MARK B. TIMMINS / The ABBA Cycle of Paintings

Exploring how pop culture influenced my childhood

There are many influences upon my painting. My main objective is to go back to my childhood through my work and seek personal truths. My imagery deals with dreams, memories and nostalgia. The theme that keeps coming up in my work connects to the pop group Abba.

During the 70's I was a young boy and a super fan of Abba. I want to explore how their imagery and influence manifest in my work today and to explore why! Their imagery along with that of the Native American, Bible imagery and Fairy Tales created a rich Utopian haven for me which I still return to when I create.

I want to understand my need to create this visual haven. This project is an ongoing one and a very personal project for me. The kitsch imagery of Abba was akin to a real fairy tale Utopia that was not destined for 'Happy Ever After' and this is what the Abba Cycle of Paintings will explore.

instagram: timminsart 

'Protection Rock' 495mm x 395mm Acrylic on canvas 2016

This painting deals with some of my first childhood memories. 

An obsession with Native Americans from the age of 3 developed alongside a compulsion to draw. This was joined at 6 years by my Abba fixation.

The painting combines all of these strands. The young boy is in an alcove protected by the protective Goddess figures of Day and Night (the female members of Abba). The sky has turned from an imaginary Colorado desert to a blue velvet night sky full of sequins (Abba costumes). Imagination and make believe were prevalent at this age.

From the first time as a boy I heard Abba's music I felt it to be spiritual in a strange way which connected also with how I saw Native Americans. This is what I am trying to convey in this painting.

'Watching Over' 495mm x 395mm Acrylic on canvas 2016

This painting describes my bedroom as a 9 year old.

The imagery of Abba was otherworldly and angelic. Their stage costumes were often kitsch and shiny. In this image I am continuing the protective Goddess image and merging it with fairytale.

i wanted to create a mixture of folk tale (Cinderella's Fairy Godmother) with religious imagery (The Annunciation). This also connects to my interests at the time in fairytale and Bible stories (remember the Ladybird Books?) alongside mythology.

I find it interesting how as young children celebrity can become a form of religion. This is definitely how I viewed Abba...Utopian, angelic, from a faraway country with a different language.

It was as if the pictures in my Ladybird books had come to life and started singing. This was indeed attractive and mesmerising for me as a child. Abba represented a kind of Heaven for me.

'Painting For a Nursery' 395mm x 495mm Acrylic on canvas 2016

This painting deals with the image of Agnetha of Abba as an archetypal Mother Goddess.

This painting was particularly difficult for me.

My own parents were the age of typical grandparents at the time during the 1970s. I now appreciate all the sacrifices that were made for me for which I am obviously grateful. However when I was growing up I used to imagine what it would be like to have parents of what was then the 'normal' age. Of course Abba's image was a template for this. They were all parents themselves. It has been well documented how the role of a superstar and a mother were a challenge to Abba's Agnetha.

I still see images of this band now and it almost feels like I am looking at old family photos, such was the influence that their image had over me as a boy/early teen. This has still continued to a certain extent.

This painting is a testament to how I superimposed my fantasy of an idealised imaginary life onto a media image.


'Shrine' 495mm x 395mm Acrylic on canvas 2016

This painting deals with Abba and their connection to the Christmas holiday season.

I associated Abba a lot with the Christmas period as a boy when I would often get an Abba related gift (an album or annual/other merchandise). However this painting alludes to more negative and darker situations.

Christmas was often strained and there were many arguments when I was young. This is not especially different for many families. Abba were an escape from this. Their music and imagery were a protection.

This image also deals with the trauma(?) of the symbols of your perfect idealised life being not so perfect. The baubles are not smiling, they are made of glass and are easily shattered. The breakdown of the two romantic relationships in Abba are well documented. This picture is similar in a way to how you react as a child when you realised that Santa Claus was just a myth. The seemingly sparkly and bright season no longer pushes the reality away.

'Before The Snowbird Came' 395mm x 495mm Acrylic on canvas 2016

This painting is about the romantic myth that pervades Abba's imagery and is sometimes described in their music.

The image is of Abba's Frida and Benny in a romantic moment before the whole world media began to notice the group. I wanted to capture the wistfullness and as a fan you know that this was not forever. This was reflected in their lyrics of course.

I have used the curtain motif to suggest a stage set. I wanted to reflect the real relationship but also how soon the relationships in the group became public property which also was propagated in Abba's image. 

'Heartbreaking Performance' 495mm x 395mm Acrylic on canvas 2016

This painting deals with Abba and relationship breakdown.

As a young fan it was very sad to realise that the image of two perfect couples happy and in love was no longer the case. Rather like putting a "NOT so happy ever after' at the end of a fairytale!

This painting which illustrates the divorce of Abba's Bjorn and Agnetha is dealing with how difficult I imagine it must have been to still perform to the public as an entity yet at the same time to have changed in your personal circumstances. I am sure that there were many young fans of the group who were quite devastated, akin to their own parental figures splitting up. This was certainly how I felt as a 10 year old.

I still adored the group but you knew that there was a shift.

Later on as an adult I would go through relationship breakdown and in painting this image I am also touching on my own later experience. 

'The End Of Act One' 395mm x 495mm Acrylic on canvas 2016

This painting is about how the young teen moved on to other things...

The painting shows a discarded puppet theatre with the characters left in disarray. The puppets can no longer perform, there is no more artifice.

The melancholy air in the music of Abba was too dark. The young teen wanted to find different Utopias to escape too. As a young adult it would be this era of their music that would bring me the greatest satisfaction. This had to wait ten years however, hence the title of the painting.



As a painter, there has always been an air of unease and darkness that goes alongside all kitsch and luminous imagery, a shadow for every bright light I suppose. This has always been fascinating to me. Perhaps in part I have my enduring appreciation of Abba to thank for this.

Thank You For The Darkness, the dreams I'm painting....


Mark B. Timmins   April,2016

With the finished Abba Cycle...I will continue with the theme this space!

Further paintings

The paintings here are the natural continuation from The Abba Cycle of Paintings.

i am now creating work where the theme is still predominantly about childhood. I wanted to explore the themes of fairy tale, mythology and memory. To look back on the landscape of my childhood and build from there.

Abba were the deities in the garden of that childhood. I want to explore this garden and play there once more, visually speaking. I am intrigued by what may be created within this theme...

'The Silent Lyre' 510mm X 605mm Acrylic on canvas 2916
'Nature Song' (detail) 400mm X 800mm Acrylic on canvas 2016
'Painkillers To Help Me Cope With Anything' 400mm X 800mm Acryluc on canvas 2016
'Wedding' 400mm X 500mm Acrylic on canvas 2016
'Fireside' 555mm X 400mm Acrylic on canvas 2016
'The Realisation' 500mm X 610mm Acrylic on canvas 2016
'The Baker's Dream' 555mm X 400mm Acrylic on canvas 2016
‘Theatre Of Childhood’ 65cm x 90cm Acrylic on canvas 2017
‘Playground’ 65cm x 90cm Acrylic on canvas 2017