Not only is Tim Head one of our current favourite UK artists, it seems his profile and portfolio are growing by the day. He’s knees deep in personal and commissioned work and it feels like just about every second project that draws our attention right now somehow has Tim’s name attached to it, however subtle the link may be. There’s a DIY element to Tim’s work that stems from his cut and paste techniques and penchant for making a killer zine, but this goes deeper than aesthetics; it’s rooted in his thorough understanding and passion for UK subculture, a connection with the contemporary art and design world and genuine inspiration by music and the sub-genres that it spawns. His blog YES LIFE is always a good read, offering a pretty good indication of where Tim’s head is at and what’s cool in his world. Since his name’s been popping up in conversations a lot recently, we thought it was time to say hello.
Tim, what’s new?
Just the usual PF… trying to fit in as much as I can into too little time!
What have you been working on?
As well as my own personal stuff I have a 9-5, so the last few weeks have been very hectic – I did that Nike commission for the Risk Everything project, Converse commissioned me for a quick project that involved me getting drunk in the Hilton bar and drawing on things. My capsule collection of tees with Real Gold and James Pearson-Howes dropped, I flew to Berlin with Joshua Gordon to start work on something exciting for Carhartt. Prepping some designs and projects for A.Four with Lucas Price. Designed a 6-page spread for a fashion magazine. Finished and sent off a new zine for Smalltime books. Did two posters for Upset The Rhythm (Ty Segall and Mississippi Records) and also tried to produce personal work for some solo shows… all this over the last two months when I wasn’t being distracted by Le Tour, eating at Maltby St or re-watching Snowpiercer. I’d like a holiday please.
The Smalltime publication sounds cool – what’s the deal?
The new zine is a longterm dream of mine… and that’s a newspaper catalogue to my first London solo show a few years back at Pure Evils gallery. It was called The Daily Standard and for a period in my life I was unemployed for a few months. I used that time to make a lot of art, and I implemented a regime where in the morning, to make sure I didn’t just watch TV, I went and got the free morning paper… the Metro, and in the evening I got the Evening Standard (hence the title The Daily Standard). I then ‘borrowed’ supplies from Poundland and made sure that each day I made at least one piece of work based on the newspapers I got – a drawing from a photograph, using it in collage or just being inspired from. When I got a job I had a small box full of works – and so it was a cathartic thing to do the show, as if to say ‘those days are done, I made something from a shitty time, and it’s now about the future’. You can see more here.
I dug your contribution to Nike’s Phenomenal House last month – your shrine to Marco Materazzi and your spreads in the zine produced for the event…
Thanks for the compliment. I’m always thankful when people say nice things about my work, stills blows me away when people react nicely. I am super critical of my own work, so it’s cool to know I’m not embarrassing myself… too much. But that project in particular is nice to hear it’s OK – I wasn’t 100% happy with the finished works…
The project started when Protein & Nike got in touch with a simple brief of making a shrine to Materazzi, and then I had like a 2-week turnaround from pitch to installation, so it was an incredibly intense experience, with lots of changes along the way that were out of my hands.
Being asked by two companies I really respect (Nike & Protein) was a huge honour and it was a project I really couldn’t say no to. The brief was exciting too as it was kinda unusual – to create a shrine! So it was my kind of brief… cool people, cool project.
What sort of research were you doing on Materazzi to create those images?
When you start a project like this (focusing on a particular subject) research is everything – it can inspire you, take you in exciting directions. It makes the work richer, more accurate, better – all positive things. If I’m making a work to introduce and/or celebrate a person with a wealth of stories, why not research? I think you have to get heavy on the research… also I treat every pitch differently, so a shrine for Materazzi will be my version of a shrine to Materazzi; I’m not a one trick pony artist (I hope) that just shoehorns the same character or style into every project because that’s all I can do. I tackle it from a design angle… who is Materazzi? What are shrines, essentially, and how can I do something cool from these ingredients? Research is key.
