Matthew Bray – artist’s statement

My work has always been about humanity – what it means to be human and particularly the feeling of isolation and confusion arising from the modern condition. However, the art I create revels in the sensory joy of paint itself and the act of making rather than any dry intellectualism or conceptual minimalism.

For me, art is a chance to make the world a brighter place. It is a chance to be quiet for a moment, and commune with yourself and the world around you. It is a spiritual act. Art can be a simple and fulfilling act in and of itself, when a person allows themselves to be free of fear or restraint and simply ‘create’ as they feel naturally inclined; often they produce their best work. The object that remains at the end of the creative moment is a totem of the experience.

My early work concentrated on presenting isolated faces that portrayed these feelings in their expressions, especially through the eyes, although as my work has matured and developed in subtlety it has become more visibly related to gestural abstraction. I have attempted to conflate painting with a sense of poetry while dealing with the themes that interest me, gradually the process of painting itself has become a dominant subject of the work with formal qualities such as surface texture, the sensation of colour and gestural mark-making absorbing my attention; my technique involves applying and scraping back paint through cycles of spontaneity and control to create layers of drama.

My continuing engagement with process and content, the immediacy of materials, and the weight of the modern condition gives rise to great physical and emotional effects which converge in the saturated colour and vigorous surfaces of the most recent paintings to suggest the transience of pleasure and life. Instinctive and intuitive brushstrokes coax poetry from the interaction of the pull of gravity and the liquidity of paint, immersing the viewer’s senses.

I am inspired by Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Francis Bacon as well as the internet, ancient culture, ritual, magic and myth. I am also interested in the colour of Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Munch, the painterly surface of Rembrandt, Auerbach and Freud, and the narratives of Matthew Barney.
Robert Rauschenberg in 1962 said: “I am trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of greater freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I am doing.” Rauschenberg tried to make his own craft a mystery in order to approach it anew every day. How else to create something unconventional? But it’s no easy trick to step out of yourself like that. You have to come up with ways to lure yourself into a creative state of mind, to unclench your brain.
Conversations over the years with writers, artists, film-makers and programmers have convinced me that creatives rely on rituals and totems to a degree that rivals even the superstitions of baseball players. I like to infuse my work with ritual to coax myself into a state of flow. The ruse is necessary because the first steps are otherwise so painful, and I wish the work to be a sensual and spiritual release from the doldrums of an otherwise mundane everyday existence.

Matthew Bray – artist’s statement

Matt Bray

Kent, United Kingdom

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