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From Lake Te Anau to Montana: Tim Wilson’s world of art

— August 2015

Associated media

Tim Wilson, Autumn Haze Lake Te Anau New Zealand. Oil on Berge Linen. 75cm x 150cm (Private collection, New Zealand).

New Zealand landscape artist Tim Wilson talks to Sue Ward

Having watched Tim Wilson in his studio, creating his wonderful landscapes, I wanted to know the story behind his career as a very successful landscape painter with his own gallery in Queenstown, NZ, now taking on more and more work in the USA. In May he completed a major commission that was installed at Yellowstone Club in Montana. It was a large piece depicting Yellowstone National Park and was a resounding success. Tim delivered and installed it himself, which is typical of this artist. At present his Queenstown gallery is closed until October. This is after an unprecedented fifth season sell-out; it will allow him time to complete his new series. 

Sue Ward: When did you first know that being an artist was the career for you?

Tim Wilson: I first discovered the wonderful joy of paint as a seven-year-old…but it was in my mid-teens that it became very obvious painting was to play a major role in my life. I truly began to understand the magical balance and weight of a paint brush and was 16 when I sold my first series of work.

SW: Where did you train as a painter?

TW:  I’ve had no formal training. I’m self-taught.

SW: Can you tell us the main influences on your art?

TW: It is obsessive compulsive behaviour…I’m influenced by pretty much everything that’s going on around me and always have been.  The way light falls on a surface has always fascinated me…Though I have to say, as a youngster, Monet stole my heart.

SW: Your paintings are on linen and sometimes have as much as 45 layers of paint, they are also quite large. How did you develop your style?

TW: The glazing techniques I use I’ve developed mostly by trial and error over many years.  I use transparent, translucent and interference pigments with my mediums to create an atmospheric that changes as the ambient light changes…often dramatically.

SW: In New Zealand I was struck by the luminosity and sparkle of the air and atmosphere. You capture this so well in your paintings. Is this the reason behind the layering?

TW: The light in this part of the world is extraordinary…crystalline but with wonderful subtleties. It’s those subtleties I love so much…the subliminal elements are the most important parts of my work.

SW:  You mentioned Monet, who pained much of his work outdoors - 'en plein air' . Do you paint ‘en plein air’ or in the studio?

TW: I work primarily in the studio.

SW:  I was intrigued to see you in the gallery painting in front of the visitors. I go to a lot of commercial galleries and have never seen this before. Why do you do it?

TW: Working in the gallery often works for me. I love the contact and like to perform. It’s good to demystify the process.  People are often intimidated by art galleries and I like to be available.

SW  How long do your paintings take?

TW: A large work can take 18 months to complete.

SWWhich are your favourite places to paint, and are they all in NZ?

TW:While NZ and in particular the Southern lakes rivers and fiords are my primary focus I‘m being drawn more and more to the US.

SWFinally, what are your views on the contemporary art scene in New Zealand?Do NZ artists engage with their contemporaries in other countries, and do you feel that New Zealand art gets enough exposure abroad?
TW:  I really have no view in particular about where the New Zealand contemporary art scene sits in relation to the international market. I am seriously only interested in what I’m doing myself. As I said earlier it is entirely an obsessive compulsion for me.

SW:  Thank you for being so welcoming when I visited your gallery and saw your extraordinarily beautiful landscapes, and thank you for talking to Cassone.


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