by Hannah Rose
Tiny cheerleaders, an umbrella on the moon, portraits of dead rock stars – all of these and more can be found in the uncanny paintings of Will Teather. Time’s inconsistency runs throughout this unnerving exhibition. Teather plays with time in a way that would be funny if it wasn’t so unsettling. But then again, isn’t that the mark of a significant piece of art? To catch the viewer unawares?
Mr P. Milne’s Antiques and Curious is the most impressive piece in the exhibition. Painted onto a large rotating sphere in acrylics is a painstaking portrayal of the shop that the piece takes its name from, which can be found in real life on Norwich’s Elm Hill. Studying the cornucopia of antiques, taxidermy and objet d’art as they hypnotically revolve really lets you in on the kind of devotion that collectors and painters both lend to their subjects. They know every scratch, stroke and mark. Mr Milne’s shop, crammed full of timeless and time-bound pieces, is a great fit for Teather’s focus on realism – with just a dash of magic to unsettle you and transform the mundane into something almost supernatural. In some of Teather’s other works a man clutches a skull by the hair, a woman in a yellow dress has disappeared, and a flock of doves painted onto a concave disc appears to be flying upside down.
Painted post 9-11, this scene shows us a world that we know will soon change forever.
Mr P. Milne’s might be the most impressive piece, but it isn’t the largest. That crown belongs to King of the Hill, a self-portrait set against a New York skyline. It shows Teather with one foot planted on the gravestone of Michael Jackson. Its epitaph reads The King of Pop. Just behind it is Elvis’s grave, aptly inscribed with The King. A deadpan Teather salutes the viewer; a cigarette trails smoke into the sky. There is something almost teenage, earnest, about this painting—it is indeed a portrait of the artist as a younger man—in the gathered-together symbols of American pop culture painted onto the canvas. A cheeseburger and a can of Bud, tiny cheerleaders waving pom poms – at first glance it is a nostalgic collage. But on closer inspection there is a subtle darkness to King of the Hill: the Twin Towers loom in the background. Painted post 9-11, this scene shows us a world that we know will soon change forever. Is the artist saluting a future—us—with the ironic knowledge that death looms heavy?
In yet another of Teather’s works, big ideas don’t have to be on big canvases. The Vast and Unknowable Universe is the piece I kept going back to again and again. Painted in acrylic on a panel the size of a book are two identical women dressed in white. They are standing on the moon, one of them looking up through an empty picture frame—but then again, is it empty if it frames her face?—peering up at a planet Earth that is half in darkness. The women, in their heavy petticoats, look vaguely Victorian. What do they know? Do they stand for hindsight as they peer back at us? But what use is hindsight after the moment? As useful as an empty picture frame, or an umbrella on the moon, which the second woman holds.
Teather’s worlds are both limitless and finite, natural and supernatural. He paints from his Norwich studio, the interior of which he has painted on to the exhibition’s second spinning orb. It is a small world in a big universe, but the artist’s studio is almost a universe in itself. It made me think of this little city of ours, crammed full of artists, writers, and the like. Flung out at the far eastern limits of the country, Norwich has a depth to it like no other place I know.
Teather’s worlds are both limitless and finite, natural and supernatural.
Teather grew up in Norfolk and has made huge contributions to the county’s artistic scene, having co-founded Art Fair East which brings national and international artworks to the region. He has a litany of awards, grants and accolades to his name – impressive for an artist under 40 – and his very own manifesto, which offers a fresh account of what art should and should not be. Teather is currently artist in residence at Norwich Arts Centre, where Infinite Perspectives is currently showcasing. His affection towards this little city is evident in the satisfyingly familiar scenes of Muspole street where his studio resides, and of course, Mr P.Milne’s old curiosity shop, where wonders will never cease.
Will Teather’s Infinite Perspectives is exhibiting at Norwich Arts Centre 24th June – 8th August.