Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Artist's Statement - Matthew Hanna

Matthew Hanna
Journal 50, 1998-2011

I make art the way some people devour books; it is a self educating process both as a person and as a practicing artist. Paintings are my “words,” the best way I know how to communicate with others about myself, what I understand of the world we share and the things I’ve experienced in my life. This exploration has continued over two decades, learning new methods and techniques, sifting through the detritus, the everyday images and information-saturated world; considering simple, ordinary things that fill everyday life. As the work is refined and re-defined over the years, with images traveling back and forth over time and between media, I’ve found that art is the best way to express one self, especially when images seem to say what words I can’t.

The content of my work is additive. It unfolds gradually, revealing visual puns and symbols. The paintings are loaded with images that are potent in meaning, often to the point of inspiring a poetic interpretation. Driven by history, faith and fantasy, what engages me is a spiritual devotion to the ritual of art making itself; pounding images into the surface with common tools and vernacular materials. Working repetitively until the material and process become the content which records a dense diagram of layered pictorial references, a visual history that is meant to be can be navigated at different levels of engagement. By creating such ever expanding visual journals, I pay tribute to folklore demigods, world book heroes and personal histories that have touched my own life and, I hope, will translate and speak to the viewer’s experience. By appropriating and adopting elements from the prevalent images of modern culture I am also critiquing and exploring a path of learning about what makes up our culture; the everyday pieces that shape our lives and our thinking. In other words, the small things that defines us.

My influences are grounded in, but not limited to, the tradition initiated in Detroit’s Cass Corridor, an aesthetic fueled by an elevated level of seriousness and experimentation that created Detroit’s first true avant-garde. Taken to another level the work is evidently autobiographical. I am essentially a visual thinker who would rather express myself with images than with words. However, the paintings are not representation but, rather, anchored in realism with an essentially abstract approach. Broken down the paintings are basic studies of color, form and texture in the form of landscapes from my mind’s eye.

The work exhibited here is from a series of mixed media collages started in 1998 and continues today.

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