Juxtapoz Magazine – The Universe on Paper: An Interview with Matthew Craven



Oakland-based artist Matthew Craven has been questioning how the world started. Extra particularly, he’s been exploring creation myths and origin tales from all over the world for his solo present at Hashimoto Contemporary Los Angeles, FOLK::LORE. The brand new works on paper that comprise the exhibition mix acquainted symbols from visible tradition with ornamental patterns or floral motifs, prodding us to “rethink our relationship with mythology and, due to this fact, our place on the planet.”

Earlier than the opening of his present, Craven spoke to Hashimoto Modern’s Katherine Hamilton about bringing the human kind into his work, weaving narrative into the summary, and the way nearly all components of excessive tradition stem from folks artwork.

Katherine Hamilton: Florals appear way more current on this physique of labor than in earlier ones. You talked about the weighty and far-ranging symbology particular person flowers can maintain, from notions of purity to promiscuity, life to loss of life. I’m questioning about your allusions to “the backyard” throughout cultures: it may be a metaphor for all times, loss of life, or regeneration, because the lifespan of a flower is remarkably shorter than the stone or clay objects your works additionally reference. Are you able to communicate to your rising curiosity in flowers and crops and what position you see them taking part in in your visible symphonies of fantasy and historical past?
Matthew Craven: Many issues occurred in 2020 that drastically affected my apply. For instance, I moved to the Bay Space. Through the pandemic, I went for flower walks with my accomplice to remain sane. Throughout this time, she additionally refocused her artwork apply by beginning her personal floral enterprise. All of these items opened my thoughts to the insane great thing about flowers. They’re concurrently extremely advanced and easy in how they’re shaped, with limitless variations of fundamental colours and shapes. It’s much like how I take into consideration the patterns I draw. And also you nailed it whenever you talked about the lifespan of the objects I are likely to collage with—one being so fleeting whereas the others appear immortal. This duality feeds this particular physique of labor.

This physique of labor is way more collage-focused, whereas your earlier present with Hashimoto Modern, In Bloom, was extra drawing-heavy. I ponder if this return to collaging held any conceptual weight for you whereas producing work for this present. For instance, folklore tales or songs will not be copyright-protected however shared mental property—corresponding to collaging from textbooks or different archival sources. Is that this medium content material particular?
For a yr or so, I gave collaging a break, however I did proceed to search for supply materials. I took a break as a result of I noticed that I had accomplished my earlier work with the discharge of my e book PRIMER. That work was targeted on the human historical past of handmade objects and the way it did or didn’t replicate people’ true historical past. However I really like collage—I really like the historical past of collage, and I really like on the lookout for pictures hidden away in previous books that will by no means be opened once more. Maybe most significantly, being a collage artist relies on likelihood. I by no means know what I’ll discover and the way that will lead me down unexpected paths with my work.

This new work is presently in its earliest levels, so my thought course of might change, however there are some things that I’m fascinated with that differ from earlier exhibits. Life is a type of pursuits. I by no means use pictures of individuals—sure, I exploit sculptures of the human kind and different variations, however by no means images of individuals. So, the earlier work lacked that little bit of life. The flowers on this work are my gateway to the residing world. Life is fleeting; we’re solely right here for a short time, however we will do lovely issues whereas we’re right here—impossibly lovely issues. Flowers present us this: within the quick time they’re right here, they’ll convey us a lot.

Origin tales performed a big position in deciding the iconography of FOLK::LORE. From the Christian origin story of the Backyard of Eden to the bodily idea of the Massive Bang, you discover the myriad, intersecting tales that designate why the world is the best way it’s, for higher or worse. Are you able to broaden on how the iconography or patterns on this physique of labor embody these origin tales?
I noticed myths are much like patterns in that we create them to assist consolation us. I had thought quite a bit in regards to the ornamental arts in my work and the way they improve our environment and convey us pleasure and sweetness. By means of these ideas, I’m interested by how storytelling, particularly works of fiction, will help us perceive our precise existence—whether or not as a parable for inspiration, leisure, or morality. Each myths and patterns are primarily based on issues that we will see and contact however are seemingly born out of nowhere to assist us make sense of the world. It makes me take into consideration the definition of creativity: the spontaneous growth of latest concepts and out-of-the-box pondering. Creativity is a obligatory prerequisite for innovation, however they don’t seem to be the identical factor.

One fantasy you took inspiration from was Laocoön, the story of a Trojan priest who warned the Trojans of the picket horse and finally died from the assault of two sea serpents despatched by a god (which god is determined by who’s telling the story). This legend appears to embody a number of narrative tropes you discovered influential to the present’s theme, akin to man vs. nature or man vs. universe, man vs. the divine. What did you discover fascinating about this story or the way it has been visually represented all through historical past?
After I was on the lookout for previous books someday, I discovered a picture of the Roman sculpture Laocoön and His Sons, and it grew to become the start line for this exhibition. I regarded on the statue and thought, “…I get it, man, I really feel you struggling.” I wrestle with these advanced concepts of existence, however these questions intrigue me and encourage me to create. I don’t know why I’m drawn to create by these concepts. It’s the final word query I’ve had my total life.