I attacked it on two fronts – Materazzi the man, and Shrines. For him as a person I wanted to learn everything about him, as I wanted the shrine to represent him – his passions, successes, inspirations, as well as act as a quick introduction to him if people didn’t know who Materazzi was. As the brief was fairly simple (make a shrine), I wanted to research all the types of shrines, different designs, different concepts about shrines… the kind of shrines he would have seen in his hometown… so I go deep… I researched his home town, the Catholic baroque shrines there and wider in Italy. I studied baroque church architecture, I studied the shrines, or their equivalent in all the cities of clubs he played in. I looked at famous baroque shrines, their most famous designers and then researched them, looking at their inspirations and goals. I wanted it to be a sensory experience, so I studied incense (found in shrines), candles, candle holder reflections, that I experienced amazingly in Morocco… so I studied Moroccan lighting and then applied my style to their lessons. I looked at wreaths and how to make them. I studied floor tiling… this is just the tip of the iceberg on my research, but I go deep… and the reason being is every time I want to make the best thing ever, and when I had Nike money I was like, ‘lets GO!’. I went hard on what I wanted to bring… it would have been the best, real nice… but again, that’s just because of research.
I like the fact that you took a traditional cut and paste / collage approach to the zine, and a sort of bedroom shrine influence to your installation…. as opposed to the more polished installations of Natalia Stuyk and Isabel & Helen…
The end shrine I did was based on impromptu shrines you see – from Amy Winehouse’s home to the World Trade Center – when you see a wall of heartfelt notes, drawings, photos etc. I had a few days to create the graphic work that was used. As time was against me, sleep wasn’t had and I created, (no joke), about 100 collages, 100 illustrations etc. all based on Materazzi. Everything I did related to him, even if it was cryptic, from a map of his sneaker store in Milan to a portrait of his dad. As mentioned, my idea was to create something else entirely, so if I was going to do a graphic shrine (like you saw) with the whole 2 weeks to work on it, it would have been even crazier!
Going back even further, (but along the same aesthetic lines), was Maximum Respect. How did you hook up with Smalltime for that project?
I still don’t know how or why, but somehow Rob C from Smalltime saw my work and got in touch. He asked if I wanted to do a zine and I mentioned in passing that I was messing around with something relating to pirate radio. He said that that was a big thing in Australia, the dance scene of the ‘90s, and that he’d love to see what I was making. At the time a website called One in the Jungle was closing, so I downloaded all the sets they had online and listened to that pretty much non-stop for a month or two… and I was slowly visualising in my head what the people given shout-outs looked like. This idea attached to the rave era felt good, but the project I was working on was too tongue-in-cheek for me, when the subject was something I genuinely was passionate about…. so I decided to make the focus of the project a bit more heartfelt – a visual love letter to my nostalgic memories of that time. The 1990s rave scene has been a bit of a look recently, but the zine was made and off to the printers before a lot of stuff has since been released… I think it’s a bit cheesy now to do something rave inspired, so I got in just before it became ‘a look’. I hope!
What are your memories of the pirate radio scene that inspired Maximum Respect?
Well, I was young. School young. I was only a little white suburban kid, but what I remember of my experience of pirate radio was energy, excitement, danger and possibility. The music I loved was the faster, higher BPM of jungle, so as a kid growing up on the Beatles and stuff, to get super rowdy, super fast stuff was like being punched in the face 160 times a minute. It was as exciting as it was new. I was young but even then I knew it wasn’t something my parents listened to or liked… it was me and my friends’ music, our generation’s thing. To get a tape or hear a clean signal was tough; for a kid to get access to it at all was a huge #win.
To be white and in the suburbs and listening to music beamed out of places I was told were dangerous, by people who I was told were dangerous, made it even more seductive. As a teenager you thrive on danger and this was my first taste.
Are there any subcultural scenes you feel are exciting in that same way today? Would you say this informs your work?
I know I’m probably looking back at that time and that particular subculture with massive rose tinted glasses, but I do think that it was groundbreaking and sadly I don’t think there are any groundbreaking movements making something truly new and exciting today. Maybe I’m wrong, and I’m looking in the wrong place, but everything that is good, that is popular, seems to be a distillation of a genre, not a seismic cultural shift. I could probably get into an essay length reply if I delved into the tangent of why I feel there isn’t such a movement today, but I’m an optimist…the best thing about looking back at history and subcultures is it shows that nobody predicted the big youth culture movements before they happened organically, so I hope that the next exciting thing is just round the corner.
Elements of rave culture inform my work, but only in a small part and only because that time made up a small part of who I am. I was too young to go to raves, but it inspired and changed me. Then in my teenage years I loved lots of things – from grunge and skate to mod and punk… I think that’s the beauty of living now, is that there is so much greatness to delve into. You don’t have to grow up with it to claim it yours – if you truly love it, you’re a child of it.
