Meet Tim Hussey and you'll be charmed by his humor and quick wit, his friendly demeanor, his lightheartedness. Spend more than a few minutes with him and you will realize that his jocular amicability is but the pleasant flame that relies on dense, aromatic wax, the substance that fuels the light.
For Hussey is, in fact, a very serious guy with very serious ideas about art and a very serious talent for creating large, expressive pictures that a growing number of collectors find irresistible.
The Post and Courier asked him about his latest work, his attitudes toward contemporary art and his view of the city he has called home since birth.
Q: Lately, you have been making a new body of work on paper and canvas called “Badeschiff.” What sets it apart from your other work?
A: This group of paintings started directly after my wife and I visited Berlin and Dresden. We were blown away by the German abstract expressionism collection at the Albertinum Museum. Here was this beautiful structure in the middle of the city with almost no visitors and access to large works of my favorite painters.
In Berlin, we spent the afternoon at a modern pool that sat in the middle of the polluted Spree River. It was called the Badeschiff. The metaphor of a pristine pool being a sanctuary in the middle of a flowing river of debris and pollutants inspired the name of my show. I lost my mother this year, capping off the hardest year of my life, and I needed to find refuge in my work.
Q: Your paintings are often expressionistic abstracts that sometimes incorporate words (or pieces of them), faces or other recognizable elements. To what extent does the work reflect your (a) politics, (b) frame of mind, (c) recent experiences, (d) dreams?
A: This is not only a hard question to answer in an interview, but a near impossible question for me to understand myself. I've never had an interest in making statements about society or pushing metaphors about my personal life in my paintings. I find those options super limiting, as the experience of being human isn't all that different across the board. Just look at Instagram and you'll see that we are all wanting to share the same photos of cats, babies, food, travels, etc.
Even dreams don't give much insight into the bigger picture. The thing that keeps me interested in life is the mystery of our interior, the brain. In that respect, I have stuck with one simple path my whole career: to try my best at mapping and illustrating the seemingly infinite layers of conscience we shuffle through at any given second. Deconstructing existence and enjoying making a visual out of things we will never fully understand is liberating and a great way to let a parallel universe be your workplace.
Q: You lived in LA for a few years before returning to Charleston about two years ago. What did you learn out west and how have you applied that experience to your work as an artist?
A: I learned that there are a lot of talented artists in this world. It's important to know this and realize that again, you are not that unique just because you try and paint some deep stuff. Nobody has the ability to stray all that far from millions of years of evolution. So I learned quickly that all I can add to the conversation as an artist is exactly what I draw out of my particular experience of being me.
I loved California more than any state or even country I've ever visited. Feeling pretty happy on a daily basis and relying on the weather enhanced my ability to create. What I brought back was a handful of painters I can use as lifelines to keep my ambition up and beyond local expectations.
Q: Charleston has been growing and increasingly embracing contemporary art. What should Charleston do now?
A: What's clear to me is that there is a huge chasm between making room for contemporary art as long as it doesn't dampen the mojo of real estate investors and actually deliberately budgeting for dedicated space to the furthering of new ideas in art and knowing how much this contributes to the transformation of the collective mind of the city.
Until Charleston is willing to say it wants more than just physical and fiscal growth and decides it's ready to become a true and modern cultural experience, its locals will remain in the dark as to what contemporary art can really be.
I was blown away by how little the Gaillard embraced the opportunity to leap forward with a redesign, and instead chose the look of a Marriott lobby from the '80s. This is why 90 percent of young artists that come out of school in Charleston still leave within a few years to explore the bigger picture.
Q: Painting isn’t the only thing you do. You also design magazines and take beautiful photographs. Any chance we’ll get to see an exhibition of your photos? What do you have in the works right now?
A: I appreciate hearing that! And though photography will always be my first love and was a major player in deepening my sense of composition, I have decided to see it as an art of the past. I would still encourage anyone who wants to understand the joy of the arts to play with a camera. Training your eye to find strong composition at a second's notice can help leaps and bounds with other art forms. But in my opinion, beyond journalism there isn't much more being said with a camera these days. I do still enjoy commercial graphic design in its finite and disposable nature. It's a great relaxant after diving into the painting ether for a long period.
The short answer is, expect more paintings!