Tim Davies is something of a ‘Resurrectionist’; he picks his way over the clean bones of social history, in a way which gives the lie to its more general mythologizing and homogenisation. His materials are simple, what anyone might find wandering along a canal-side or within the tumbled walls of a former industrial works: South Wales is still over-rich with such material. But Davies elevates humble things like nails, felt underlay and feathers into art. Not with anything Duchampian in mind, or from any particular concern with the object per se but in search of a new imagery. Place, as it is with many artists in Wales, is a great concern of Davies’s but not in any nostalgic way (even at his most nostalgic, as in his artist’s book A Place I Know Well, there is always a politico-aesthetic bite). His places are invariably peopled, most poignantly so by people characterised by their absence. They have shifted. And his objects are their relics, which he harnesses, arranging them poetically and usually obsessively, like minimalist multiples which make a point he hammers skilfully home.
The constant reiteration of a message in today’s sound-bite society is a crime. And to reiterate a political message seems to smack of an unforgivable degree of stridency, and the marginalisation of the strident is one of the few things at which society excels. Yet, Davies’ work screams outrage beautifully, subtly and silently but his message is all the more effective for that. As Alex Farqhuarson writes in the catalogue to Davies’ Capel Celyn exhibition:
Tim Davies finds himself in the very un-post-modern role of having to find forms and signifiers for events for the first time. Art on the margins … can still act for the community in place of absent governmental or media representation, and one cannot help feeling that in Davies’ hands what began as a single rusty nail that was duplicated by wax casts, spent matches, twists of blanket and scorched lines has taken on the votive function of a candle in church for the lives of the dispossessed at Capel Celyn.