Mathew J Zefeldt
I use representational imagery as an element within a larger composition like an abstract painter would use a mark within a composition. Its less about what the repeated image represents necessarily, but rather the interplay and relationships of the parts to the whole, and each other- reflecting the pluralist landscape we find ourselves in today. I use images that are already part of our consciousness- things from our life, things from culture- and reproduce them in an almost lifeless, systematic way. This really opens up possibilities for what to paint, and how to paint it. With the freedom to paint anything, what is interesting, or important is what you do to your subject- what subtle gesture can the painter do to separate it from the original? I copy it over and over again like a Xerox machine, or place it next to things painted in very different way or styles, almost as if they are speaking different languages.
I strive to take on the role of juggler while painting- one who is skilled at keeping several elements engaged at one time. This is a reflection of our contemporary culture, where it seems as if everyone is constantly multitasking their way through existence. High-end rear projection televisions from the turn of the millenium, for example, featured the function of “picture in picture”, where the viewer could switch between channels during commercials, while still keeping the commercial in a smaller window in the corner of the screen. Another influence for my work is looking at desktop arrangements for computers- several windows opened while smaller icons can be clicked to open other windows or multiple realities. Or the shuffle feature on itunes- taking your entire music library and playing the songs at random- when one song ends and another begins, their differences are highlighted.
The multiplication of the same character all over the painting points to the speed and ease with which one can perfectly clone identical images in photoshop. I think about the idea of software operations being performed in the traditional medium of painting: import, export, zoom in, zoom out, copy, cut, paste, stretch, skew, and transform.
I have been using repeated objects, often times statue heads from antiquity, that serve as individual marks, like a brushstroke often forming a macro image, in the case of the Head-Face paintings, a large smiley face emoticon; In other words, heads form faces and forms form forms. The micro mark, or classical statue head is also far removed from the original. It goes throughout different filters of technology and time: A painting of a painting of a xerox copy of a photo of a statue of a person who has been dead for two millennia. These still life objects are each hand painted. At a close look, every statue head has unique flaws due to the fact that they are painted with a clumsy human hand. At a farther glance, the statue heads look identical, and almost like a digital collage using software like photoshop.
Operating as a director, I work with a specific cast of characters: pixels, bricks, two-by-fours, statue heads, gradients, dutch still life paintings, paint rags, junk food, cartoon representations of paint, patterns, video game characters, gestural marks, and emojis.
One of these elements, Dutch still life paintings have become interesting not only because of their aesthetic difference from other elements in the work, but also because objects are stacked and become a larger single mass, or meta object. A piece of fruit rotting, or a fly, or a skull, or a bubble about to burst, speaks to the brevity of life even within the over abundance presented. The paintings, or “pictures in pictures”, function as a subplot within a large still-life composed of multiple images.
The paintings have awkward figure ground relationships, where figures float in an extremely shallow space, as if they were positioned in post production using a green screen, like a bad science fiction movie. My interest in the aesthetics of digital collage is addressing the multiple visual languages of painting and bringing them together in one plane, creating an overlay of styles and gestures that echo the fragmented, heterogeneous nature of contemporary reality.