Tim Sullivan Exhibition

Kim Sikora: Can you talk a little bit about the work you’ve been creating at the lab?

Tim Sullivan: My current show at Steven Wolf Fine Arts “Blackout, Bleach and Blueballs” is a series in 3 separate, but related parts. The “Blackout” section includes the flocked lightbulbs and the negative photographs where I depict shining darkness upon the world.

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“Bleach” is an negative sculpture and sound piece, basically an inverted cassette tape or Nirvana “Bleach”.


“Blueballs” is an interactive video installation that consists of a “ball room” with multiple sizes of blue balls from 10″ to 7ft in diameter where the viewer is invited to kick or punch the balls around, the blue of the balls is keyed out and can be viewed on a monitor in the other room.

KS: How did you create the concept for these images?

TS: For the “Blackout” photos I wanted to show what things would look like if darkness shone upon them. This was really just a concept that I have thought about for a long time, but never quite knew how to depict. I started with the black flocked lightbulbs, when photographers want to absorb light they usually use a black velvet backdrop, taking this material and covering a lightbulb with it was the simplest way to give the concept of negating light. I thought I might cover sections of my still lives with black flock to make a more physical or sculptural representation of “shining blackness”.


Before I began making such sculptural tableaux it came to me that when looking at a negative one sees the light that is not there rather than the light that is. So a very bright and blown out photo would be very dark, a very dark photo would be light, glare would be black and shadows white, in this negative world.


But I couldn’t just show a negative as the viewers mind would go directly to that, so I created inverted scenes, little negative worlds by painting and printing objects in their opposite hues to give a sense that the world is “real” but the lights are shining darkness rather than light.

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KS: You make interesting choices with the objects of your still lives.
Are there narratives behind these?

TS: They are narrative. To me they are mostly self portraits, personal narratives about me and the people in my life.


They are takes on 16th-17th century dutch vanitas paintings which were oftentimes portraits themselves, containing objects that were specific to the patron, etc. In “Trix” I wanted to blur the line between a more serious fine art still life and an advertising photo, I have been very influenced by ad photography growing up so it’s a little bit of an homage, not to mention that it directly points out that you are about to be “tricked”.

KS: What has your biggest challenge been?

TS: Almost everything in this “negative world” is a different shade of blue…I don’t think the human eye is used to distinguishing between all of these different blues and we certainly do not have the vocabulary for it. Just figuring out those blues, categorizing them and mixing the paint has been quite the challenge. Outside of mixing 50 shades of blue the painting of objects in general was pretty difficult as I haven’t actually painted since undergraduate school and even though I was just painting over mostly 3 diminutional objects I had to decide upon a consistent style whether it was “realistic” or more expressive.

KS: As artists, most of us face obstacles in creating work. How do you
balance your personal and professional time?

TS: If you are not living off of your art, which most of us are not, you have to able to pull all nighters. I’s harder as you get older to pull all nighters so you have to figure out a way to live off a part time job, which is hard in an expensive city like SF.


Also one can try to find work where you can incorporate your practice into your job. When I used to be an art consultant I would consider getting dressed in a suit and selling an Andy Warhol all part of a big performance. Also if you have a family you can incorporate them into your art making practice, I spent some serious “quality time” making work with my family.


If you are an artist you should have no problem figuring out creative ways to multitask and if you are excited about the work your making you’ll make it happen, when I’m in the middle of a project I’d rather keep going than eat.