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This article is taken from PN Review 164, Volume 31 Number 6, July - August 2005.

Mythology without Myth: The Paintings of Timothy Hyman David Gervais

'... je ne puis jamais considérer le choix du sujet comme indifférent... je crois que le sujet fait pour l'artiste une partie du génie.'1


What all Timothy Hyman's paintings seek to create is not so much myth, still less allegory, as a kind of personal iconography that will resonate beyond the literal premises of his subject-matter, a narrative that turns the anecdotal into the emblematic. Because he is a modern artist this iconography has to be invented and home-made rather than inherited. Its source is the imagination, not what Philip Larkin crudely called 'the myth kitty', and our response to it has to be imaginative, not just exegetical.

The notion of a subjective myth may seem contradictory - autobiography is not a communal form - but in a secular, post-classical culture there may be no other alternative to it. But if Hyman's art is personal, it is not self-centred. His aim is always to switch the self into some realm beyond it. He does this with a disarming directness, spurning the kind of sophistication that has become the bread sauce of British art. Hyman strikes no knowing poses. A painting like I Open My Heart to Reveal London Within may be violently self-revealing but it is not confessional: the emotion actually refers to something as complex and communal as London, the personal in the impersonal. Such violence is what one expects at the birth of a myth. What is unusual in this ...


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