Saturday, May 24, 2014

Matthew Gardiner at fifty fifty arts collective by Philip Willey - May 23rd. 2014.


Hey, wassup? Phil here. Checking out Matthew Gardiner’s show at fifty fifty. Very cool paintings.

You know how every now and then you run into something that triggers thoughts and memories and for some reason you feel like writing them down? No? I do. The stimulation is usually visual. It’s amazing the variety of imagery that artists come up with. People keep on making paintings. I may completely miss the point of what the artist is trying to do but I write the thoughts down anyway.

Sometimes I feel like sharing them so I turn them into some kind of essay and email it to exhibit-v. Self-indulgent? Probably. But sometimes we do what we must. And it’s a win-win situation when you think about it. I get stuff off my chest and an artist gets some exposure.

Some people seem to like the subjective approach and some don’t. Perhaps it should come with a safety warning? I’m actually thinking of writing more of my personal problems into these essays. I may even include long sessions with the dentist. If the pain gets too much just stop reading.

And so to Matthew Gardiner. He’s having a show at fifty fifty called In(side)out. It’s a series of recent paintings Gardiner has worked on over the past year. He states…

“The works follow a process of re-positioning cut-out found images until a narrative is formulated.
The depicted individuals in In(side)out lead toward a tension between interior and exterior environments through actions that play with our concepts of space.

The insertion of illusory components in both landscape and interior emulates the persistent failure of societies to bring the outside in and the inside out.”



Gardiner has found an interesting way of dealing with received imagery. With an endless supply of images from magazines and a multiplicity of choices the artist is faced with the problem of selection and placement. What to put in, what to leave out? ‘Riverside Ritual’ for instance. Why should such a disparate group of people be standing around watching someone hack up a pink couch with an axe? Meanwhile a woman off to the left is balancing some kind of roof beam while a Balkan kind of guy plays a clarinet. The figures aren’t recognizable stereotypes but they seem to belong together. They come from different sources but they are unified by the painting process. They are familiar enough but not easily labelled.

Other paintings cause us to question our preconceptions. A barbecue in a tropical parking lot, animals watching two guys canoe through a culvert, a motley group mixing cement. The landscapes are dream-like, the figures act out their parts as if they’re on a stage.

The work isn’t easy to categorize. Surrealism? Maybe more like enhanced unrealism. People will read all kinds of things into it. Race, class, gender, everything is open to interpretation. That may well be Gardiner’s point. Our minds are wired to look for meaning.

Still there would certainly seem to be some kind of underlying narrative. So I asked Gardiner if he is consciously creating a narrative. He thinks not. The figures do it themselves. The figures suggest certain things and a storyline emerges.

There’s an element of social commentary here. Nothing overtly political but some kind of statement of intent. There’s a sense that our contemporary definitions are being tweaked in a friendly way. Things are not always good or bad, black or white, inside or out. Reality is strange. Life is blurry. Most of us live in a state of flux where things can go either way depending on the mood of the moment, what kind of night we had, what kind of headlines we read or what arrives in the email.

Gardiner’s paintings encapsulate this feeling. Life is a mystery. People do things that don’t always make sense. Meaning is a personal matter. And perhaps it’s best not to get too analytical. Some things defy explanation.

So thanks to Matthew Gardiner for letting me use his work as a springboard. This is what happens when you put yourself out there. I found the paintings both aesthetically pleasing and thought provoking.

As we say on Facebook…awesome work dude.


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