'Temptation' (detail), 2010, by Timothy Alfred Cantor b.1969, oil on arches imported paper
"Temptation" Formations from Fears
He asks that cruel question of what might be?
Striking deliberately at his own anxiety, Tim Cantor frequently renders indications of personal fears within his paintings. Slight fears. Stark fears. All his many fears, subtly weaved as salient traits inside his compositions. While he tactfully concedes his unrests under the whispers of refinement, there are, likewise, depictions in which he bluntly lets us know exactly what his anguish is. Time. Death. Loss. These are the prevalent concerns that arrive naturally in the human condition, and likely broaden within Tim Cantor's pensive imagination. Yet, there are more, less easy to define. Deeper affairs that are submerged within his works of art. Fears that dwell everlastingly in the subconscious, more dominant than all else. He captures a boundless anxiety that burns in the sights of temptation, and in the heartbreaking thoughts of disappointment; of failure, of weakness, of making choices that might ultimately lead to regret, or even wound the ones we adore. These are the fears that both torment and strengthen our worthy bones. They make us human. They prove our love.
Forthright or vague, fear is an ever present element tinged within a Tim Cantor painting. The subject is profound and complex, for fear is an infinite emotion, suffered infinite ways, different for everyone, and categorically undefinable. Shapeless. However, a fear, in the mind of an artist, can generate countless visions of fate. For Tim Cantor, the distress acts curiously as both hurdle and motivation. Unsought-for as they may be, it is his fears that kindle reflections that birth so many of his painted works.
This said, his imagery most often steers the unfavorable recoils of fear toward an inconstant yet optimistically beautiful outcome, be it at the mercy of the viewer. Regardless, Tim Cantor carries a belief, deep within his blood, that being afraid is indeed a testimony of life. Indirect as it may be, the emotion in itself confirms that he cares. Cares greatly. Cares intensely. He ties his fears to ambition, to knowledge, and above of all, he ties his fears to love. If he had no cares, no love, he'd have not fear. As well, he'd walk a frigid path of no passion nor purpose. Emotionless. Therefore, as difficult and unwanted as it can be to be afraid, that same fear is likewise a validation of his will to live. This wisdom of fact has brought Tim Cantor to accept his fears as a form of privilege. Understanding the paradoxical manner in which they gift the awareness of craving life has opened his arms to embracing their incited illusions.
As Tim Cantor's fears are linked to his affinities, presumably, it would be likely to find examples of this topic within nearly every one of his works. Even in his earliest oil painting of a dark sea, painted when he was just five years old, one could view its daunting tenor as an execution of his basic childhood anxieties. Indeed, he would be oblivious to discerning his own emotions at such an age, but perhaps the painting shows an inherent, unreserved, fear of spacial darkness and turbulent waters that comes from his youth of sailing with his father? One could speculate that a dying tree Tim Cantor painted at age eleven might portray an emerging awareness of time and death? But it is within his later paintings that we see a change of understanding. Profound change. A grasp on awareness that burgeoned with adulthood. Contrary to that of a child's fears, which intrinsically demonstrate a survival disposition, the manner changes as one ages and grows to care more for those around them; care for their families, their loved ones, for their children. Their wife.
Fear; it grows imposingly with love. Distinct appearances of this stirring infusion began to emerge within so many of Tim Cantor's matured paintings — paintings created thereafter his twenty-first year when he first met his soon-to-be wife Amy. Paintings like The Instrumentalist; an elegant work, portraying the unmistakable likeness of Amy. She plays the main subject in Tim Cantor's imagined tale of a scene through time, or perhaps reincarnation? Whatever the precise meaning, The Instrumentalist is, at its heart, a semblance of hope. Hope that no matter the sway of events that might end life before its time — be it struggle, illness, or even war — we carry out our destiny and follow our true love, even if it need be within that of another existence. Though it is a ballad-driven, illusionary story, The Instrumentalist is undeniably spurred by the fear of loss. The fear of finality. Fear that rises from the intense love that the artist senses for his bride.
