The Found Object Paintings


Discarded material that has undergone a haphazard transformation through decay and by contact with unintentional forces on the street can become beautiful and captivating.  The eroded surface of abandoned cardboard or a twisted mass of wire that somehow ended up in the gutter, perhaps fallen off of a work truck, with a dried leaf entangled acquire an accidental design, and the folds and curves can seem more alive than a shape intentionally drawn.

Through the purposeful application of multiple watercolor washes over a full-size drawing of the subject, I attempt to faithfully render the colors and materials as I find them, provoking the viewer into a heightened state of attention by the engagement with a representation of an object that might otherwise have gone unseen and would be considered an unworthy subject for an artwork if encountered on the street. During the painting process, the time I spend looking at an object can range from weeks to months, and ideally the final result is at first glance indistinguishable from the original material.  Some of the items such as cardboard packaging were designed only to be observed by truck drivers and stock clerks then thrown away, now find a continued life represented by an intimately observed work of art.  The contradiction between the disposable and the celebrated creates a tension that raises multiple questions about globalization, consumerism, and the waste-stream. In San Francisco's Chinatown district, where I live, the bustling commercial streets are just one beachhead in the globalized economy and are awash in material that is both alluring and indecipherable.

Tim Wells
2017