The centre-piece of Tim Price’s painting show in the back room at Utopian Slumps appears to be Backyard open city, which is the idyll, a utopian idea of a painted backyard. Happy painter, crafty as he is, all-consumed by his perspective of the scene. There, deep in middle-class contemplation, a responsibility to be cynical seems to arise.
The other three paintings will take you further afield of the pastoral. We’ll never be any good gives us a big old shit on an aeroplane apparently pushing aside a Francis Bacon self-portrait while Gina’s Dad surveys the Pilbara. More topical oddities occur in Bonus points, which shows a politician or miner with armed guards chilling with Aboriginal elders. Lastly, 500 ml mother brings us all home to the domestic lounge room where a deflated figure passes out as another figure sets up in front of a mirror/tablet to ponder their own worth. These are contemporary happenings rendered introspectively, caught in frame, making for a wholesome image for the artist. The paintings’ characters and situations suggest there is political observation without a pronounced message—perhaps it’s hidden in code. This could be frustrating to some, as if not quite enough: ‘Why go there and not go all the way?’ But within the ideal of Prices’s painting, the actual painting comes first and the political subtext later in a way that might prompt further enquiry and conversation.
While these paintings are deep, luminous and virtuosic, they are not conventionally fine. The aesthetic has a strewn-all-overness. They look quick, spilt, but equally can be considered slowly. The space is either beautifully defined or obliterated. The thin layers of cheap acrylic retain the texture of the canvas and allow Price to play with notions of painting as luxury.
Here, painting is backyard shed jams where the artist embeds himself within the world and keeps outside conversations rolling. In the tone of the late Robert Hughes, I conclude: Luxury goods as they are, there is a luxury they are not afforded.
Timothy Price, Nice painting, nice price, Utopian Slumps, Melbourne, 9 February – 2 March 2013.