Systems of belief; religions, myths, and notions like the dramatic tale of reincarnation portrayed within The Instrumentalist are, to Tim Cantor, principally novelesque. They are fascinations that inspire concepts for paintings and writings. Oftentimes, they are hopes. Yet, he knows the difference between hope and conviction. In many ways, this has been an aging internal conflict. His broad-outlook stifles his certainty in any one faith. Yet, while that same intellect tells him that, if he did indeed hold onto one conclusive belief, one that upheld the sureness of an afterlife, perhaps his taunting anxieties of time would slacken. For, as love magnifies his fears of death, faith would surely lessen it. However, irrefutable faith, as a remedy, is not something he can simply conjure up. He tries. He hopes. He prays. Yet his prayers point not to the faith that someone is listening, but to the 'hope' that someone is. And so he is left within his apparent truth. His quandary is love, which bears the blame of his heightened fears — fears that thrive owing to this love, and nothing to lessen their affliction. Nothing, save the uncertainty of hope. Hope that he paints as people, as trees, as bees and pomegranates, as strings and odd scenes and as the infinite points and that possess a man in love.
Though anxiety is an inevitable certainty that lives within the heart of a person in love, it is, as well, an essential constituent of anyone who has passion for life. To care is to fear. These emotions feed off of each other, grow with one another and gain strength, simultaneously. Every Man's Struggle is an effect of this course, and another restless Tim Cantor composition that yields this discerning complexity. This small painting that barely measures the width of one's hand, reigns intensely for its modest size. Elderly, fierce, and focused, the disquieted subject epitomizes the very root of tension. His hand clenches tight; a sapient feature that Tim Cantor rendered to illustrate unease and anxiety. Scribed on the backdrop, below a shattered pane, reads a notable quote from Thomas Hobbs "Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes," which translates loosely as "every man's war against every man." This phrase inspires a fearful notion that human nature rests on a delicate balance. The slightest slip may set in motion the worst of occurrences. Valid or not, Tim interpreted this as an internal battle. One man's internal battle. For, in his painting, "Every man" is indeed, one man. The choice to live in anger or to live at peace, is that one's own to make. Negativity, pain, hatred and havoc will always surround us, will always be a part of life, a part of human nature. Do you let its fingers grab hold? Do you let it scratch and sink into your skin? Or do you fight it? Perhaps you pay it no heed? This painted image is your answer. What is it that you see? A man of wrath? A man on edge? A man at peace?
Intentional or not, these weighty questions have weaved in and out of the artist's works all through his adulthood. Pretenders is a painting Tim Cantor conceptualized while still in his twenties, and overtly confronts the juxtaposition of fear and affection, ostensibly giving a colourable resolution to the contradiction. The early figure is a vein in the leaf of what Tim Cantor's dimensional works would grow into over the following years. With that said, Pretenders holds the artist's evolution in its portrayal. Though the stylization of the figure was, to some extent, a progeny of immaturity, it exposed the beginnings of a more complex perception. Limitations never veered Tim Cantor from his intentions. His intentions, too, were pressing on to vigilant, multifaceted extents. They were becoming far more intricate. Sophisticated. Forcing his hand to advance in proficiency. As was his endeavor behind Pretenders. Intensely facing off with a Chinese inspired festal dragon, the feminine subject shrouds her fear through the telling of deception. The notion being that, since fear is liable to change, perhaps living with the stronghold of telling oneself that they are not afraid, though initially untrue, eventually becomes truth. Facing ones fear is conceivably the only way to overcome that fear, or, in this case, grow to crave it.
