My brush with Timmy Mallett

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I HAD been warned what to expect. If it wasn’t the migraine-inducing outfits, the ‘Utterly brilliant’ catchphrase, the annoyance factor (Page 3 girl Nicola McLean described him as ‘The most annoying man I ever met’) then it would be: The Hammer.

Not a real hammer, of course, but Mallett’s Mallet, the object that made its eponymous inventor into a national and, it must be said, much-loved celebrity.

Truth be told I have had to look up almost all the background information in this piece from the internet because I have successfully managed to avoid Timmy Mallett for most of my young life and my er, not so young life.

So I never heard the catchphrase, watched his shows (Wacaday, since you ask), or had to wonder why a bizarrely-dressed bloke with stupid glasses made so many people laugh by whacking them with a toy hammer.

They just did, OK? And in their thousands; millions, even. So many, in fact, that Timmers still makes a comfy living out of being himself in shows and occasionally on TV, in stuff like I’m A Celebrity. But today he is at Bournemouth’s Westover Gallery, to talk about his artwork, the exuberant, vividly-executed paintings which are flying off the walls even as I arrive.

Thankfully there is no sign of the Mallet but a lady has spotted a painting, bought it for her husband and is grabbing a commemorative snap with Timmy before she takes it away.

He chats away to her before chatting away to me, describing his work and how it came about.

“I’ve always loved art and did history of art and loved it at school, my dad encouraged me, he was a keen painter and got me interested in colour,” he bubbles. “I would take my paints on Wacaday filming trips and the crew would love it.”

Colour and movement are the theme of his works; from the giant wave dashing a rock in Cornwall, to the dazzle of the afternoon sun on Bournemouth beach, to the proud castle of Conway and the poppies in the field near his home. Purple, blue, emerald and red – his favourite colour – dance across the canvases, placed there with his pallet knife or, occasionally, the old trick of splashing on spray with a toothbrush. And he is inspired by the changing seasons: “I’m a big believer in seasons; English seasons are the most spectacular in the world,” he declares.

He also believes that to be a painter you’ve got to paint. “So I’ve spent part of every day in my studio,” he says. “Mornings in the studio, afternoons in the office, evenings doing a show, its’ a great variety and I’ve got a lovely life for the amount of things I can do. The days whizz by.”

He travels extensively doing shows, charity work and visiting friends and finds something to paint almost everywhere. “I’ve always got a sketchbook and camera,” he says.

This leads to works as diverse as ‘Chains’ a pleasing industrial landscape of ships at anchor, to ‘Night time phone box’ inspired by a dinner date in Oxford; to ‘Path through the bluebells’ and ‘Wonderful Wisteria’, inspired by a view from ‘down the road’.

The bluebell paintings are particularly rich. “That one is Shakespeare’s Wood,” he enthuses, pointing at a purple and ultramarine confection and suddenly, he starts reciting Sonnet 18.

He’s also keen to show off his series of paintings and prints inspired by the 40th anniversary of The Railway Children movie. And he’s happy to talk about his time on I’m A Celebrity, where he famously consumed a Penis Colada. “Yes, it tasted disgusting and the bits got stuck in your teeth.”

It’s a reminder of his wackier side, the one that gets involved with bushtucker challenges because: “It’s fun,” and the side that could infuriate if, as he points out, you are cooped up with lots of strangers in a sweaty space in Australia, about the size of the Westover Gallery.

But how annoying can anyone be, who can take the time to notice the green lichen on a red post box, and then to hope it gets used every day because “I would hate for someone to go there, open it and find nothing inside.”

Timmy Mallett may wear a very loud shirt. But he is not what you’d expect.

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