Sunday, 31 January 2016

Learning to Value True Nonconformity

The outside of the Tinkl's home in New Durham, Ontario.

Back in 1993, I had an unusual experience.  The Koffler Gallery in North York had commissioned me to write an essay for an exhibition titled (and yes this is supposed to be all one word) DEERCROSSINGATTHE SIDESSHOWWITHOUTTHE PIANOPLAYER.  It was to be a solo sculpture show by Viktor Tinkl.  To my surprise, Viktor told me that he did not want to be interviewed for the essay.  When I asked Tinkl for his resume so that I could research him, I was given a piece of paper that said:  Viktor Tinkl Resume…BORN LIVING WORKING PLAYING PLAYING WORKING.  Refusing to be thwarted, I went to speak with his dealer, Av Isaacs. 

When Toronto art dealer Avrom Isaacs first saw Tinkl's sculpture he was struck by how many categories of art the work alluded to and yet didn't conform to.  The rotary machines and revolving disks might have been Dadaesque except the stylized figures were more like Folk Art.  The bold references to popular culture were almost Pop Art and the chromatic intensity of the contrasting colours was nearly Op Art.

The use of found materials was better than any Found Art Isaacs had seen in the Canadian art community.  Clearly, Viktor Tinkl had an ability to invest almost anything with its own fantastic life.  Isaacs concluded that despite all the apparent allusions, "Tinkl had really gone his own way."

I reported this to Tinkl to get his response.  "Oh give me a break –I just use things that no one else wants." While he may not believe in the usefulness of art categories, he does believe in the siren song of a bottle label or juice can.
Viktor and wife Judith in a 2015 Youtube clip.

Eventually, I found my way to New Durham and the Tinkls' home.  Luckily, his wife is a quilter and so I found common ground that way.  Also, I learned to call Viktor's studio a workshop.  The man is noted for his humour and distaste for pretension.

So, I started the essay with a classic Viktor Tinkl story, it goes something like this:

When the Tinkl Family's pet chicken died one winter it presented a small problem.  Taking her to the dump was unthinkable and the ground was too frozen to dig.  Viktor and the kids decided to build a funeral pyre.

For this special occasion, Viktor decided to surrender his collection of 14 Christmas trees, which over the years had dried to tinder-perfection.  Originally collected for transformation in some sculpture project, they became fuel for the pyre.  Today Tinkl still marvels "do you know how many Christmas trees it takes to…

After they had solved the problem of the chicken rolling off the pyre and the mission was accomplished, the sculptor speculated to this sons that one day when he passed away they could do the same for him –except they could use "their legacy," the workshop-like warehouse full of Tinkl's sculpture.  The sons were horrified.  "There are laws against that!  What would the neighbours think?" objected the older one.  But, Viktor observes, "the younger one, he saw the humour in it."
These huge figures were entirely covered in burrs.  Protective prickles or deadlocked habits? An evocative metaphor and a memorable sight.

No comments:

Post a Comment