The universe of American artist Matthew Monahan (Eureka, CA, 1972) is full of powerful and bizarre human-like objects that have an enormous presence in the space. He creates a world humming with its own mythology and language, one that plays with our collective and individual unconsciousness, while searching for his own breathtaking artistic solutions.
According to the artist, the human body is the formal frame into which he throws all his magic. For his new show in Galerie Fons Welters he subjects the body to all kinds of formal shocks: ornamentation, fracture, excavation, erosion or dissection. But whatever he does, the gamut of testing they may have run is only to bring out the character, the face of survival, the whole surface of a human landscape, and ultimately, a feeling of love and empathy. His imagination is according to the artist a cluttered scrap heap of souvenirs, relics, and sex drive. In this context, imagination is not just a flicker on the eyelids but a hard won process of bringing images into reality, an encyclopedia of methods that has a life of its own.
Monahan has a clear set of materials that he limits himself to, each one ‘opposing’ but also complementing each other. Charcoal is dust on paper; wax is translucent; glass is transparent and brick is ambivalent. Since a few years he started to use the heaviness and grandeur of bronze. The artist is interested in all the transformation phases between materials and also images; in ”the degree of physicality a soul needs to be to stand out in the world”.
In the gallery space his objects look like figures coming from an elusive and beautiful but raw fantasy world: fragmented bodies, figures made up of exciting combinations of forms, materials and formats are accompanied by subtle charcoal drawings. The drawing is a very important medium to the artist since it stands for his artistic interest that in general focuses on the image and not on the space. “For me, drawing is a kind of digging — a line is an incision, a shadow makes a cavern. Where the cavern leads to is not clear to me. If I dig far enough, I will wrap around the image and then we can call it a sculpture. I am mostly concerned with the face, the façade that most ‘modern’ sculptors would object to. Space is too much for me. I have to work my way from the tip of the nose, and bring the ghost to the surface. You can’t rush something like that just to fill the dance floor. Think how long it took to get the Kouros boy to loosen his hips.”
In this time-consuming, intuitive and technically demanding process Monahan incarnates his artistic ideas and wakes a whole spectrum of archetypical figures to life.