Renowned artist Tim Ellis finds solitude in FNQ


Artist and former Londoner Tim Ellis describes himself as creatively driven, somewhat a loner, happy-go-lucky and someone who has found his niche after wanting to get out of the city and live a more remote lifestyle.

And after making his move from the UK 15 years ago, he has more than made his mark as an artist working across painting and film, and using his experience as a former art director in the UK film and television industry to inform his work.

Living in the Douglas Shire, he has made a significant contribution in a number of areas, which includes serving as the Douglas Shire Council’s Arts & Culture Officer, a position he has occupied since January 2018.

Previously, he was the Gallery Manager and Art Coordinator at the Mossman Gorge Centre working with Kuku Yalanji Artists.

He is perhaps a trifle philosophical when he considers how artists can continue to showcase their work in these unprecedented times.

“This is a good time for artists to reflect, observe and create. Artists work in isolation. The showcase will come after this is over, when the arts are fundamental to community recovery. In the meantime, Instagram is a great platform to share and get inspired,” he says.

To better understand his thinking about his work, he provides an interesting reflection.

“I see my paintings as akin to film stills; illustrating a small part of a bigger picture where story, character and scenery merge to create a portrait of life in these ‘somewhere-else’ places. I paint to capture my appreciation of this community around me.”

What is also interesting is learning how he has adapted from living in a city of millions to the remoteness of Far North Queensland, Port Douglas and Mossman in particular.

“I missed being able to immerse myself in culture – plays, concerts, exhibitions, events – that the city has to offer.

“However, with social media and on-line streaming, this is not so bad. I had to change down a gear too: city life is so fast, and here we can take time to stop on the street and chat, or sit on the beach doing nothing,” says Ellis, who had a 15-year career as an art director in the UK film and television industry and worked on many dramas for the BBC, and independent British films.

Now, after living in the shire after immigrating to Australia in 2005, his body of work has developed and Ellis has honed his focus on remote towns of regional far north Queensland.

And with a cinematic eye, he has watched and captured vignettes of everyday life, accumulating threads of individual stories and shared experiences.

And as he puts it: “Upon returning to his Mossman studio, the artist creates large photographic montages, where new narratives unfold and people, buildings and activities are compressed into singular fiction snapshots.

“Minute moments and actions are amplified and past, present and future are merged. These hyper-real rural scenes offer a glimpse into reality and extend into fantasy.” 

Ellis says after arriving in rural Australia in 2005, he became fascinated with the country towns sleepily existing at the outer-reaches of Queensland. “The textures and styles I see in are at once dated, yet have a faded beauty.

“It is these charming scenes of rural folk existing in a world that seems slower, cosier and safer that captured my imagination for creating this collection of painted stories. With great fondness, I have travelled among these places, photographing the eccentric, the worn, the everyday, the facades, the signs and the sights of living an ordinary life at these furthest parts.

“One can almost imagine being taken back into another time, where communities existing a big step away from the commercial cities and modern approaches of seemingly mainstream life.

“Rural architecture, style and self-image blur with the decades of the past; small town traditions such as country shows are still popular, and the patina of age is evidenced in the layers of painted shopfronts.

“Charming personalities go about their daily life, visibly removed from the politics and progress of a modern, edgy, sometimes dangerous world.”

The techniques of depicting life through a lens inform his paintings, photography, digital artworks and videos with larger-than-life characters, cinematic compositions and enhanced visual imagery.

Ellis, who studied Fine Arts to a Masters degree in Europe, has had solo exhibitions in Cairns (Tanks Arts Centre, 2011 and Cairns Regional Gallery, 2013); and he has been involved in group exhibitions in Cairns, Port Douglas, Brisbane, Gympie, Hinchinbrook, Atherton and Chinchilla.

To view his most recent exhibition, here is a short film that was made.

He was exhibiting “Folk Stories”, which was to have run from March 2 to April 18 at NorthSite Contemporary Arts, Cairns, but was forced to shut because of Covid-19.

To learn more, visit his website:   

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