Tim Hailand, Dita Von Teese Lipstick Mirror Garden, 2014, unique digital print on black and white fabric, 44" X 29"
Although from the outset Tim Hailand’s photographs are visually compelling, their subject matter, while figurative, is not immediately discernable. With scrutiny these images gradually reveal their contents. Large-scale, present day, usually male figures who are shirtless loom through what seem to be a series of generally monochromatic scrims of pastoral patterns nearly always taken from the distant idealized past. The robust photographic realities of the present are perceived in tandem with imaginary woodland scenes peopled by costumed nymphs, dryads, farmers, fishermen, and laundresses.
What in lesser hands might be merely theatrical, or cinematic juxtapositions are instead pictures suffused with vigorous dreamlike visions. Time itself is talking; the thoroughly modern is in present dialogue with art from the past. These conversations, as if overheard or glimpsed in gardens, are not didactic but rather invocations guided by the artist’s intuition and chance as he prints his photographs onto patterned cloth of the kind called toile de Jouy. It began to figure in his work during a residency at Monet’s Giverny where his bedroom was papered with a red and white eighteenth-century toile of pastoral scenes.
Hailand later purchased cloth of this same variety to use as grounds on which to print his
photographs. These are often portraits of athletic European men, artists, and performers, made, in a variety of places, but also at Giverny. Cloth was mounted to paper cut to dimensions of a size that could be made to fit through an Epson printer and onto which the digitized portraits were directly printed. On occasion the boundaries of the fabric extends beyond the edges of the photograph so that it frames as well as filters what we see. The opacity of the inks and the patterns they carry both mask as well as frame the photographic imagery. The addition of the colors of the toile is intrinsic to the force of the finished works.
Occasionally unexpected juxtapositions of the pattern of the fabric and the flesh of the models give the illusion that bodies and faces are heavily tattooed in ways that overrun, even overwhelm, actual anatomy, as when the drawing of a branch of a tree drapes down from the nape of a man’s neck and splays out over the top of his chest while another leafy limb runs over his ear and forms a kind of carnival mask on his profile. In another image the mast of a ship and a sail extends from a chin up over a mouth and then up onto the bridge of a nose while smaller boats sail across his temples.
The results of these arcane procedures are splendid, simultaneously subtle and strong. Guided by the artist’s intuition, his restless experimentation, and his relentless editing of the results, a unique body of work has come into being. By utilizing revisions of pastoral idylls from the decorative arts of the past, Hailand has uniquely enriched and enlivened modern heroic portraiture.
The artist lives and works in Los Angeles.