Statement for a new exhibition of WHENEVERwhen works, January 2018

Note: I’m getting the opportunity to show a new group of WHENEVERwhen pieces right off the bat in 2018. Here is my statement for the exhibition, with a few of the works interspersed within the text. I’ve enjoyed some wonderful experiences at Sager Braudis Gallery over the years, and this is the high point. I’m pleased with their installation and think the work looks great there. Of course, I’m biased. I’d love to hear what you think. You can see some gallery information here.

Splint – Oil on panel with custom oak frame. 2015-2017.

For more than twenty years, my painting, drawing, and printmaking have oscillated between symbolism-heavy representational imagery and formal explorations in the tradition of 20th century abstraction. This seemingly broad swing of subject and purpose in my work is directly related to my conviction that the core visual dynamics of either mode are, essentially, the same. I often tell my students that I’ve been making the same picture for my entire artistic life.

Sometimes I have felt led to apply those underlying compositional forces to the service of representational imagery, and other times I have felt the need to strip away everything but color, material, and surface. When I pursue abstraction, the resulting work is a foray into perceptual and physical experience. Thus, even though the works do not depict discernible objects, they are still – to me – realist in the sense that they focus on observational and haptic (sense of touch) phenomena. Conversely, my representational paintings are always abstract inquiries into the nature of meaning, purpose, and human engagement.

Periodically, when the communication of abstract, metaphorical ideals feels incongruous to me, I move intuitively into abstraction. The last time this shift occurred was about two years ago. I was coming out of a long period of working exclusively in the tondo format and had begun to readdress the rectilinear format standard to most painting and drawing. I had rejected it previously because it felt too much like a window or door space. I was looking to depict my ideas in some other form of oculus, something more subjective and mysterious. I started, in sketches and digital studies, to break the picture plane in a number of specific ways. These breaks were related to the work and ideas of artists such as Magalie Guerin, Vincent Fecteau, and Marcelo Bonevardi (among others). I was also greatly influenced by my research into Eastern and Western mandala forms as well as the newer generations of digital painting and drawing apps I was using.

Then, at age 39, I had a heart attack.

The near-death I experienced purged my interests. Though I have completed a few straight representational works since that cardiac arrest in February 2016, the vast majority of my work has focused on a series of abstract investigations I call WHENEVERwhen. In the WHENEVERwhen series I deploy an array of formal strategies that accumulate over time and leave a record within the work. These strategies are diverse; they might function in terms of simultaneity of form – for example, an area may appear to manifest as both light and solid structure – or display a counterintuitive sense of weight and balance. I have also incorporated a significant amount of collage, relief cutting, carving, and digital prototyping into my working methods.

Icon Eikon – Oil, acrylic, marker, and spray-paint on shaped panel. 2016-2017.

Another significant development of the WHENEVERwhen series was my use of shaped surfaces and disrupted framing. I have been obsessed with making frames a part of the work for many years. At first I used clean, minimal float frames. More recently the frames both hold the work and are painted on or defied in specific ways – often through cutting and reassembly – in order to fit them into the pictorial language of the work. This integration of the frame is important to the sense of edge, continuity/discontinuity of the visual field, and aesthetic structure I seek. A number of my WHENEVERwhen works are framed in vintage oak reclaimed from old church pews and University of Missouri drawing desks. This 50 to 70 year old wood adds a density that corresponds to the surfaces and textures comprising my work.

The WHENEVERwhen series is serving as a kind of pivot within my life as an artist. I am bridging influences across history and media in ways I have not done in the past. I am pushing through old modes of working and thinking. My proclivities are both affirmed and challenged. My assumptions are acknowledged, and either used or left aside. Of course, this pivoting is also happening in the paintings, drawings, and prints themselves. Somewhat disheveled and awkward, yet bursting with chromatic beauty, these works are artifacts of aesthetic exploration, distillations of influence, and tributes to rigorous play.

