'Like Child, Like Man' (detail), 2009, by Timothy Alfred Cantor b.1969, oil on wood panel


"Like Child, Like Man"and the multiple meanings of truth

Perhaps Tim Cantor had no choice but to become his own narrator, inevitably growing to be equally acknowledged as a writer as he is a painter.  Without his personal descriptions, his paintings would likely never find their true connections.  They are simply too distant.  His poems, however, bridge the divide and turn his refined paintings into phenomenal psychological treasures.  However, even within his own poetic portrayals, we occasionally find him at a loss for definitive explanations.  That said, confusion itself can be just as enthralling as clarity when it is accepted as such.  Sometimes, surrendering to uncertainty is the only genuine resolution.


Wise to concede, Tim Cantor has kept mindful not to be baited into concocting fabricated meanings where they are undetermined.  Rather, he will explore the undefined reflections of what might be mulling about in his mind as he looks upon his own creation, even when he, himself, is perplexed.  In that respect, we our compelled to bring forth The Fragility, a prominently graceful painting that Tim Cantor has scurried about for explanation.  Giving us three possibilities, and countless riddles, he depicts in detail the semblance of a mother and infant that, because of this painting's articulate rendering, seems to be illustrating a single specific intention.  But, after thorough consideration, it is not.


It may be that a lone consequence would go against its objective. Perhaps this is where we find proof that a painting can succeed with more than one story inside its pigment.  As we define The Fragility through the artist's words, we are given flexibility and choices, because, in this case, Tim Cantor has not fully decided himself.  It could be a suitable temptation to choose one explanation and follow it through with a conclusive point of view.  However, if clarity does not exist, then to pretend it does would be a lie.  And so, we, as the viewer, must appreciate honesty as a role of the painting’s presence.


With that said, the presence within The Fragility ― a modern day Madonna and Child ― holds three wondrous scenarios that Tim Cantor has posed, giving us multiple meanings to all the elements within his arrangement.  The halo that circles around burns away with time.  It is also a symbol of life and time, and its fire is our fortitude.  The ring may too be, as described once again, the uniting link between all of life.  The child and woman are the infancy and maturity of one person; they are mother and child; they are altogether aspiration and faith.   Even the red of the curtain that drapes the full setting is, in Cantor's descriptive poem, at once, directly theatrical, at once unity, and again at once it represents hope.  The choice is ours to accept a sole meaning, waver between them all, elect our favorite, or, as always, see our own story in its tinted sight.


This despondency of three perspectives that Tim Cantor revolves within The Fragility impels us to summon another painting that he created years earlier titled, Like Child, Like Man.  As The Fragility freely accepts being drawn to various theories, Like Child, Like Man, vehemently, does not.  Perhaps the interlude between these two paintings brought a tolerance into his aging soul?  Yet, within this painting, we witness the desperation of passion that clashed within his younger mind.   It is a fascinating look at what could be deemed as an awareness, as a vexation, and ultimately as a confrontation to the artist's own internal confusion, as he literally paints the battle waged within his secluded mind.


The three red horses that frantically lurch upwards are metaphors for the artist's scattered thoughts, fighting his focus, pulling in varied directions; three discordant directions.  One leaps towards fear, one towards doubt, one towards unrealistic desire.  Facing this disarray of obstacles is the fierce mixture of consciousness and aspiration, depicted as one raging leopard.  Its anger converges as a single valiant purpose ― stronger than fear, stricter than confusion.   Above the battle scene is the masked face of hope and desire that holds all of this turmoil within.  Below; the guise of a child, a memoir of the ease of youth that now prays for quietness and acceptance.


The child that lurks at the foot of this composition has further significance that dwells within Tim Cantor's insight.  Rooted from drawings he created in the early part of 2007, during his first visit to Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, he looked upon an 18th century sculpture by Étienne-Maurice Falconet called The Seated Cupid for his sketches.   L’Amour menaçant, became its famed nickname ‘menacing love’ because of its knowing gaze of prudence that a maddened mind must hold onto if it wants to fulfill its purpose.  Whether the befitting connotation was intentional or not, the analogy was spot on.


Whether it is a natural trait of Tim Cantor's, or carefully thought-out in his themes, his compositions frequently venture into three diverse points of view.  His avant-garde portrait titled Chapter & Fate sees the representation of predator, prey, and a great strength that holds fate in its hands.  As one scans across this triad of temperament, where is their eye drawn to?  Once again, he leaves the decision to the viewer.  The owl that sits atop the composition is most certainly the predator, but not the true strength of the three.  The mouse below; undoubtedly the prey.  Does your heart reach out to its frailty?  Do you feel its danger at all, or do you feel comfort in the eyes of the central figure because, perhaps, you see yourself in her stare, and you know the answer?


