“Is the beauty of everything a truth that we don’t see most of the time, or is it a truth we invent?” Charles Matton
The above epigraph was taken from a personal note made by the French artist Charles Matton on a telephone pad on January 29, 1992. This quotation represents the forces at play in the current exhibition of Matton’s work at Stephen Bulger Gallery. This solo show marks the artist’s Canadian premiere and presents nine contemplative photographs from his oeuvre.
The images themselves are painterly, depicting various minimal yet decidedly domestic interiors. The palette is largely muted and there is a stark absence of humans in the images. However subtle inclusions of objects of everyday life make the suggestion of a lived in space: newspapers, worn armchairs, a lone dog, a piano. While the absence of human activity within the frame is not unusual in itself, there are certain details which also imply that the spaces may have been abandoned. A couch draped with a cloth for protection, or in “The Green Living Room with Two Armchairs”, a faded patch of paint to the right of the door which would have been left after the removal of a framed image.
Aside from the detail and expert craftsmanship in the models, what makes these images so believable at first glance is the artist’s astounding understanding of light, with an emphasis on not only how to illuminate interior spaces but on how shadow and light give a sense of atmosphere. What we experience through these images feels somewhat theatrical, with the reconstitution of both familiar and foreign domestic scenes. With his mastery of illusionary space and engagement with constructed reality, it is unsurprising that Matton worked in stage design and as a screenwriter for many years. The meticulous construction of the “Boxes” (as the artist calls them), allow the images to negotiate the relationship between reality and fiction. Regardless, each image demands that the viewer recognize the simplistic beauty which surrounds us in our everyday lives, true or invented.
*Exhibition information: November 28, 2015 – January 16, 2016, Stephen Bulger Gallery, 1026 Queen Street West, Toronto. Gallery hours: Tue – Sat, 11 – 6 p.m.