Devil in the details 

Visual Art

Visual Art
Timothy Fisher: Paintings Indianapolis Art Center Through Jan. 30
'Lady in the Bearcat Cafe' by Timothy Fisher
They say the devil is in the details. If this is the case, then something deliciously devilish is going on in the painted worlds of Michigan artist Tim Fisher, whose large-scale oil paintings are currently on view at the Indianapolis Art Center. Fisher, who paints richly allegorical, if randomly conceived, scenes that on first glance mimic the bounty of Baroque still lifes and landscapes combined, takes his imagery into a darker center where beauty's more complicated side is called into view. "Day Dreaming," at a whopping 48-by-72-inches, offers up a fantasy land of sense and nonsense where flora and fauna populate a land of plenty beneath a tropical paradise sky. A bitten plum, a robust watermelon and a small twig of strawberries are among the fruits one discerns in this surrealist jungle of images; these, alongside a small but deadly looking snake winding up a stick, a partridge, a fox, a dead fish and a blue-feathered rooster cavorting in the foreground. Even this would seem ordinary in a Baroque sort of way if it weren't for the faint flicker of flames in the trees across the swamp, and a white platform that seems to indecisively slice this strange world in half, taking the fox's neck with it. Fisher has a flair for the not so obvious, in an attempt, as he puts it, "to better communicate my interests, ideas and impressions." This, he explains in his artist's statement, came about as a response to audience questions: "Preconceptions of 'what looks like Art' and 'what Art is' had been a point of contention with the audience of my past." Thus Fisher's strange universes were born, rendered in the traditional styles of painting as a bridge to the strange things that unfold. But the marriage of traditional and surreal is accidental, as Fisher employs a technique of applying paint at random. "The mess, the chaos, is then scrutinized for interactions. These may be color, image or even concept, as it reveals itself," Fisher writes. The results are a surprise, then, but don't appear accidental. To the contrary: Fisher's scenes are so complex as to invite in-depth psychological or symbolic analysis. Indeed, this is perhaps their real beauty: The viewer may glean meaning from the random yet intentioned renderings, achieving Fisher's goal of offering up a dialogue between the viewer and the artist, or even between the viewer and his or her self. Archetypes abound (the aforementioned rooster and snake among them) - some more obvious than others. But the impression the images leave is a lasting one. In "Limbo," the most obviously humorous, Jesus shares a couch with the devil; Jesus sports a metal halo and the devil's red suit is partially unbuttoned. Rabbits gaze up at Jesus; bottles of booze populate the devil's space. Jesus, though, isn't grounded; instead, he floats just above the surface of the couch cushions, an almost indiscernible detail. These and other details are what make Fisher's work so amazing. (In "Fury," for instance, a woman's bootlaces are tied together and hot coals burn through floating sheets of paper.) While Fisher's painterly abilities are fine, they're not satiny perfect in the true Baroque style. But they're perfect enough to get the artist's point (paint?) across - and the viewer is indeed given something rich and beautiful to behold. Timothy Fisher: Paintings are on view through Jan. 30 at the Indianapolis Art Center, 820 E. 67th St., 255-2464 or

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