As is Tim Cantor's manner, Chapter & Fate floods its structure with contrast.  The mouse and the owl.  The stylized beauty of a face that bears semblance to his wife.  The witchy hands diverge against all that his love pulls towards ― all but the story he needs to tell.  Those unbeautified hands add the doubt that takes this painting from being secure.  And yet, security is reachable everywhere within this work of art.  The tea cup that the mouse stands within is etched with a dragon from another one of Tim Cantor's paintings titled PretendersPretenders forms its meaning upon facing one's fears, and pretending that fear does not exist, until, after enough time, it does not.  Much trust goes into this supposition.  So why trust a painted queen with tousled hands?  For the artist, his greatest trust is in the bond he has with his wife.  And so, he paints himself into her veneer, turning one eye green as his, painting one eye brown as hers.  In our study, this is our wellbeing, this is our reliance that love and protection reign in these hands.  And yet, those hands?


As we pursue this infinite discussion of metaphorical prevalence within Tim Cantor's paintings, it would be amiss not to examine Portrait of Man’s Desire; a painting that profoundly draws upon the artist's astounding aptitude to deliver his emotions through unexpected imagery.  This painting surrenders his fears and weaknesses in the allegory of age.  It unabashedly admits that ― because of his love for his wife, his family, his friends, and for life itself ― he never wants to age.  He feels weak and cowardly and never wants to die.  A mask of prime life holds his wishes, while the likeness of an elderly man portrays his fears.  The gravity of a chair offsets the composition uncomfortably, shifting towards angst in its inviting depth.  In this painting, we find honesty and a humbling submission to the lack of bravery that love can press into one's moral fiber.


Though this assertion to divulge his honesty seems to contrast with the artist's shy personage, even his most hurried paintings confidently present imagery that state their purpose through symbolism.  The Unconquerable is a small uncharacteristic work that Tim Cantor completed in just a few hours, but powerfully marks its intent through tangible representation.  Invincibility scrolls across this abstract portrait and its thickly coloured surface in the form of a shattered blade.  By contrast, Vie Eternelle is an elaborate and precise painting he spent roughly eight months creating, that represents life as anything but invincible.  It portrays the passage of existence from birth to death.  Its aim is to expose the brevity of life ― be it prolonged or brief in the measurement of our expectations ― and to fill it with as much determination as possible.


Life, presented on a stage.  The flames of memory and love and passion are all on show in Vie Eternelle through the metaphorical guise of an infant symbolizing the beginning and a skeleton, below, symbolizing the end.  However, fixed between these two clearly defined essential elements is the heart of the painting, a leopard; alive and fast and hungry — life in its peak — a conflicting metaphor that binds the true meaning of the painting.  There is little mystery that Vie Eternelle is a memento to live life to its fullest.  But its speech is a rare paradox of multiple voices, delivering balance, reminding us that time is limited, important, and ours to make of it what we will.


Vie Eternelle yields great significance in the history of Tim Cantor's works.  Its composition, poem, and purpose so uniquely tell a forthright narrative in very logical and literal terms.  It is this duality of Tim Cantor's story-telling approach, veering from any schooled expectancy, that gives rise to an already profound theme.  Correlating direct content with abstract content is an unteachable method that drives one to take notice evermore.  Vie Eternelle is a work that was created at a growing point of the artist's life.  It intensely portrays the singularity of an impulsive artist who grasps his sights while they are within reach, and reveals his own developing awareness.


This affair Tim Cantor has with mystery — with relating his artistry through the unexpected — is one of boundless consideration.  There is no order.  There is no sweeping design that plots a bridge throughout his entirety of work.  This disposition goes greatly against the proverbial movement of art.  It truly contradicts the conformity we have come to understand as a requirement of success in this infinite realm.  But, perhaps it is this unique disposition of the artist that does define him.  He combats his shyness with bold insightful tributes to truth, logic, and honesty.  And perhaps he connects more intimately with us, ourselves, as we relate these testimonies to our own encounters; agreeing, disagreeing, searching, understanding, or even getting entirely lost within his artistry.  If, for simply a moment, we see beyond the actuality of a shape — a face, a cat, a mouse, a tree or three red horses — and see that these are merely the allures of an artist to tell his most personal secrets symbolically, we will, without a doubt, find something ever-meaningful to our own existence — for nothing is without meaning.


'The Fragility' 2014, oil on wood panel

'The Fragility,' concept I

'Like Child, Like Man' 2009, oil on wood panel

'The Seated Cupid' 1757 by Étienne-Maurice Falconet  (Rijksmuseum)

'Chapter & Fate' 2009, oil on wood panel

'Chapter & Fate,' concepts I & XI

'Portrait of Man's Desire' 2014, oil on wood panel

'Vie Eternelle' 2012, oil on wood panel

Find out more

Like Child, Like Man: descriptive poem


Translate an early poem of Tim Cantor's fierce painting, full of internal conflict, and read into the ambitions and vexations of an intense young artist.


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.