Tim Church

Tim Church’s combined competencies (machinist, chemist, researcher, scientist, medical doctor) coupled with his artistic eye bring us a lively new genre of artwork — “the paintless copper painting.” Church built on his knack for chemistry and his proven abilities in medical research to explore new artistic processes that he developed, eventually leading to the discovery of his own aesthetic. The extraordinary range of organic forms, colors, shapes, and contours testifies to his instincts and ability as the founder of a genre in its infancy.

Born in Salinas, California (“the salad bowl of the U.S.”), Tim first gained experience working with metal as a teenager in produce packing houses. During his college years, he expanded his skills in metal work as a part-time machinist for a biomechanical research laboratory. While pursuing a medical degree at Tulane, Tim discovered the New Orleans art scene. Throughout the old city, he saw various copper sculptures and fountains and began to develop a love for the different colorations and dimensionality of copper.

Years later he revisited the French Quarter and determined from that point on, to turn his appreciation for copper into works of art, beginning with his own fountains and sculptures. The year 2000 marked a shift away from sculpture to a fascination with wall art. It was then that Church dedicated himself to what he calls “extreme copper experimentation,” a decision that ultimately led to the accomplished work you see today.

As he began to explore the limits--and limitlessness--of the medium, he hammered out his first copper sheet around a canvas. Where other copper artists took advantage of only 3% of available copper coloration techniques, Tim fearlessly made use of acids, bases, temperature, and oxygen to achieve a wide range of colors and surface effects in copper.

Building an outdoor studio, he incorporated the additional elements of weather and time. In doing so, he discovered summer’s oranges, reds, browns and blacks and winter’s piercing blues.

After placing pieces in the elements for up to 6 months, the colors blend and reach maximum intensity. Church then coats each piece with 4 epoxy layers to seal the artwork. “Never are paints or metal stains used,” Church says, “It’s just nature and chemistry taking its course.”

From his earliest fountains and sculptures to his current expressions of contemporary wall art, the journey for Church has been driven “by the love of creating and of using precision-based fields of thermodynamics, chemistry, and metallurgy to create imprecise patterns of color where the final outcome is decided by the forces of nature.” His combination of skilled metalwork, research, fearlessness in pushing the materials, and his willingness to co-create with nature inspires a wide variety of collectors and scientists -- making Church’s career a swiftly growing and steadily maturing one.

His work ethic and materials-mastery mean that his aesthetic sensibilities continue to evolve as he incorporates ongoing research with breakthroughs in the sciences. The results tell the story of his success -- the richest textures, colors, and effects in copper found in the art world today -- a level of work unachieved by any others. The art world is taking notice that his creative process is hard to emulate, his artwork rare and unique, and for most collectors something they have never seen before.

THE ARTIST ON HIS WORK

“I’ve tried everything I can conceive of—every chemical process, every environment, every approach to working with copper. I continue to push the materials to their limits. If someone wants to try to replicate my work—good freakin’ luck. I’m a scientist who has put an enormous amount of effort, chemistry, and research into this artistic process.”
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“The pieces I create begin with acids and bases fighting for dominance on the copper canvas, creating something primitive and organic.”
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“I grew up without a fear of metal, tools, or chemicals—and all have played a larger part in my progression as an artist and my work with copper. They have given me an understanding of chemistry as the driver—the foundation--of copper art.”
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“My work is often described as a patina; this is not exactly accurate as the layers of color are stacked on top of the metal, not burnt into it.”
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“Temperature plays a pivotal role in the final outcome, as chemical combinations that result in bright orange in the summer heat produce a brilliant blue in the dry winter cold. Understanding what chemical combinations work best in each set of weather conditions has been a lengthy educational process.”