Matthew Ballou – December 2017

A la Lutes – Acrylic, gouache, Sharpie, and graphite on relief structure. 2015-2017.

Here are some installation shots of some of the work… I hope you can come and see the work before the show closes at the end of January.

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WHENEVER/WHEN

I’ve got a new show up at Imago Gallery and Cultural Center in Columbia, MO right now. The show, titled WHENEVERWHEN, is a group of abstract pieces I’ve been working on over the last year, including after my heart attack.

I’m posting some details and a few full images below. Please come see the show at Imago; my talk will be at 6pm on June 10th. Imago is located on the corner of Broadway and Hitt in downtown Columbia, MO.

Sballou-illicitIllicit. Oil, oil stick, spray paint, oil pastel and colored pencil on panel, 26 by 26 inches, 2016.

Sballou-theunfolddetailThe Unfold (Detail). Oil, oil stick, and colored pencil on panel, 26 by 26  inches, 2015.

Sballou-osmoticOsmotic. Oil, oil stick, spray paint, oil pastel and colored pencil on panel, 26 by 26 inches, 2016.

Sballou-sigilSigil. Oil, oil stick, spray paint, oil pastel, colored pencil and bas relief on panel, 16 by 16 inches, 2015-2016.

Sballou-sigildetailSigil (Detail). Oil, oil stick, spray paint, oil pastel, colored pencil and bas relief on panel, 16 by 16 inches, 2015-2016.

Sballou-benticondetailBent Icon (Detail). Oil, oil stick, and colored pencil on panel, 26 by 26  inches, 2015.

Click here for more info about these pieces and a few other images of them in process.

Every Brushstroke An Opportunity to Help Change a Life

il_570xN.276209062Situation and Circumstance Overcome, Oil on Panel, 16 by 20 inches. 2003.

Eleven years ago I created this painting. Over the years many people have asked me to create copies of it for them. There are more than 15 versions of this piece scattered across the US. Now you have an opportunity to get one of your own AND help support the adoption process for two of my good friends, Aarik and Brooke Danielsen.

il_570xN.276129237Detail of Situation and Circumstance Overcome.

The original piece is one of the most important artworks I’ve created. Its quality of construction, unique place in the story of my art making, and the personal significance it holds cause me to value it highly. For $400 you can have your very own version of this painting. I will donate every cent of the sale price to the Danielsens’ adoption fund.

I am taking up to 10 orders and I will deliver the finished works by July 2015. If you want to have a beautiful, evocative work of art for your home and help give a child a home they deserve, please consider ordering one here. I love the Danielsens and am excited to give anything I can to their adoption journey. If you follow my blog, you know how close adoption is to my heart. I hope you’ll give me a lot of work to do; every brushstroke will be done with love and joy, and in the knowledge that each one is making a real difference to a real person.

To find out more about the Danielsens’ adoption and learn more about how you can help, check out their blog here.

If you have questions let me know.

il_570xN.276209106Detail of Situation and Circumstance Overcome.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE SAMPLE IMAGES ABOVE ARE EXAMPLES OF THE ORIGINAL PAINTING. Copies that I create will have variation, but will maintain the overall composition, color, and general surface structure of the original, and will be created exactly to the scale of the original.

In Which My Daughters Get Their Wings

I took my girls to Menard’s today.

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We grabbed some pink insulation foam, pink and gold duct tape, and some rope.

We were making wings.

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After they chose the shape for their wings (a bit more butterfly/insect than fairy style) and helped me cut them out, we started decorating with the duct tape. We also watched some Daniel Tiger in the midst of the construction.

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With both girls fitted with pink and white rope harnesses, we ventured out into the graduate studios for a run…

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It was such a nice day out, we ran around a bit out behind some student dorms…

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It doesn’t get much cuter than that. But we still needed to add some PAINT!

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Now that’s some glory right there!

