For the Melbourne Art Fair in 2010, Tim Moore created two works that were exhibited via his gallerist, Helen Gory Galerie, and one particularly stands out. Hi everyone I’m Sponge Nob, a 30x30cm embroidery on vintage Sicilian linen – the standard format of most of Mr Moore’s work – features an overzealously happy Sponge Bob Square Pants, eyes glitteringly alive and arm waving. It sounds nice enough, a little quirky, given the silliness, except that, on the character’s black trousers sticks out a thick yellow penis, reaching nearly to his knee.
But Mr Moore is no child. In fact, when we speak he’s sitting in the back of his car having just got his son, Silas, to sleep, the 10-month old child he had with his long-term partner, stylist Caterina Scardino. Things have, very rapidly, changed for the 37-year old artist, who finds it a struggle to dedicate time to embroidery, the element of his work he describes as so boring. “It’s hard,” he concedes. “But it’s just going to get easier as [Silas] grows older. I try and do it when he’s asleep, like in the evenings, and dedicate at least one or two days just to sewing each week, but in the free time I have I’m helping Cat out, and besides, I enjoy hanging out with him.”
The male phallus is central to Mr Moore’s art, and the utter absurdity of seeing it embroidered – that combination of bygone, feminine craftsmanship and childish toilet humour – is what makes his work so amusing and, at the same time, rather profound. But when pressed, the artist is by no means keen to share his fascination with cock. “I know where it comes from, but I don’t think I can talk about that,” he says rather coyly. “Look, I just think that cocks are funny. Pictures of them are funny. People draw them on their schoolbooks. It’s just ridiculous and, I think, part of not wanting to grow up.”
British-born, Sydney-based Mr Moore has worked as a visual artist for near a decade. Having graduated from Brighton University with a Bachelor of Three Dimensional Design with Honours in 1998, he drifted unhappily between jewellery and graphic design jobs before finding himself in love in Australia, making the move in 2001. In 2008 he explained to Dazed & Confused his transition from pen to needle, and the story has become tied up in the mythology that surrounds any artist’s practice. “It’s an old story,” Mr Moore rehashes, clearly having explained it more than once. “I always carried a sketchbook but when I was flying back [to Australia] I left my pencil case somewhere and that’s how it all started with the embroidery.” Using the in-flight sewing kit (pre-September 2001), Mr Moore discovered a new way to express his pen-on-paper doodlings. “It’s been in print so many times that story,” he adds.
While time is limited for the artist, he’s currently working on a solo show to be unveiled at his Melbourne gallery in the first quarter of 2013, though he’s worried about the works’ completion. “These works are the biggest I’ve done,” he explains, with one of the pieces nearing 1.5 metres. “But once it’s finished it’s going to be amazing,” he adds reassuringly, more to himself, I suspect. Mr Moore begins by sketching the outline on the linen and then embroidering over the top and within the lines. “It’s like a really, really slow colouring book. It feels like I’ve been working on this one piece for fucking ages, but I’m really excited about by the thought of getting it done.”
Can’t he hand some of the handiwork over to a minion? “I would love to do stuff with the Country Women’s Association,” he says. “A friend of mine knitted a penis scarf for them, and the lady at the Geelong Wool Gallery just blushed and giggled. See,” he says, “the craft of penis appeals to everyone.”
Mr Moore photographed with his son, Silas, on 02 August 2012 at
Sun Studios, Alexandria, Australia. Post Production Mitch Fong.