Straightforward, complex, or something in between, Tim Cantor finds a way to delineate his emotions into all of his paintings. For him, it is inevitable. His unrelenting enthusiasm commands his work to have meaning and purpose. To study any one of his images is to unravel a puzzle of philosophical depth. The examples are wide ranging, and as we bend the branch of anxiety within the artist's eloquent paintings, there is one that cannot be overlooked. Created when Tim Cantor turned thirty-nine years of age, and aptly titled Temptation, there is a culmination of truth and fear that finds its most broad range within this loose oil painting. The image, less articulate as it may appear, is the artist's unabridged means of encompassing every anxiety, every weakness, and every luring urge into a single told semblance.
Uniquely created in oil on an imported French rag paper, the painting wages temptation as a whole. Fear in its boundless ways. Rather than attempt to define each concern individually, Tim has painted temptation itself, as a single simplistic object — a bottle. Creased on this bottle is the rudimentary contour of a question mark. This bottle, it holds any and all desires. This bottle — a demon of need, a vessel of truth, a test of will. Whatever be it that haunts your appetite dwells within this brusquely painted carafe. To open it, to sniff it, drink it or just glance inside would be a surrender to its lure, regardless of consequence. Here lies its roving link to fear. Consequence.
Consequence is the lifeblood of all our fears, and it lives in the suspense of a gazing character that Tim Cantor has, by design, rendered androgynous, yet aged enough to know from right and wrong. This could be you, this could be me, this could be whomsoever one might see as they sense this paintings unlimited scope of speculation. The paintings power is its simplicity. One figure. One bottle. A thousand and one questions.
A thousand and one. Just one more question remains as we cross the craving dyed face of this quizzical painting — who belongs the hand that serves up this temptation? Directly modeled from his own right hand, Tim Cantor studied and posed, looking, then grasping his pencil or brush, and quickly drawing what he saw. But why not his left hand? This, for a right-handed painter would seem far more natural and greatly less laboured. Yet, he was adamant. This part of the painting was to be, undoubtedly, his own right hand. Be it for the painting's sake, or his personal regard, he willed this question to be served up by his own restless soul.
For us, he left it free for our convictions. Could this be the hand of our own searching self? Perhaps it's the hand of one we love or loved in the past or lost or seen on the streets and never forgot? Could this be the ghost of regret? Of remorse? Of one who died? Of words unsaid? Could it be God? Never has there been a painting so simple in its subject, yet so plump full of quandary. Knowing its nature, there is not a soul in the world who could not relate.
Tim Cantor, admittedly, merely scratches the surface of what his painting could signify to an individual — of what questions it may pose. In his poetic writing for Temptation, he cites anger, religion, lust, jealousy, greed, narcissism, violence, and all that may relate to the snare of desire. Yet, he precedes every one of those relentless inclinations by marking that "Temptation" is far too testing to define. It is unspecific in a comprehensive way, yet very specific to the individual. Temptation, inside that bottle, is different for you than me.
Nonetheless, he does leave us a solution, or in part, his own personal reparation to fight the leery hand of temptation — his one resolute means to decipher between the wickedness and righteousness of his desires. A death blow to doubt, and a decision-making force when faced with choice — when faced with fear. He merely asks himself one question, one honest question: Will it hurt the ones he loves?
'Temptation,' 2010 oil on arches paper
'The Instrumentalist' 2006, oil on wood panel
'The Instrumentalist,' concept III, (detail)
'Everyman's Struggle' (detail), 2009 oil on wood panel
'Pretenders,' 2004, oil on board
'Temptation,' concept VII (detail)
'Temptation II,' (detail) 2010, oil on wood panel
'Temptation,' concept VIII (detail)
Find out more
Temptation: descriptive poem
Read one of Tim Cantor's most profound poems for this painting, and uncover his one simple answer to an infinite question.
List of descriptive poems & writings
Pore over the many written narratives the Tim Cantor writes to interpret his paintings, sometimes straightforward, and so often abstract.
Drawings & Conceptual: works
Browse Tim Cantor's original concept works that are currently offered. Many have fascinating particulars to discover.