"The new (ancient) age"
I think it was one night not too long ago. Late, late into the night, when I first
found myself staring at Jeffrey Scott Mathew's paintings. Maybe my eyes were exhausted from staring at the screen, but Jeffrey's paintings seemed to be melting in front of my eyes. Perhaps it was Max Richter's score that was lulling me into a dream state, or maybe it was just the hour.
Their lines blurry, and fuzzy, bouncing upon the surface almost like an analogue melodic beat might. Their strong geometric lines reminded me of fantastic wallpapers, or some
sort of psychedelic tapestry that would be draped over a chair.
Yet their painted surfaces seem to be destroyed with these metallic puddles of good(evil)ness!?!
Bi83, I wondered wtf?
and Binary rainbows,and twilight thinkers, I was hooked!
Sign me up for this afterlife, please.
Untitled (Drctnl Decomposition), 2010
What is bi83 and marker bleed? Will you talk about your process for making this series of work? Bi83 is the name for the heavy metal bismuth as it is found on the periodic table of elements. Bismuth has a rich cultural history as both a metaphysical healing property and as an element with many commercial applications(it is the active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol). The reason that I choose to work with the material is that it forms stair-step or hopper crystals as it cools. It has a low melting point so it is possible to drip and draw with the material on linen or canvas. As the molten metal cools, crystals form and the material forms a bond with the linen. I appreciate the component of organic structure occurring after chaotic and almost expressionistic gestural painting.
The marker-bleed refers to my use of markers on linen that are compromised by water or chemical agent, allowing the pigment to bleed and saturate into the linen. I see this as another level of the process or systemic organization being disrupted by natural phenomena. Due to the fact that I work with chance there is always a high possibility of failure. This makes things both exciting and precarious as I am constantly building things up in order to break them down. I think this collaboration with nature is vaguely reminiscent of my background in experimental processes with photography.
The work is both a recording and an experiment. Ultimately, each work is the residue of an ongoing investigation with infinite possibilities. who are you inspired by? I'm heavily inspired by the sort of formal enthusiasm typified by late 60's minimalism where artists were working with space-age industrial materials in order to subvert their function within the military industrial complex. I'm also inspired by the science fiction writing of JG Ballard and his elemental cycle, which encapsulates positivist ideas about geophysical change and its relevance to psychological transformation.
You seemed to be drawn toward the 11 x 14 format. Any particular reasons? I feel like the scale of an 11x14 inch painting makes it more personal and less monumental. I am not opposed to monumental works, but the scale seemed appropriate for the intricacy of the crystals that form on the surface of these paintings. I am, however, constantly learning new ways to manipulate the bismuth, so I think a scale upgrade will occur when I am capable of cultivating larger crystals. As the means of control grow, so grows the system.
Is your home messy or neat? I live in an apartment in Brooklyn with my girlfriend who is also an artist. We keep things neat when we can, although she is in the early stages of initiating a rooftop garden, so dirt is everywhere.
I also work from home, so my studio vacillates between being organized and efficient and adversely sloppy and crystal laden, much like my paintings!
Talk about twilight thinker, and binary rainbow... where do you titles come from? I title the works "Untitled" with parenthetical titles for descriptive or reference purposes. The referential titles are sometimes formally descriptive, and sometimes arbitrary. "Twilight Thinker" is actually a chapter in (Anti-) philosopher Emil Cioran's book "A Short History of Decay", which I am currently reading.
In this chapter Cioran states " Finding ourselves at a point symmetrical to the agony of the ancient world, a victim of the same sicknesses and under similarly ineluctable charms, we see the great systems destroyed by their limited perfection... We have come with our own death to the doors of philosophy: rotting on their hinges, having nothing more to protect, they open of their own accord..."
If you could have one dream next door neighbor, who would you want to move in next door? I think my dream neighbor would have to be either tolerant of noisy drone music or deaf, because my current neighbors are definitely not down with the kind of music i listen to. Maybe I would want the neighbor to be an intellectual musician Tony Conrad, Terry Riley, or Steve Reich. Music is important to me because it is all process. I like experiential sounds that inspire a sort of be-here-now existentialist state of mind. So, yeah some kind of new age person...
thank you Jeffrey for having this conversation!
see more of Jeffrey Scott Mathews' work here..