Open Frequency 2009: Tim Machin selected by Michael Stanley

Open Frequency 2009: Tim Machin selected by Michael Stanley Tim Machin, Mountains, 2005. Cut newspaper. 5cm x 35cm x 20cm

Michael Stanley selects the work of Tim Machin

One can imagine that much of Tim Machin’s time is spent turning the pages of the daily broadsheets, a hot mug of tea caressed in one hand, steaming a nearby window pane to create a cloud of condensation and a trickle of vapour, whilst rolling in his other a perfect sphere of blue tack. One can also imagine that making Machin’s art is a little like experiencing it – the deadening humdrum of the passing of time and then the sudden jolt, the sudden epiphany.

Much of Machin’s art takes its cue from these everyday moments of being witness to the passage of time, and the daily newspaper has figured prominently as his diaristic medium and source material. Economic graphs charting the rise and fall of multi-national stocks and shares are delicately removed from the finance pages to form diminutive paper sculptures evoking the summits and valleys of a new and fragile mountainous terrain (‘Mountains’, 2005). Crossword puzzles become the support structure for heavily impregnated chalk drawings and newspaper margins are ‘coerced’ into a horizon line at eye-level (that expands and contracts specific to the gallery space within which it is installed). Machin works, almost forensically, to find narratives and logics that seem to locate themselves within the fibres of the printed page. It is no surprise therefore that his recent contribution to an artist’s anthology took the form of a deconstructed Victorian detective novel. Indeed, his work seems to evoke in many ways, through smell and texture, the ubiquitous cloth-bound A5 book and the ‘democratisation’ of literature that was such a feature of the prolific Victorian printing presses; books on natural history, scientific data and of course anthologies of poems and manifestos of the great Romantics. Machin seems to conflate the encyclopaedic and empirical with the phenomenological and intuitive – the profound with the whimsical.

Allusions to landscape, nature and the escape of Romanticism figure prominently – brooding skies, suggested horizons, soaring birds, snow and even rainbows, are brought to mind with a deft touch. Acknowledgement of the enduring prevalence of landscape imagery and its often hollow promise as orchestrated by the agencies of advertising, media and tourism are playfully explored. Machin’s use and continual return to the picture postcard for instance, sometimes doctored with correction fluid, are tinged with both melancholy and humour. As is his ‘Untitled (Snow)’(2007), in which Machin has extracted the artificial snow flakes from dozens of snow domes purchased from the one single tourist gift shop outside Madam Tussauds to create a glittering pool on the gallery floor. And similarly, in ‘Birds’ (2006), Machin cuts out the silhouettes of over 400 birds from a publication that instructs the reader to recognise various species by the way in which they fly, adhering them to the wall in a manner akin to the decorative spirals of a Richard Wright drawing. There is an honest economy and a most pragmatic of means in Machin’s art – not tokenistic, nor trivialised but a desire to see the very humble and modest elevated to a higher status.

Michael Stanley, May 2009

Artist's biography

Tim Machin (born 1978, Sheffield) studied at the Ruskin School of Fine Art, University of Oxford (1996-1999) and Wimbledon School of Art (2001-2002). Shortlisted for the Jerwood Drawing Prize (2001) and Becks Futures (2006), he won the Aspex Gallery’s Emergency2 prize and had a solo exhibition at the Portsmouth-based gallery in 2007.

Recent exhibitions include Between Tracks, Badhaus, St Gallen, Switzerland (2009) and during 2008 100 Years, 100 Artists, 100 Works of Art, Platform for Art, Rochelle School, London; Eskimo Boys Still Eat Whale Blubber, Rhysandhannahpresents, Bristol; NAVIGATOR, The Royal Standard, Liverpool; The Golden Record, Collective Gallery, Edinburgh; The Collection, Lincoln; Swap / Vaihto, Bureau, Manchester and The Cable Factory, Helsinki; A Discreet Music, International 3, Manchester. 

Machin lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire and is represented by Bureau, Salford.

About Michael Stanley

Michael Stanley is Director of Modern Art Oxford, one of the country’s leading venues for the presentation of international contemporary art. Previously he worked as Director of Milton Keynes Gallery (2004 – 2009) where he was responsible for two Turner Prize nominated exhibitions; Yeah…, baby you! by Phil Collins and Cathy Wilkes in 2008, as well as a range of first UK solo exhibitions including Roger Hiorns and Phillip Allen and by international artists including Pae White, Carlos Amorales, Carlos Bunga and Adrian Paci. Most recently he curated the widely acclaimed survey exhibition of work by Marcel Broodthaers and an exhibition of work by the late James Lee Byars. He has also introduced new strands of programming including offsite projects by Johanna Billing, Wolfgang Weileder and Langlands & Bell.

As Curator at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2002-2004) he curated the Turner Prize nominated exhibition by Anya Gallaccio, as well as the critically acclaimed exhibition by George Shaw; What I Did this Summer. He has worked with international venues and artists creating collaborations, including SMAK, K29, St. Gallen, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneve, MUDAM, Luxembourg and Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama.

Michael previously worked as Curator of Art at Compton Verney (2000-2002) where he took the lead curatorial role in developing a series of major projects including Aleksandra Mir and the capital development of the gallery which opened in 2004. He also founded an independent commissioning organisation called epilogue (1997–2001) where he curated non-gallery exhibitions such as Tabley (2000).

Michael received a First Class Honours degree from the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University (1992-1995). He is a Trustee of The Contemporary Art Society, a school governor and married with three young children.

Open Frequency keeps you in touch with new developments in contemporary art practice from across the UK. The artists are selected and profiled by leading curators, artists and writers, presenting the work of artists to watch out for over the coming year. Open Frequency represents a forward-looking glance today of the artists who will be setting the agenda tomorrow.