out where by Tim Eitel

Tim Eitel, out where, 2023, egg tempera on canvas, 86-5/8" × 74-13/16" × 1-3/8" (220 cm × 190 cm × 3.5 cm) © Tim Eitel


Tim Eitel on Time, Space, and Memory in His New Paintings of Pace’s Seventh Floor

Tim Eitel takes over the seventh floor of Pace’s New York gallery in: something there somewhere outside—his first solo exhibition in New York in 14 years, on view at 540 West 25th Street through January 13, 2024—the artist presents his new paintings within the very space they depict. To mark the opening of his show, we spoke with him about the conceptual underpinnings and formal nuances of his meditative works. Eitel’s words, which follow below, have been edited and condensed.

The gallery’s seventh floor is not just a regular white cube. It has two floor levels, wide steps across the room, and that big window front with an almost overwhelming view of the buildings across. When I saw it, it was immediately clear that I wanted to respond to the space, and that the space would become part of the subject matter. That made perfect sense because a lot of the recurring ideas in my work are about the relationships between figures and architecture as well as the ways that we interact with art.

I thought of the venue as a sort of theater set, and there’s this idea that the figures in the paintings and the visitors to the gallery are moving through the same space but at different times. So, the paintings are the intersection. They are also a stage in the sense that the space in the paintings is very limited—there’s not a lot of depth and not a lot of movement, and the viewer can always remain conscious of the surface. I always find it fascinating that you can create the idea of a space through abstract color planes.

There are also the theatrics of light at play, both in the paintings and the gallery itself—the sun hitting the paintings in different ways throughout the day. That’s why I chose a different medium this time, painting the works almost exclusively in egg tempera. I wanted them to be really matte so there would be no glare or reflection on the surfaces. With egg tempera, you can work in layers, but in the end the layers seem to melt together. You cannot see how the surface has been done.

split moon by Tim Eitel

Tim Eitel, split moon, 2023, egg tempera on canvas, 27-11/16" × 23-3/4" × 1-7/16" (70.3 cm × 60.3 cm × 3.7 cm) © Tim Eitel

So, I developed the paintings in relation to each other and against each other, and you can find different aspects of a number of themes that overlap. Some are formal elements like the power cables running through a few canvases, which are again connected to the theme of lighting. There are cuts through the picture space, which connect to the layers of time and to the construction of the spaces. There are gallery visitors and there are these ghost-like figures. That’s another central theme in this show: disappearance. Some figures in the works become transparent. You might see them as ghosts or fading memories—some of them have a very specific meaning to me, but everybody will have their own story. There’s no single fixed reading, and there are a lot of ideas and meanings in the paintings, like those connected to the rooms, that I don’t necessarily understand myself.

Time and again, my work seems to return to a reflection on the whole experience or setting for viewing art—the neutral white cube, the way spaces frame the work and the visitor. In other series of work, I’m more concerned with the human condition, and, to me, it seems that my interest in the figures has changed. They used to mainly interact with the art. Now they have their own presence in the space and a different sense of belonging, and I feel the relationships are shifting again.

loop by Tim Eitel

Tim Eitel, loop, 2023, egg tempera on canvas, 82-11/16" × 74-13/16" × 1-9/16" (210 cm × 190 cm × 4 cm), 2 panels, each © Tim Eitel

The whole show is very circular. You walk through the space and see that some of the paintings have similar settings—sometimes they’re reflecting on the space they’re in, and some have generic settings. You encounter similar situations under different lights. Some paintings focus on the setting of the scene, and in some you will meet figures, or they escape you. In some you’ll find a focus on a detail that remains in the background elsewhere. The works range in size from large to very small, so they require the viewer to move back and forth, seeing them from different distances, stepping back and approaching them again. The idea of circular movement is maybe most obvious in the diptych in the exhibition, which seems to show two impressions of a figure displaced in time. It is a diptych whose panels can also be reversed, which totally changes the kind of movement you see, but it’s always cyclical, like a loop.

Untitled (Silhouette) by Tim Eitel

Tim Eitel, Untitled (Silhouette), 2023, egg tempera on canvas, 9-7/8" × 9-7/8" × 1-3/16" (25.1 cm × 25.1 cm × 3 cm) © Tim Eitel

The title of the exhibition comes from a line by Samuel Beckett. It is about the rare occasion when you might somehow manage to perceive something, anything, somewhere outside your own head—a near impossibility, but a moment you have to keep alert for, else you might miss it. It is an optimistic poem, because it knows that something is indeed out there, and I feel it fits this group of paintings, where some of the figures struggle to still be there, as memories or presences, and it fits my expectations from art, the longing to connect to something outside of my own head.

  • Essays — Tim Eitel on Time, Space, and Memory in His New Paintings of Pace’s Seventh Floor, Nov 17, 2023