sure that Titmarsh is aware of these problems and perhaps I am overstating the case but nevertheless to become an ironist living behind some obscurist cloud is much the same as saying nothing. What Titmarsh says is both pleasurable and challenging. It would be a pity to lose.