Meet Timothy Percival, the London-based multi-disciplinary artist who recently published the book 'An Epitaph for Seven Years in Exile.' We talk with Timothy about and what inspires him, how he communicates through his work, and his artistic and personal love of architectural spaces.
Hi Timothy! Why don't you start by telling us a little about yourself.
Good morning Emily, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. I live and work in London, trying my best to own less and create more.
As a multi-disciplinary artist, what are the different mediums that you use?
I’ve grown up with music and video as my principle disciplines, both digitally orientated. But more recently I’ve found myself writing, painting, sculpting. I think my work’s starting to take on a curatorial and collaborative edge too, which I’m excited to see how that develops.
Because you use different mediums to convey your idea or message, does that give you a freedom that someone with a formal discipline doesn’t necessarily have?
That’s a provoking idea. I’ve often found that the more freedom I find myself with, the less I’ll end up producing. To work within a constricting discipline can result in some very creative outputs, and the formal framework is already in place and understood to hang ideas upon. The multi-disciplinary approach I find very useful in reducing mis-communication. Ideas can get tangled up in the languages used to present them, whether that be musical, textual, visual. To offer an idea across numerous disciplines, allows one to mitigate against a specific language overshadowing what is hoping to be communicated
What first got you interested in creating art, and how do you feel you’ve grown since you started?
For me, art is tied very closely to communication. And to communicate an idea is to understand it. We spend the first years of our lives trying to understand our environment and the world around us, my creative output is a continuation of this, perhaps a question checking I’ve undertstood the world correctly. Imagine it as a discourse: “Hey, I saw this scene, and it looked like this to me. How do you think it’d look to you?” When we stop having a blind faith in our own sense, that’s when things really start to evolve.
What is your main goal as an artist?
To be honest.
What inspires your art? Are there people/things/places that you keep returning to for inspiration?
Architecture has really taken a hold of a lot of my work. The built environment can be such a furtile anthropological catalyst. But it’s the emergence of the un-designed which really inspires: How does light fall in a room, when it’s the window that was designed? How do people congregate outside of certain places, or naturally gravitate toward specific park benches? How do the acoustics of a city vary because of the width of their streets, or the colour of their brickwork? It’s like how white trainers only come alive once they get a little scruffy. I’m interested in how designed objects and spaces live and breathe.
Where do you find inspiration in London?
There are two types of space which I really respond to in London, and although perhaps not unique, the city feels to take a great pride in them: Let’s call them the romantic, and the meditative. The romantic, or perhaps the romanticised, London is the cobbled together, crooked, ‘historic’ city which is often considered to belong to that elusive golden age. But it still thrives. And not just in the literal pockets such as Kensington, Kew, Temple, or St. Paul’s. But every street exists because of its past, and every street will exist because of our present. London is phenomenological, and that for me makes living in this city so gracefully romantic. And the meditative: London excels at offering serene environments, ones which hold little motivation but to fascinate. A few examples would be the atriums of the two Tate galleries, or the central courtyard of the British Museum. Enter one of these spaces and you’ll be lost in yourself, I promise!
You recently published a compilation of thirteen photographers' works exploring the theme of ‘belonging’ called An Epitaph for Seven Years in Exile. Can you tell us a little bit about the book, how it came about and where the title came from?
The work grew from a personal project which I started back in late 2016. Although from London, I lived for seven years on the south coast of England. I had no family or friends there, no connection to the place. In the most literal sense, I didn’t belong there. Once I’d left and moved back to London, I found my relationship with London was very different from when I was growing up there. In the simplest manner, the coast had changed/influenced/affected me. So the project began as me trying to understand this.
Whilst I was putting my photographs together, I began to come across more and more artists expressing similar themes. So it became a collaborative book to present a less egotistical, more honest look at belonging. Eliza and Nick [from Canadian alt-rock band Mauno], did an incredible job of writing the deepest, most explorative narratives. The vignettes of each photographer have been woven into their world, it was quite magical to see everything come together in this way.
The title; I really did feel as though the piece was an epitaph for my time by the sea. It was my final word, a summation of all I’d learnt and witnessed there. Do I believe I was in exile? Not truly, no. But in relation to belonging, perhaps. London is as close to a home as I have, the coast was me running away. These two things are mutually exclusive, so yes, I may’ve been exiled from where I felt I belonged.
You’re about to start an architecture program. What are you most excited about training to be an Architect?
Learning to someone else’s agenda. It’s very easy to learn something every day, but much more tricky to learn something genuinely new. What with confirmation bias, ingrained habits, and the impossibility of acting out of character, these all go against our chances of experiencing completely new information. But learning under the influence of others, this opens up many more possibilities. So to paraphrase: I’m excited to learn about all the things I don’t yet know exist!
What is the overlap between art and modern architecture?
As both technical disciplines, perhaps aesthetics. But personally, technical excellence in art I find confuses or takes away from the underlying idea. And to me the great architects are the dreamers, not the engineers. Both these disciplines, all creative disciplines, come from a desire to communicate, the discipline itself is simply the tool.
Check out Timothy Percival's Playlist:
Interview: Emily Saunders - @thesaunder
Photography: Dimitra Gkm - @dimitragkm