The Signature Scrawls of Simon Mathers
The paintings of Simon Mathers feel a bit like memories. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the subject matter: a man sitting in a car, a forest, naked women, a rearing horse. But in Mathers’ hands, these simple scenes become humorous narratives—snippets of life that somehow seem full of significance.
Drawing is at the core of Mathers’ practice. “Drawing is imperative,” he has said, and he aims to “make the image become part of the process.” Rendered in his signature scrawls, each painting feels like a page torn from a sketchbook, images scribbled hurriedly in a rush to capture the scene. This emphasis on the drawn mark leads to connotations of comics, cartoons, and other genres that fall outside of “fine art.” Yet as much as Mathers may flirt with amateurish styles of mark making, his works display the unmistakable touch of a painter’s hand.
His paintings are characterized by sensuous colors and rich hues, like patches of blood red or washes of deep purple. Blurry, out-of-focus works such as cow in the headlights (2015) seem to refuse clarity and disappear before your eyes. Many of his canvases also feature stained blotches of paint that recall the ethereal artwork of Helen Frankenthaler.
smooth automatic (2015) shows a man driving a car, an underlying tension just below his blank, bored expression. That stillness is lost in the similar fucking stick shift (2015). Though the basic compositions are the same, the driver in the latter painting has erupted in a fit of rage—possibly from the endlessly repetitive nature of his existence. Or, like some of us, he can’t drive stick.
Simon Mathers’ work is on view at MOT International, London and Brussels.