This text was written in response to Tim Nickodemus' exhibition Megatherium at Alderman Exhibitions in April 2012.
Tim Nickodemus is a probing man. Physically, he is long and sinewy with large, luminous eyes, looking the part of a kind of sensitive human instrument. When you speak with him, Tim listens with a steady intensity, processing swiftly, turning even banal exchanges into insightful and witty conversation. Tim’s wit, in both quality and velocity, is nothing short of astonishing, and it provides a glimpse of the dynamic and responsive mind behind those eyes, a kinetic core that allows Tim to absorb input and process concomitantly, and to raise both perceiving and expressing to rarefied levels of precision and cleverness.
It is this rarefied processing that I see in these paintings, which are neither records of observation nor internal expressions, but seem to be more like sedimentary evidence of his thinking and reflecting in action. Representational forms cohere occasionally in the works but they are wholly absorbed in the proto-semiotic soup of brush marks that aggregate, cohere, and conflict across the canvases.
When Tim spoke about his exhibition to a large and rapt audience during the show’s run at Alderman Exhibitions, he supplemented his words with videos documenting fragments of his experiences in Italy, whose crumbling frescoes partially motivated Megatherium. I remember ample footage focused squarely on Tim’s feet walking, aerial views of his oblong shoes plodding across the earth in confident and unhurried steps. It is hard not to draw a parallel between his shoes and his brushes, seeing these canvases as another kind of environment and dragging a pigmented brush as another kind of walking.
Indeed, there is a parallel processing at play here, where working in the studio is a transmutation of living in the world. Tim himself describes his art as being what happens when “the experience comes home.” He references photos he’s snapped and drawings he’s made of objects and spaces along his path that have “jumped out” at him (again, his words), as though various elements of the observable endeavor to make an impact on him. There is a lot of bravery in his manner of working, of being so open to the unpredictable nudging of inspiration and the discordant clanging of contexts and concepts against each other (exhibit A: a prehistoric giant sloth meets Italian frescoes). Somehow, each painting must be a new space with its own physics, a fresh territory for the exploration to remain real and not performed. We see the success of that intention in the sheer variety of “compositions,” a word quite inaccurate here as it connotes a plan for spatial arrangement, whereas I think these works are evidence of a marked lack of such a plan.
The great pleasure of experiencing these paintings, for me, lies in the hapless attempts at retracing Tim’s footsteps. The brush marks are often easy enough to discern, opaque and discrete as they tend to be. But what remains a mystery is the complex geometry that connects Tim’s reference points in the walkable world to the psychoemotional presence behind each stroke. Looking at Tim’s paintings is not like talking to him; it’s more intimate and more opaque at the same time. By clearing out the tangible, the speakable, his paintings isolate the nervy and vulnerable space between what the senses catch and what they project back out. Those two points, the beginning and the end of experience, are graciously given to us to discern as we slowly reanimate the works with our own sensitive human instruments.