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It was a good, good day :)

 

 

An Awesome New Diebenkorn Book

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I just recently picked up a fantastic new Diebenkorn book, and it turns out to be very impressive. No, I’m not talking about the new Berkeley Years catalog (though I did buy that a few weeks ago and am enjoying it). This is a volume out of a small California publisher called Kelly’s Cove Press.

The book, Richard Diebenkorn: Abstractions on Paper contains 88 full color images and a few black and white shots of Diebenkorn’s studios. There are a few points that make this paperback book exceptional. First, it contains dozens of works that have never before been published. This isn’t because they were lacking in quality; many of the pieces shown here really display Diebenkorn’s quintessential processes very well. Secondly, the book shows abstractions on paper from all of the major locations where he worked throughout his life: Sausalito, Albuquerque, Urbana, Berkeley, Ocean Park and Healdsburg.

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The Healdsburg works contained in this book make it indispensable for aficionados of Diebenkorn’s work. I’ve followed every Diebenkorn publication, traveled to see his work in many states, and searched widely to find examples of his work. There simply is no other publication that contains as many Healdsburg-era works that I know of.

The book lacks any scholarly essays, which is a virtue. The only words are short quotes from the artist interspersed among the images and a short biography at the end. This gives us nearly 125 pages of beautiful artworks, printed nicely in an 8 by 6 inch format. I’ll definitely be keeping this book close to me for informal browsing. But don’t let the small size fool you – the overall feel and color quality is excellent.

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Authorized by the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, the book was produced in support of what should be a fantastic traveling exhibition titled The Intimate Diebenkorn: Works on Paper 1949-1992. The exhibition starts at the College of Marin Fine Arts Gallery (Kentfield, CA – 9/28/13-11/21/13) and then moves on to San Jose State University (4/15/14-5/17/14), American University (Washington DC – 11/8/14-12/14/14), Sonoma Valley Museum of Art (6/6/15-8/23/15), and ends at The University of Montana (Missoula, MT – 9/24/15-12/12/15).

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This book is well worth the mere $20 it costs to pick it up. If you’re into Diebenkorn, it’s essential. If you love Abstract Expressionism, works on paper, gestural painting, collage, West Coast art, or the California art traditions, you’ll love this book. Click here to buy it.

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I’ve had the chance to write about Diebenkorn’s work a few times. My most recent essay about the artist is Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park: Provisional Action, Provisional Vision, and is available to read here.

MANIFEST “PAINT” Exhibition

Statement for the upcoming MANIFEST exhibition, “PAINT”

“…in a work of art every element, whether it pertain to perceptual form or to subject matter, […] represents something beyond its particular self.” – Arnheim

The brick is evocative for me because, in my contemplation of its form and metaphoric associations, it transforms. Its prosaic presence becomes a poetic musing on the human state.

A single brick bears a proportional relationship to the structure built from many similar units; one brick contains within itself an image of the whole building. This reflexivity between part and whole has energized the brick with symbolic meaning for millennia in many different cultures. Its presence as a signifier of component importance allows me to use it to refer to the accumulation of human knowledge: what we think we know and our attitudes about that awareness. The conceit that we can contain, format, and cross-reference everything knowable or worth knowing is widespread. Yet true understanding is often not as quantifiable or containable as we might hope. Bricks, as symbols, remind me of the good things we do, the wonderful intentions and desires we aspire to, as well as the negative connotations of the assumptions within which we often operate.

-Ballou, February 2010

Iconoclast, Stage 12 or 13

ballou iconoclast stage 12 detail

Well, I’m still moving forward on the Iconoclast painting. It’s now rounding the final corner and I’m feeling the tensions and densities that I was aiming for coming out. Above is a detail showing the working, building, statement and restatement across the structures of the head and upper body. Below is a full shot of the piece. I’ll add some statement regarding the reasons for the piece and what I’m aiming at with it once it has announced its completion… probably a couple weeks.

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