Tim Clorius: Conversation Pieces at Aucocisco Galleries in Portland, Maine (through June 11) presents one side of one of the most interesting young artists to surface in Maine in a long time. Using the tagger name Subone, Clorius is an internationally known aerosol artist, using graffiti or street art as a way to inspire young people to find creative ways to express themselves and engage their communities. As a studio artist, however, Clorius paints strange little oils that seem part Magritte surrealism and part 18th century British genre painting, while remaining resolutely contemporary.
The Aucocisco show features 30 of the mostly small oil paintings Clorius calls “conversation pieces” in the British tradition of informal group portraits and scenes of daily life.
“Generally my paintings depict staged scenarios reminiscent of theatrical sets,” Clorius wrote a few years ago on the occasion of another Portland show. “Often times I include the stage curtains or some other type of framework into the scene, using it as a prop or to remind the viewer that he/she is looking at a purposefully ‘constructed’ reality.”
A larger-than-life aerosol painting of an eye hangs in the Aucocisco window on Exchange St., offering a glimpse of the street artist, but the 30 oils inside the gallery evidence the peculiar sensibility of a painter with a strange sense of color (various hues of fire come to mind), an active sense of art history, an ascerbic sense of humor, and a passionate engagement with the social and personal aspects of life.
Most of the paintings present cryptic, enigmatic little scenarios and dramas, the meanings of which might easily elude a viewer. Some are easily solvable, such as “Josef Albers Painting a Landscape,” a kind of visual one-liner in which the painter stands in a verdant natural landscape and paints a square.
I don’t think I would have ever gotten close to intent of my favorite painting in the show, however, had not the artist explained a bit about it to me. “Kuerbis Kreuzung” (“Pumpkin Crossing” in German) depicts a man standing on a railroad bridge leaning on a pumpkin that is bigger than he is. Clorius told me that when he painted this arresting little image he was thinking about Monsanto and the implications of the genetic engineering of plants.
Given the ideosyncratic nature of Clorius’ ideas and images, it’s probably enough just to say that in some paintings, such as a portrait of his family, he is expressing personal loves, concerns and fears, while in others, such as a picture of a lighthouse, the light beam of which is bent unnaturally, he is expressing concerns, fears, and oblique criticisms of modern life. The lighthouse painting is entitled “Offshore Banking.”
Another of my personal favorites is “Artist At Work,” a small oil of what look to be a pair of Spanish conquistadors on horseback (horses feature prominently in Clorius’s fictive imagination)being lead through the wilds by a third, dismounted man. Whether anyone would view this as an allegory of the artist, the art dealer, and the art collector is qustionable, but that’s what Clorius intends. Whether you get the implied meaning or not, all of Tim Clorius’s paintings are glorious little objects, investigations of existence by an agile mind.
Tim Clorius grew up in Heidelberg, Germany, and came to this country in 1998 to study first at the School of Visual Art in New York and then at Maine College of Art.He says the little studio paintings force him to slow down and contemplate after the big, broad gestures of his street art.
“The action is in the fingers not the arms,” he says of the difference between easel paintig and street painting.
Despite his unconventional approach to maintaining a public and a private art practice, Tim Clorius actually embraces a perfectly conventional view of painting.
“I believe a good painting is a beautiful, handcrafted, one of a kind object, which in some ways has a life of its own and holds within it a story, like a safe does valuable.”
Get to Aucocisco and see if you can unlock some of the secrets of Tim Clorius’s offbeat allegories.
[Aucocisco Galleries, 89 Exchange St., Portland ME, 207-775-222.]