LONDON, UK — Star of Mr Turner created 20 works over six-month period after gallery owner saw his talent.
He is one of Britain's most revered actors and has portrayed JMW Turner and LS Lowry on screen - and now Timothy Spall is having his own paintings hung in a solo show at a London gallery.
The gallery owner Domenic Pontone asked Spall to create a show after seeing his work at the Lowry Gallery in Salford, where 14 of Spall's paintings were displayed in an exhibition to celebrate the release of the 2019 film Mrs Lowry & Son. "Talk about being a bit stunned," Spall said. "I've always liked a challenge but I thought: Jesus, can I do this?"
He eventually agreed and created 20 works over a six-month period. The resulting show, Timothy Spall, Out of the Storm, will be at the Pontone Gallery in June and July. It will be Spall's third appearance in an exhibition but his first solo show.
As a 15-year-old, Spall's passions were art, acting and the army cadets. He was learning about tanks with the cadet corps based in Clapham Junction, and at the same time finding out about the impressionists and surrealists with regular trips to the Tate. "I got obsessed with the lobster telephone," said Spall.
He would ultimately choose acting, going on to Rada and the National Theatre, but when given the chance to play Turner in Mike Leigh's celebrated 2014 biopic Mr Turner, he turned to painting again.
In preparation for the shoot, Spall received tutelage from a painting consultant, Tim Wright, working with him for two years. Spall ultimately won best actor at Cannes for his performance in a film described by the Guardian as an "intensely enjoyable study of the great artist's final years".
Spall said Wright gave him an "art foundation course" to help bring him up to speed for the role. "Tim gave me this old-fashioned course in painting and we did everything from speed drawing and speed painting, plein air, sketching, to life drawing - all very intensely."
Spall said he knew he had "some ability", but he didn't pick up painting again until the Lowry film, when he would paint incessantly between takes on set and began to find his own style by basing his work on some of the 16,000 pictures he has taken and collated on his computer.
"I started painting stuff that was based on very strong images that related to the mood and feelings that I had and then all of a sudden this thing started to happen," he said.
Wright said Spall could have been a "very good pastiche artist" after he worked on a copy of a Turner painting in the buildup to the biopic, and although Spall's own paintings are mostly landscapes, they're a world away from Turner, Spall said. "They're pretty good benchmarks to reach for, wherever you get one millimetre towards it or not."
Wright described Spall's work as being "in the English landscape tradition … but there's elements of the surreal in there as well". Spall wants to leave it up to others to critique the work, and he said he was aware of how fortunate he was to have a show of his own paintings. "Thousands of brilliant artists never get recognised and I'm aware of that as well," he said. "That's not lost on me, that I've been given this opportunity when there are brilliant artists who don't get a look in."
Spall is expecting some negative reaction to an actor turning painter, but he said the discipline of learning to paint and then creating the work had dissolved any hint of impostor syndrome. "I've applied myself to this, not as an evening thing or a hobby but as an absolute determined thing. I went through it and did it. I went through the whole process and I'm not an impostor because I've done it."
Timothy Spall, Out of the Storm runs from 18 June to 18 July at Pontone Gallery, W1T 3DB