On a frigid winter's night, Tim Kent hurries me off the snowy and windswept streets into his Bushwick studio. We wind corridors of the warehouse until we arrive in a room that appears gallery-like. Clean white walls and a variety of canvases are hung on display—at least temporarily, until they're shipped off to various international collectors.
Kent leads me into his workspace, where paint smothers the walls. Brilliant slashes and distinct lines cover each and every surface. Splotches of oil are streaked across the floor over aged Persian rugs. The room contains an assortment of objects, everything from a guitar (which Tim plays, having been in a rock band, The Giraffes), to Royal Air Force models nodding to his family’s British roots. There’s a bed in the corner so he can take breaks in between pieces. Giving him the chance to literally watch the paint dry. It has saved him during those relentless hours before any given exhibition or deadline.
It’s organized chaos, I realize as I carefully move through the disarray to find a place to sit. We crack open a case of beer to keep us warm. Kent is adorned in worn workman’s overalls on top of his winter clothes. He takes hits on his vape and speaks quickly. It's evident that his brain is thinking at a million miles a minute, focused on countless other ideas.
We talk art, the masters, his take on having attended Art Basel for the first time. Kent is a history and philosophy buff, and our conversation ranges between WWI/II, politics, the reality of a rapidly changing world, and the gentrification of the neighborhood that he’s called home for the past ten years.
“Trippy, huh?” I lean in towards a work in progress, still wet. “At the end of a long day, looking at a painting is possibly the best thing you could ever do. That’s the appreciation time. Until, of course, you have to move onto the next.” Kent has been practically living in his studio for the last three years. After coming off the back of exhibitions in Amsterdam, New York, and Pulse at Basel in Miami, he’s revving up for two institution shows in Germany this spring.
The esteemed Canadian-American artist (of Turkish and British-Maltese parentage) is represented by Slag Gallery in Brooklyn, and he describes himself as a cubo-futurist. Kent's meticulous labor is that of a visual engineer; his artistry often necessitates an intense, painstaking process. Upon viewing more intricate details up close, he laughs. “I fuck up all the time, but through screwing it up, you get to see where it goes.” Kent explains to me with his hands, pointing to the corner of a canvas where he has undertaken such a situation or, in another case, left it. “And sometimes, you just lose something really good.”
It’s evident by the splashes of pigments here and there that his speed creates the movement and underlying emotion in his compositions. A combination of geometric shapes and structural lines challenge the viewer, forcing them to push past the mundane and observe the infinite and convoluted components that make up his paintings.
Diverging from his previous themes of portraits and architectural masterworks, his most recent creations utilize his knowledge of traditional interiors to provide a foundation for endless layers of oil and inspiration. “Too much time with them kills them,” he says, taking a long drag from his vape, “because that leads to too much control and becomes stale. Or fuzzy. And I find these always border on that. For me, the space has to be defined.” The graphic works are comprised of three-dimensional qualities, vivid configurations and sculptural figures emerge from the background.
Rulers are precariously balanced on top of partially-finished Poland Spring bottles. When prompted about their use, he sheds light on his method. “Sometimes it requires me gridding it out. Not the whole thing, just when I need a formation, I’ll create a composition and then impose it.” Kent shows me a sample of linen where he’s used this system. “But part of my whole approach is not sticking to a certain illustration, but getting different ideas to force and challenge me into other areas that I haven’t done before.”
A phone rings, and we abruptly realize it’s late; we lost track of time. Kent starts cleaning his brushes. I notice a lone punching bag next to his sink. He nods at it. “When you have those Rocky moments and gotta let off some steam, ya know?” I tell him that I don’t, because I can’t even begin to fathom the amount of time and energy it must take to create one of these masterpieces, let alone if it was messed up somewhere along the way. But these are the exact qualities that make Kent a true artist. He can easily roll with the punches and isn’t afraid to fight back.
Words by Shelby Welinder
Tim Kent is represented by Slag Gallery, NY.