Review: Timmy Saville - Paintings and Collage at the White Horse Gallery

Written by Vincent Stokes on .

Timmy Saville:  Figure StudiesTimmy Saville: Figure StudiesOn my way to Timmy Saville’s exhibition at the White Horse Gallery, I walked past the Costa coffee shop. 


Outside, bound up tightly and leaning on end against the wall awaiting collection for recycling, was a stack of flattened cardboard boxes.  The first artwork I see on entering the gallery – Chateau D – bears a distinct resemblance to those discarded boxes.  Or does it …?

Here we are again, on the threshold of allowing immediate impressions to inform my opinion. If I give an artwork only five seconds to interest me I will miss out on at least 90 per cent of its richness.

Timmy Saville:  Bunny GirlsTimmy Saville: Bunny GirlsTo put it another way: If I decide that these assemblages are bits of discarded rubbish randomly stuck together, framed and hung in a gallery, then I will miss the riches that lie within.  So let’s start again.

What strikes me about Chateau D, the first work in Timmy Saville’s latest exhibition, is the subtlety of colour, the complexity of surface and the grace of the composition. The palest of pinks complementing the washed out green of a discarded rope, and as many browns as you’d find in a walk through Savernake Forest.

And all punctuated by nail-heads and staples. The resemblance to the stack of boxes outside Costa is remote indeed.

For me, the heart of this exhibition lies in the constructed figures together with their reincarnations in a series of painted studies. By ‘the heart’, I mean both the rich content and the warmth of thought and feeling to be found in them.

Their titles, including Bunny Girls, Cretan Figure, Box Lady…are often derived from the fragments from which they are made. Their biographies are contained within themselves.

This calls to mind the series of puppets Paul Klee made for his son during and after the First World War, the names of which were suggested by the materials used in their construction. As Timmy says: “[my] figurative constructions are like family: independent, close, mischievous …”.

There is a sense of play and mischievousness evident throughout this exhibition, as well as wit and humour. So enjoy the re-casting of what has previously been discarded.

Timmy’s work endorses Robert Motherwell’s reflections on his own collages: “I do feel more joyful with collage, less austere. A form of play”. Without doubt, Timmy’s form of play is measured, skilful and intelligent.

The exhibition is at the White Horse Gallery until 12 April 2019 - during shop hours.  Admission is free.