TIME PRESSES ON RELUCTANTLY, BUT ITS SCRATCHED DAYS ARE NOT BURIED,
ON EXHIBITION NOW
THE TIM CANTOR GALLERY
527 FOURTH AVENUE, SAN DIEGO
IN THE HEART OF THE HISTORIC GASLAMP QUARTER
not without purpose. It is the past that scrolls out the stories of who and what we are. It is the past; the years, days, even just seconds ago, that draw the lines on the paper to this moment. It is the past that defines us. For Tim Cantor, those lines are drawn visible, in paint and lead, out in the open, laid bare for speculation and opinion. But for this shy artist, exposure is the contradiction that incites him. He flourishes on sharing his paintings with others—filled with gratification if you like them, and likely devastated if you don't. And though the isolation required to create those paintings has fueled his personal timidity and anxiety, it never slows him from pushing forth and broadcasting his obsession. On this 50th year of Tim Cantor's life, his art continues to be ever dynamic, inconsistent, and a riddle to define. But the riddle of him is at hand; framed and painted and written in view. More than ever, he spills open his soul, and proves that the years have not clipped his imagination.
Perhaps, in his recent chapter leading to this Yesteryear exhibition, we find ties, both subtly and clearly, to his pressing desire to grow and to seek more eyes upon his paintings. For nearly a decade, Tim and Amy have been hunting throughout Europe to open a second gallery of their own—one that Tim could shape in a likewise fashion to his existing San Diego gallery. It was an inevitable path for the independent nature of Tim Cantor's unique presentation of his art. From the display of his paintings, to the poems he writes for them, to the music and narration of his words that echo throughout the gallery, his is an extraordinary act of presentation on multiple levels. Finding beautiful spaces in Paris, Florence, Sorrento, and even Venice Italy, they were always halted by logistics and, moreover, help. They could not leave their cherished San Diego gallery, and trusting his work in the hands of others was difficult. Throughout the years, Tim and Amy had shared their plight with a close friend, Mister Hollis Cash. Hollis, with his birth year the same and just months away from Tim, had a timely desire for a change in his life as well. He began to help on the hunt. Ultimately, Tim decided on a beautiful 17th century structure in the heart of Amsterdam. At once, Hollis did indeed change his life, selling all his earthly possessions and making a fresh start, he moved to Amsterdam in support of this dream.
And so, just months before Tim Cantor celebrated his 50th birthday, the Amsterdam location had opened. In this milestone - in his new works - we see and read connections to his dreams and passions coming to fruition. We feel the ties to his past, pulled by his desperate need to grow. We feel his joy. We feel his fear.
Feeling the artist’s emotions, and understanding his senses, is one of the shining graces we receive when looking at Tim Cantor's paintings. Elusive as they are, we are granted explanation. Though the artist’s explanations themselves sometimes swell the mystery, the meaning is always present, bridged by the words to the painting of which they are wed.
What seems like chaos is, in truth, careful abstractions rendered in pensive detail. These thorough depictions, however, remain fit for theory as they lace through so many different minds that all respond uniquely. And while Tim Cantor's curious paintings seem more unfathomable than ever, his writings bring to light what it is that he is sharing. Or at the very least, they give a nudge in the right direction.
Each Tim Cantor painting is its own formulation with its own inspiration. Rarely is one coupled with another by intention. However, in his Yesteryear collection there is, in fact, one story that finds way into a small grouping of his new paintings. They are linked to a single encounter as Tim followed his wife Amy into an antique shop in Florence, Italy. He was strangely drawn to a vintage stuffed bear, slumped upon a chair. One hundred plus years old, this bear was battered and full of dust and problems. Tim imagined it would make for an interesting object to paint into a still life. He dotted it into his memory. But as he grew more fascinated, more thoughtful about this simple thing, he listened to the story the shop owner told about a man who came in weeks before. Eighty at least. He brought with him all his childhood attachments, this bear being his most. His, since he was three.
That bit of information, be what it may, flooded Tim Cantor with the notion of time. Things are special to Tim. And though he was first lured to this bear for an otherwise purpose, he had grown inspired by far more than just its outer threads. Its back story, what little there was, haunted his thoughts with ideas of the past, and the timeline of things we love. They live on, through change, through night and day and the years bygone. The drama of his wandering mind played out a history of his own making, propelling the most unlikely of metaphors, and ultimately, painting the most unlikely of paintings.
At least seven paintings arrived from this antiquated doll. Varied meanings attached to each one, but the bond that links these paintings is their heed to the past, and to youth, and to all the struggles and blessings of aging. The diverse and heavy explanations the artist places upon these paintings may, to some, contradict the imagery. Perhaps even greatly. But contradiction is the nature of Tim Cantor's themes, and has always been his condition—it is this unpredictable spirit that sustains a continual fascination for those drawn to his art.
So many of his new paintings express the artist's gripping hold to memories and stories, and how they are transformed in his mind and romanticized with exceptional attention. Perhaps the subject of time is one that has always preyed upon him. Or perhaps it is directly related to the release of these particular paintings on his 50th year? Feather & Hail is a painting that distinguishes the ultimate in opposition—an endearing toy bear hovers aloft, in the forefront, as a house, ripped from its foundation, floats in the not-so-distant background.
