Tim Spooner: A New Kind of Animal – Reviewed

Tim Spooner_A New Kind of Animal_RogerSinek

“In A New Kind of Animal can be discerned the travails and obstacles of life that we all come up against and endure.” Mike Pinnington tries to make sense of Tim Spooner’s Bluecoat show…

The fascinating beasties are strewn all over the floor; precariously, you step through them as you take in the scene. Are they fighting? Or is this simply an energetic congress of an as yet uncategorised creature? Both?

They are fluffy, furry, like arte povera clouds with spindly legs; you wouldn’t find them occupying many people’s idea of cute. Some lie prone, glitching, stuck in a horrible loop of failed attempts at righting themselves, while others seem resolutely to be aggressors, marking territory and maintaining their place atop an unspeakable, unspoken hierarchy.

“I’m not sure this is any universe I’d thrive in”

This is Tim Spooner: A New Kind of Animal at the Bluecoat, an exhibition including collage, painting, sculpture – objects that, says the artist, “come together into ideas for possible universes.” I’m not sure this is any universe I’d thrive in, but it’s a fascinating one, worthy of consideration. Along the walls, additional material, including handwritten notes in pencil: “And we try to go round the side of it but it always appears to be facing us”; “It enters us into its spreadsheet”; “And we are listening”.

There is something of a disconnect between these wall works and our floor friends. It doesn’t necessarily help us interpret the chaotic, confounding scene before our eyes. I wonder what to make of it. But as it happens, these are some of the most interesting works in the show – once you recover from the massed animatronic spectacle of the animals of the title.

“You can’t help but watch with a kind of morbid curiosity”

They include at times disturbing small paintings and collages, a darkly surreal glove puppet with dentures; such things throw the mind in a multitude of often nightmarish directions and possibilities. For many, however, especially casual visitors, the ubiquitous creatures will be the stars – and main takeaway – of the show. Understandably. While never quite attaining anthropomorphic status, you can’t help but watch them with a kind of morbid curiosity as they variously stumble, prod and attack. In them you can discern the travails and obstacles of life that we all come up against and endure.

We’re told that the exhibition contains “a set of instructions for ‘a new kind of animal.’” While I’m uncertain these instructions could be successfully deciphered by anyone – including David Attenborough himself – I had fun trying.

Mike Pinnington

Tim Spooner: A New Kind of Animal continues at the Bluecoat until 21 January

Image: Roger Sinek

Posted on 12/01/2024 by thedoublenegative