Process Is King in New Bold Floral Paintings by L.A. Painter Matthew Chambers

May 4, 2016 8:47PM

Matthew Chambers doesn’t think of his paintings as products. He’s more intrigued by the process itself, by the act of art-making. And while his new large-scale floral paintings—a selection of which is currently on view at Hezi Cohen Gallery in Tel Aviv—are certainly beautiful to behold, they also illustrate the artist’s creative impulses and his passion for procedure.

Take, for instance, the bold tulips of Fresh Off the Cob or the rosy blooms of Milan (both 2016). Color might appear to be paramount, yet it is practically an afterthought—the last elements he adds to each composition. These works started as drawings, or rather, a series of drawings and re-drawings. Once Chambers settles on an under-painting, with an eye toward balancing the weight and volume of the flowers’ shapes, he chooses hues. That decision isn’t a hefty philosophical one: The artist selects colors almost on a whim, depending on what inspires him that particular day.

The application of those colors, on the other hand, involves a specific and technically complex process. First, Chambers paints an adhesive, then sprays the canvas with color-matched nylon fibers. When the canvas is dry once again, roughly 24 hours later, he removes any excess fibers; he then starts the whole process again with another color. In Fresh Off the Cob, for instance, he painted red, white, pink, yellow, and green in separate cycles. The procedure allows him to focus on one color at a time, without much concern for how it works within the larger composition.

Chambers suggests that the artist need not be godlike, controlling every element and carefully shaping the final composition, and, in turn, the viewer need not understand the artist’s intentions or the intricate mental processes behind a piece hanging on a gallery wall. While the new floral paintings at Hezi Cohen represent something of a departure for Chambers—a painter known for his pop-culture-inspired pieces and abstract works composed of strips of old canvas—his creative passion remains constant. Except this time more than ever, process beats product.

—Bridget Gleeson

Matthew Chambers’ work is on view at Hezi Cohen Gallery, Tel Aviv, Apr. 7–May 14, 2016.

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