Tim Cantor has latched the history of war to this painting's translation. Questioning all things of grave accounts; most of which is the uncertainty of whether we should share such terrible tales with our children, as lessons, or hide the malice of mankind from their innocence?
The Praise of Ages takes a more decisive route. In this painting we see a girl in the prime of aging, with all of life's options ahead of her. In the artist's writing, he asks her to take guidance and good judgment from her elders. He asks her to be observant of their knowledge and struggles, and to see past the disregard that so often befalls upon the elderly. He asks her to acknowledge that
her elders love her and would fend and fight for her. And he asks her to respect the wisdom that exists within their fading voices. The Praise of Ages is a painting that all Mothers, Fathers, Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents, and anyone who truly cares for their young, might share with their children.
The intricately detailed architecture that Tim Cantor paints into some of his new compositions is astonishing. No tools or straight edges of any kind, other than a steady hand with a single detail brush lightly laden with oil paint, is used to create these finely rendered subjects. Each one, anew, holding tight to their separate meanings. Some are undefined, as is the floating palace in his oddly alluring painting titled Good Fortune. Some are clearly defined like Feather & Hail’s volitant home that portrays war throughout history. These structures, in most of the artist's paintings, usually take a supportive role in the story he is telling. However, in Ravenous Name, his critically precise, torn-from-its-roots, mansion, takes center stage. The home itself represents the artist's dire and infinite passion. It represents, for all practical purposes, the artist himself. Picked up by a tornado of his own making, he (the house) hovers in the sky. Its intricate pieces, painstakingly detailed, struggle to keep from tearing apart. And the harrowing question lurks: How long can it remain in this state? If it comes down, will it wreck into a million pieces, lost forever? Or will it land and stay firm, planted forever in history?
More paintings arise in this collection that stand independent, unrelated in theme. But that has always been Tim Cantor's path—attempting to keep a thread that ties his paintings together as a whole—but scattered they are, just like his mind. Perhaps the chaos is, after all, the link. Love, as ever, drifts into many. Love for Amy. Her portrait has arrived again, both abstract and clearly defined. Ballad & Shield is, most certainly, clearly defined. Her absolute soul and semblance is ingrained in this painting, as it not only reflects her appearance with precision, it portrays her strength, dedication, and protective nature. Tim writes of her truth. Loved by her family since birth, and loved by him throughout life. Yet, even though she was born into a harmonious existence, she has grown so strong in life, and would uphold her artist’s adoration with all resilience.
Love as well drapes the showpiece titled Undenied, which, by all seeming appearances, must be a portrayal of the artist and his wife, or indeed, a figurative of their enduring romance. This is the opposite to Ballad & Shield, whereas Amy is delivered not as the brave soldier, but as the ballerina she will always be to Tim. In the rapture of dance, the artist holds tight to his wife, protective and proud. This theatric painting mirrors the precious existence of their marriage. Completely devoted to each other with a quality of innocence that surrounds them, blind to the world's discord, as they spin through life with freedom and focus and passion driving them.
The dramatic sway of Tim Cantor continues to unfold in his art. He twists his fictional fears into works like One I Love, in which he plays out an operatic scene of dire need. Birds, and the hidden face of his subject, are metaphors for untold thoughts. The sharp mindful lines of the figure contrast the impressionistic background, adding to the pronouncement of importance of the soul he paints. As we notice this differentiated style, we see it again, but in the bold counterpose of paintings, L'Voyageur, as a monkey stares to the sky, on display, trained and pained by willpower. Diversity blossoms once again in these vastly different, yet connected, newly born paintings.
We cannot conclude this forward without the mention of Tim Cantor’s new painting, The Calm Before. This composition and its profound meaning, painted to be housed within a rare 19th century carved Louis XV frame, is likely to form an important place in the artist's history. A young nun, slouched and tired, rests on a chair of stone. One could say that this work is based on the study of humankind, and symbolizes an honest unspoken truth—a truth that states the claim; that rarely is anything wholeheartedly selfless. The intricacy of The Calm Before is that it portrays not only benevolence, but the defeated sense of being unappreciated for kindness, and furthermore, the quintessential overcoming of the feelings of discontent. The reality of charity is, so often, a trade. The recipient receives help, while the giver receives personal fulfillment and acknowledgment. Without that appreciation, how many would continue to be self-sacrificing? This is the question of true selflessness, and this image highlights that deliberation, but moreover, portrays the struggle and fatigue of what it is to be authentically giving. The surface of this work looks and feels as if it is from another time, yet its complexity is blunt, profound, and ageless.
By and by, even as Tim Cantor crosses the half century mark, we are once again enthralled by this living artist who continues to bring spirited new paintings into our world—each one created with righteous vigor to gain historical importance. With that said, no one can predict the sway of days to come, but we can, without a doubt, avow that each one of Tim Cantor's paintings is made of meaning, extraordinary artistry, and undeniable affection. Yesteryear is the culmination of 50 years of a perpetually maturing passion. It is the finest of art from a man of understanding, in love, who paints and writes both philosophically and from the heart, and yet never lets go of the child within, full of life and new to it all.