In the mid-1980s, the French painter, sculptor and film-maker Charles Matton decided that he ‘wanted to paint Realist interiors in the manner of the “moderns,” that is, without wasting time on painstaking technical processes.’ He first thought of photographing friends’ and fellow-artists’ apartments and studios, then painting over the resulting cibachrome prints, but at length settled upon an altogether different strategy: in small boxes he constructed detailed models of the interiors he had chosen to depict, and then carefully photographed those, eventually exhibiting the models together with the prints and paintings derived from them. The dolls’-house miniatures attracted such attention, that they soon became and end in themselves, and Matton has continued ‘wasting time’ on the ‘painstaking technical processes’ they require ever since.
Matton has said ‘…I create two kinds of boxes: those whose purpose is to re-create an atmosphere that has delighted me, a memory whose existence I wish to perpetuate; and the more objective pieces that are the result of a detailed examination of the “realistic truth” of a certain place.’ In the former category are the works depicting deserted hotel-lobbies and empty corridors, or, as in the case of the pair of images below, a Swedish bathroom. In other works the ‘atmosphere’ being reconstructed is a literary one, as in the ‘homages:’ elaborate library-scenes paying tribute to writers such as Perec & Borges (as in the images above); Proust & Joyce.
The ‘objective pieces’ are often re-creations of the studios or studies of artists or thinkers Matton admires: Francis Bacon’s chaotic South Kensington studio was the subject of one; William S. Burroughs’ squalid room in Tangier another; Sigmund Freud’s Vienna study a third (see the last of the present images, below). Other ‘studio’ boxes are partly or wholly imaginary, for example, the ‘Studio of a Classical Sculptor’ shown in the sixth of these images. Almost all of the elements in the boxes are made of epoxy resin, with marble-powder filler. ‘The objects are then painted, or patinated, to take on the form of gold frames, tubes of paint, parquet floors, brick walls ... marble overmantels, ashtrays, celadon vases and books…’ before being carefully put into position.
In her essay ‘Charles Matton: Meticulous Illusionist,’ Barbara S. Krulik writes that his work has ‘An antecedent […] in 17th-century Dutch perspective boxes [which] employed linear perspective to create a three-dimensional space in miniature.’ ‘Artists such as Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627-78),’ she adds ‘created boxes dealing with characteristic themes of the period including genre scenes and architectural views.’ And one could argue, perhaps, that Joseph Cornell’s boxes are (distantly) akin to Matton’s.
The images (and much of the information) above were lifted from an article in issue 16 of (the new-format) FMR magazine (‘Charles Matton Encircled’) by the artist’s wife, Sylvie Matton (translated by Judith Landry), and from a small catalogue (‘Charles Matton: Within These Walls’) issued by the Forum Gallery, New York, to coincide with a 2002 exhibition of his drawings, paintings, photographs and mixed-media constructions.
Correction (added 02/07/08): the first, second, third, fourth and sixth of the photographs reproduced above are the work of Sebastian Straessle, and were scanned from issue 16 (Dec./Jan. ’06/’07) of FMR magazine; they are all copyright © Sebastian Straessle; the fifth photograph is by Richard McCabe and the seventh photograph is by Yann Matton, these were scanned from the exhibition catalogue cited above, and are copyright © the Forum Gallery, New York. The original works are copyright © Charles Matton. All the above images have been reproduced here only for as long as no-one objects to their presence on this site.Posted by misteraitch at March 11, 2007 12:58 PM