Timon I is a painter raised in Hong Kong and currently based in New York. He graduated from the School of Visual Arts Illustration Program. Timon is now pursuing his MFA painting degree at the New York Academy of Art.
We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My path to becoming a painter is quite different compared to others. When I was graduating from high school, I was planning to become a fashion designer. I had spent two years studying fashion design until I switched my major to illustration during my sophomore year. After that, I had spent another two years doing illustrations, and I finally decided painting and fine art are my passion, so I enrolled in a master’s degree in painting at the New York Academy of Art. As you can see, I studied a lot of different things compared to other painters. In a way, it’s a good thing because fashion design has taught me the importance of aesthetics, and illustration taught me how to communicate with others by the visual language. So when I approach painting, I approach it like a designer. I start most of my work as a project and give them a theme, just like what I learned in fashion design. I also chose a more realistic style instead of an abstract style because I believe it has a more accessible visual language for the viewers to appreciate and understand.
There is a gentle touch of lights in most of your paintings. What ideas are you exploring in your practice? What is your art about?
There are two projects I have been working on—the psychological project and the flower project. The psychological project is about creating the “uncanny.” I put figures in the sense of strange or mysterious space that allows viewers to define or get inspired by the moment.
The flower project, on the other hand, is about questioning reality. I put fake flowers on the street at night and try to create an artificial nature. With the power of painting, I wanted to make them as beautiful as the real flowers, so the viewers may question how important the reality is.
Both projects heavily focus on light and space because I believe they are a universal language that connects with the viewer. The viewer doesn’t need any knowledge to understand and appreciate the beauty of a sunset or a moon’s reflection on the lake, so they won’t need the knowledge to enjoy the artwork or get told by a professional why they should like it.
You mentioned a very interesting relationship between artists and viewers in your artist statement. Can you tell us more about it? Is there a message that you want to deliver?
Unlike most artists, my family and I had no connection to art, and I wasn’t interested in art until my high school graduation. I went to a Monet show before my high school graduation, and without any knowledge about him, I still immediately fell in love with his paintings. It was an awakening moment for me because I finally understood how someone could fall in love with a piece of artwork without knowing and reading the textbook. I think the current art industry becomes so elitist that a lot of artwork becomes a game of knowledge or an “AHA’ moment instead of appreciating the aesthetics or finding their own meanings for the paintings. It is essential for me to trust the viewer as a receiver and a creator of my painting’s meaning.
What does “community” mean to you? How do you see yourself in a community?
The community is very strange to me. I am a firm believer in individualism and not a big fan of group identity. Therefore, I prefer people who form a group or community base on the same goal but a different identity. That’s one of the reasons why I love the community in my school. Even people have different beliefs, they can still communicate and improve together. I like to see different idea comes together and create new things. I think that’s what community means to me.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on a new thesis project that is about the conflict between nature and the city.
Is there any advice that you would like to share with others?
I don’t know if I am currently good enough to advise anyone. I guess I will say try to see the opposite side of what you believe in? Understanding what you hate helps create what you love, at least in art.
text & photo courtesy of Timon I