Do narrative tropes play a task in your work?
Visible artwork is the proper medium for a extra summary type of storytelling. These recurring components within the work act as characters that pop out and in of this summary narrative. However, I’ve by no means been fascinated with depicting a definitive narrative as a result of all of us convey our personal views and experiences into every little thing we encounter. As an alternative, I like to make use of recurring pictures, shapes, and colours in my work to attract connections so the viewer can draw their very own conclusions or concepts about what they’re seeing and feeling.

Matthew Craven PILLARS OF CREATION 2023 60x40in

Storytelling within the type of fables or cultural myths is usually integral to folks traditions, however the definition of the time period “folks” has modified over time; a few of the supply materials you pull from may not be thought-about “Folklore” by everybody—for instance, Greek and Roman busts that commemorate sure myths have been canonized within the Western world as objects of “excessive tradition” fairly than folks artwork, but stem from folks religions. Do you are feeling you’re attempting to broaden the time period’s definition?
I’m actually not defining or redefining any phrases or the rest with this physique of labor—I’m an artist on a private journey. Whereas I might agree that Greek or Roman antiquity isn’t thought-about folks artwork, I might say that its prevailing legacy is a sort of “folklore.” In some ways, storytelling, each reality and fiction, are the themes working all through this work and are pillars of folks cultures. I’m additionally conscious I’m stuffed with contradictions—this makes us human. This work is in regards to the polarities, the dualities, and the complicated great thing about being alive.

What drew you to the time period “folklore” and its historical past?
I made a decision FOLK::LORE was an acceptable title due to how the 2 phrases, individually, influenced the work. The “folks” reference is to the concept of ornamental arts that construct group and inform a story of its individuals. The “lore” references the larger-than-life narratives that perpetuate our human historical past, particularly works of fiction. Each of those phrases assist give us definition and luxury inside the uncertainties of this world. I wished to change the spelling by separating the 2 phrases with an ornamental component to push it additional away from the normal studying of the phrase.

It’s fascinating that you simply allude to this distinction between the “ornamental arts” and “nice arts,” as “nice artists” have traditionally regarded to folks artwork for inspiration (in nice artwork, for instance, I consider Pieter Bruegel the Elder portray peasant scenes or sayings within the sixteenth century). As a nice artist your self, do you see a definite line between the kind of work you make on paper and the photographs printed in your supply materials?
In the beginning, I don’t see the objects I collage with as stand-ins for the unique objects—I’ve at all times seen them as discovered objects from discarded books. I can’t afford to personal these precise issues and couldn’t even afford to journey sufficient of this Earth to see most of these items. What I can do is bump into them in a random bookstore; that’s my entry. However to me, there’s something actual about these variations too. I’m not seeing them on tv or a pc display. I can maintain these variations in my hand, so I’m compelled to make use of my fingers to create one thing new from them. It’s a bizarre relationship and specific to me, however I discover it magical in some unusual manner… I really feel linked to humanity through the use of these pictures.

Was your analysis course of for the works on this present comparable or completely different from the way you’ve approached analysis for previous initiatives?
As I made this work, it grew to become much less researched than earlier work and extra self-referential. Beforehand, I used to be extra fascinated with handmade objects and their particular person histories; this work was a lot freer. I used to be guided by moments of inspiration and issues that intrigue me when my thoughts wanders and wonders about people’ position in all of “this”.

Matthew Craven with his works

Did you be taught something stunning or unusual throughout your analysis from this present?
I stumbled upon pictures from the James Webb Telescope that knowledgeable this work. I had already began a bit on this present referred to as, Monolyth Me Up. It was alleged to reference the monolith from 2001: A House Odyssey. However once I noticed some pictures from James Webb that they name “deep subject pictures,” I assumed it regarded strikingly much like the collage. I used to be blown away, and that’s once I realized the mythmaking in that movie was akin to the mythmaking of Gods, Monsters, Deities, and different types of conventional storytelling.

If there have been two figureheads from a tradition of any time or place you could possibly convey collectively for a meal, who would they be, and what would you feed them?
I might go in a bunch of various instructions right here, however for the context of FOLK::LORE, my reply is straightforward: Stanley Kubrick and Jesus. Let’s go together with a New York slice of pizza for Stanley, however a bit manufactured from unleavened dough for JC.

Matthew Craven’s solo present FOLK::LORE is on view at Hashimoto Modern Los Angeles till October seventh. All images at opening have been taken by Megan Cerminaro, and Shaun Roberts photographed the person works. 


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