© The Artist


Tim Head (1946 – )


250 X 300 CM
Accession number


In a career that has spanned over thirty years, Tim Head has created works in such a variety of media that it is difficult to identify a single characteristic. From early installations in which he layered projected images of objects over the real things, to his current explorations in digital media, it would be possible to describe Head’s chameleon-like transformations as mirroring the changing nature of technology ? and ecology. But this would be to overlook his experimentation in paint¬ing in the early 1990s, just at a time when many were pronouncing the medium’s demise. Head is constantly questioning perceptions of the truth. He is concerned with optical phenomena, challenging us to make sense of a world in which there is, arguably, no meaning beyond the sur¬face tension – just a collection of light and shadows. From layering slide projections on top of one another to repeating and reducing familiar motifs, Head manipulates our reading of an object or image. There are also environmental concerns at play. In the early 1980s, he commented on excessive consumption in a series of lurid photographs featuring hundreds of tiny plastic toys and a rich, candy-coloured material float¬ing like scum on a toxic sea. He painted familiar consumer motifs, too, such as the Happy Eater logo, which he repeated and manipulated as a means of exploring ideas of genetic mutation.

Head studied under the visionary Pop artist Richard Hamilton at Newcastle University in the mid 1960s. By the end of the decade he was living in New York and working as an assistant to the sculptor Claes Oldenburg, famed for his enormous public sculptures of every¬day objects (lipsticks, hamburgers), often made of soft or floppy fabric which innately mocked the very idea of the noble and immutable public monument. Returning to London in the 1970s, Head began teaching at Goldsmiths College. In 1977, he became artist in residence at Clare Hall in Cambridge, and it was here, the following year, that he madeStill Life. The installation consists of a photograph of a brick wall against which a variety of objects have been placed, including a chair on which a naked woman sits. The image is then turned upside down and re-projected in negative onto the same wall. The result is an uncanny layer¬ing of imagery that leaves the viewer completely disorientated. Reality is made indistinguishable from fiction.


Published in Passports British Council Collection, British Council, London 2009