01.09.15 Press

Irena Jurek on Matthew Craven (Share This!)

Read on Irenajurek.blogspot.com.

Matthew Craven

The content of Matt’s drawings and collages address an intricate web of interrelated ideas. Alternating between using his hand and found images, Matt delves into the way we construct meaning and belief, our conflicting longing for permanence in a temporary world, as well as the inexplicable complexity of our existence itself.

Working on the backs of vintage movie posters, and cutting out photographs from old textbooks, imbues Matt’s work with an awareness of time. There’s both a fragility and tenacity to these beautiful worn pages; although easily destroyed, they have somehow managed to withstand decades.

A sense of intimacy results from each of these images being cut by hand. The presence of touch makes the work personal. There is something Sisyphean in Matt’s continual quest to fill these pages with innumerable images of artifacts. This isn’t the appropriated, photo-shopped, quick fix that we are so used to seeing. Although a critique of originality and authenticity emerges, the ideas that Matt presents us with aren’t the ones that we necessarily anticipate. Baudrillard saw the simulacrum as devoid and emptied of all meaning, and theorized that the more times an image is reproduced the more removed it is from its initial content and symbolism. In contrast, for Matt, the simulacrum is a point of entry to engage with meaning and to tap into a nonlinear history of belief. By presenting us with these reproducible, yet disparate objects, Matt presents us with a platform on which to consider the way in which the human impulse to create, construct meaning, and the need to worship has remained consistent throughout time.

There is a feeling of reverence for these creators of the past who are no longer alive, and an attempt to connect with their humanity, in both the collages and drawings. In this piece, WEAVE, Matt references and reinterprets both textile patterning, and early iconographic language. The multifaceted drawing alludes to Chinese symbols, Egyptian hieroglyphics, Assyrian script, and the pagan alphabet.

Jung was the first to realize that archetypes are both universal and instinctual, existing throughout all cultures and time periods. Later on, Joseph Campbell took on Jung’s findings and investigated common threads between myths throughout the world. Similarly, Matt finds parallels between varying epochs and civilizations, calling attention to our common similarities as human beings rather than our differences. No matter how much beliefs and cultures shift over time, our existential situation remains the same.

This excerpt from Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces, especially relates to what Matt seems to be getting at:

Full circle, from the tomb of the womb to the womb of the tomb, we come: an ambiguous, enigmatical incursion into a world of solid matter that is soon to melt from us, like the substance of a dream. And, looking back at what had promised to be our own unique, unpredictable, and dangerous adventure, all we find in the end is such a series of standard metamorphoses as men and women have undergone in every quarter of the world, in all recorded centuries, and under every odd disguise of civilization.

To add to this sentiment, here is a passage from William Barrett’s Irrational Man, explaining how a shift in how we perceive our existential situation occurred in the last century, and how that change was reflected in Modernist art:

Reality, too, reveals itself to the artist not as the Great Chain of Being, which the tradition of Western rationalism had declared intelligible down to its smallest link and in its totality, but as much more refractory: as opaque, dense, concrete, and in the end inexplicable.

Regardless of what we believe, we as humans have a tendency to ascribe meaning to our lives and we all subscribe to ideologies in one form or another. Freud viewed art as another form of religion, and it definitely has its parallels, in that it is a belief structure that defines its values, and also relies heavily on faith. Even science must depend on faith, which is a theme running throughout Alan Lightman’s incredibly engaging book, The Accidental Universe. Lightman uses the multiverse theory as one of his example of how physicists apply faith to their thinking. The multiverse theory is the idea that other universes exist outside of our own universe, a likely hypothesis, but not one that can be confirmed. Although an atheist, Lightman is not dismissive of religious thinkers, since he realizes not only that none of us really have all the answers, but also that we all rely on faith to navigate our way through this world. Here is an excerpt from The Accidental Universe, explaining the significance of faith in our lives:

Faith, in its broadest sense, is about far more than belief in the existence of God or the disregard of scientific evidence. Faith is the willingness to give ourselves over, at times, to things we do not fully understand. Faith is the belief in things larger than ourselves. Faith is the ability to honor stillness at some moments and at others to ride the passion and exuberance that is the artistic impulse, the flight of the imagination, the full engagement with this strange and shimmering world.

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