At the moment I think the one ‘scene’ in music I’m excited about is the grime renaissance. It’s like the second or third wave of artists since the genesis of the scene (Pay As You Go etc), but it’s in a really healthy, interesting and strong place. It has an energy and optimism that is undeniable… from personalities like Narstie, anthems like Skepta’s ‘Thats not me’, controversies (Big H at LOTM6) to chart hits like ‘German Whip’… it’s got a lot going for it.
I have a lot of love for the Outernational scene – from Mississippi Records to Sublime Frequencies. I think that’s a new thing, with reissuing and international digging wild ethnic music… in Lisbon you got the Guetto scene I like, in London I think there’s a lot of exciting stuff from Because Heroique and TTT, Honest Jon’s, Palace, Gasius… that makes up a cool scene.
I was checking out YES LIFE the other day and noticed you weren’t super hyped on many London exhibitions at the moment. I won’t ask you to name names – but who/what does excite you art-wise, or just aesthetically, right now?
I think I had a duff day to be honest! I go to a lot of shows in London, and I am super lucky to live here and have so many amazing shows so often… I am very aware of how good we have it in terms of shows… it just seemed that all the places I checked out didn’t do it for me. It’s obviously a personal thing and someone else could have done the same trip and loved them… for me, that day, I wasn’t feeling them…. but there is so much good stuff out there at the moment. I am such a big art nerd, I never stop getting fanboy excited over new works, artists or shows.
What’s really got me recently? Sortias and Horfe from PAL killed it at Palais de Tokyo… I still can’t forget Gasius’ show at the Depot. That was crazy. My old friend Nano’s show in Seville blew me away as I hadn’t seen how much he had improved until this show and when I saw pics it knocked me for six. Artists I love though? What’s been getting me going? Picked up a brilliant Allen Jones book the other day which is mega inspiring – he is such an overlooked artist, and while everyone’s on Hockney’s dick right now (to be fair, Hockney is a don…), but Allen Jones brings that extra crazy factor to his paintings… so that was £1.99 well spent. Deller and Sterling Ruby I’ve never not looked at and loved. Misha Hollenbach – always pushing it, keeping it personal and always killing it. The kind of art I love is the honest shit. Fads come and go, so one minute people be ripping off Memphis, next it will be something else… that’s all cool, but for me I look at art and culture as a whole, at everything. So I get inspired from all over the place, and that’s exciting to me. I love all culture, and I try to get excited every single day.
How about musically?
My art reflects me, my personality, my outlook, hopes, thoughts, tastes etc and music is a huge part of my life – from hoarding vinyl and going to gigs to being in the studio and using music as a motivator and inspirer. Music is one part of my life that inspires me daily – it sits with cinema, art, design, comics, fashion, food, drink, travel… everything is massively important to me and my art.
I went through a brief phase where I was going to name every solo show after one album, an album I would listen to on loop as that collection of songs would shape my art… so my first solo show was in madrid and was called Peel Slowly & See, as I listened to the VU but also as that phrase commented on it being my first show and the works were a collection of collages, drawings, misc…. then the second show was in Hamburg and called Minor Threat, which I like as a nickname for me! Not to mention they are one of my all time favourite hardcore bands (DC hardcore not DJ Slipmatt hardcore).
You’re a Yusef Lateef fan right? What are your top 3 tracks?!
Well ‘Back Home’ was the track that got me into him, ‘The Plum Blossom’… and I know it’s obvious but ‘Love Theme from Spartacus’ is a stone cold classic.
Yes it is. So you recently worked on a t-shirt capsule for Real Gold with James Pearson Howes, how did that come about?
I’ve been lucky to know James for a few years now and his old friend is Deano from Real Gold. Deano has apparently been asking James to do some tees and for some strange reason James asked me to get involved and make some collages from his work. Apart from being a good friend, I am a massive fan of James’ work and vision and was massively humbled to be asked. And then of course Deano and Real Gold? This was a dream project I couldn’t turn down or fuck up.
What was the creative process there? How did you get to the final three images that were used?
It was super relaxed and easy to be honest, as we had no real deadline set, we just wanted to put out some tees we were proud of. James sent over a folder of images he wanted me to have a go at and I think it was 30-45 images? I printed each of these off three times and ended up making 3 collages of each photo sent. So I made around 90 to 130 collages over a 2 week period. I made a small edit, sent them to James, who picked the final three which were, thankfully, my favourite three. From there we sent them to Deano at Real Gold who took care of the production. In hindsight I was quite nervous as I really didn’t want to disappoint either James or Deano, but I think they like them.