tim mcmahon - artist statement
When asked if he believed in God, Henri Matisse replied, “When I’m working.” Similarly, my painting helps me make sense of life. When I am painting or contemplating the recent work, I am optimistic, joyful and happy. My work is an essential part of my feeling whole, complete. I have drawn and painted for 40 years. During that time I have created paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures and ceramic objects. I love the variety of visual expression. I am focused currently on painting landscapes. Over the years I have traveled, mostly to the Western United States, where I have photographed and sketched the natural environment. I draw on this documentation as visual and emotional inspiration for oil paintings.
My historical mentor is Cezanne, who models my brushwork. Cezanne spoke of making paintings, “that are a kind of teaching.” I view my paintings that way. I try to balance the literal, objective aspects of the subject with the expressive gesture of the execution. I draw on the pure, broken color of Impressionism as a starting point. However, the intense elation I feel hiking down a mountain trail or walking barefoot through the surf must be expressed, not merely described. Sisley wrote, “The scenes we paint are the place we are in love with.” I love the wild places in the mountains and the restless movement of water. Images of waterfalls allow me to show the jagged planes of the mountains juxtaposed with the ever-changed light on moving water. The mountains, forests, fields, lakes rivers and the oceans provide inspiration for my eye and brush. I humbly attempt to describe and express the sublime majesty and complexity of the natural environment.
The dramatic gesture of DeKooning and Kline inspire me. Although I greatly admire and appreciate non-objective painting, I prefer to find the “abstract” in objective, literal scenes. With broad brushstrokes I attempt to capture light. The brushwork evokes rather than copies the complex forms in nature. I have stopped drawing on the canvas preliminary to painting. I often block in the darkest darks as a structure on which to “hang” the rest of the colors and values. I never use black. My rule is, “All light is color. The shadow is the complement.” Descriptive or local color is often replaced with more expressive, lyrical color scheme.