Lives and works between Sydney and the Blue Mountains, NSW
Coogee is Everywhere
15 August — 24 August 2019
Mathew Lynn lives and works between Sydney and the Blue Mountains. For over twenty years he has been one of Australia’s best known and successful portrait artists. He has been a finalist sixteen times in the Archibald Prize, including this year with a portrait of Maddy Madden. Lynn is part of numerous prestigious private and public institutional collections, including the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.
Throughout the last two decades, Lynn’s contemporary figurative painting practice has developed. He delves into an important cross-cultural discourse with a narrative that investigates issues of race, humanity, and the uniqueness of human condition. Coogee Is Everywhere is the artist’s first exhibition at Nanda\Hobbs and his most complete articulation of his deeply felt interests.
Intense colour and strident mark-making are the hallmarks of Lynn’s dynamic representations of the figure, the phenomenon of personhood, structures in society and the nature of phenomena as experienced in meditative states. Lynn is an artist who possesses all the skills for accurate representational painting. However, in this exhibition he purposely departs the Realist mantra, blurring the picture plane, yet, leaving a powerful and definite articulation of his vision. Throughout there is a seductive rawness to his mark-making. Compositionally, areas are left unmarked–in visual terms “unspoken”– perhaps as a metaphor for what may be missing in our society. This is not necessarily a negative discourse–rather a coded pointer to a more racially equitable and sustainable society.
Lynn's strong personal connection to African culture has had a subliminal aesthetic influence on this exhibition. The intense colour palette–whether direct or suggested–depicts the rhythm of music across the iconic Coogee landscape. It is a place that the artist knows well. It is also a place at the epicentre of the Australian bronzed beach mythology.
There is a power and beauty in the artist's commentary – post-colonial no doubt – but not without strong elements of delight in this country’s shared history, idyllic landscape and intoxicating antipodean light. It is a light that bathes us with a vision of a country that has, within its collective psyche, the power to move forward with a clearer understanding of the past and, as the artist suggests, make a better and fairer future for all its people.
I am very excited to be making a return to developing contemporary, figurative paintings–my first and deepest interest in art. This new work takes my love of Coogee Beach, its forms and its people as a basis for the exploration of my relational themes. Plus, my ultimate interest in meditative states.
The work would be best described as an interplay between these two key ‘spheres’. On the one hand, there are the things meaningful to me in the relational, relative world–the world of people and relationships, the beauty of the environment and spaces, the richness of the simplest experiences in the world as they present themselves. This is also the world of racial inequalities and structural biases, of who gets to control and inhabit spaces and how. Questions around the country we live on and our continued amnesia around colonialism and dispossession, and my primary wish that our First Nation people take their rightful place as central to our national life. Fundamentally, I want to ask a question– “How does one reconstitute oneself as a white man/white person post Reni Eddo-Lodge and her paradigm-exploding book Why I No Longer Talk To White People About Race?”. For the many non-white people in my life, I feel to truly love and understand them, I must make every possible attempt at seeing how the world actually is for them. As it is said, when you want to know what your society is really like, simply ask any marginalized person.
The ultimate ‘sphere’ for me, is that of operating in a permanent meditative state of pure intuition and equivalent phenomena–everything comes from this place and (unlike my relational themes) has absolutely no hierarchy. This is symbolized by the silver metallic expanses in the works. I don’t see the world in single states of being, single views or vistas, but rather I’m more interested in the actual continuum of mind as it really works. This means that objects, places and presences can come in and out of awareness simultaneously, and in any order or combination whatsoever. This is absolutely not a process of intellect or conscious arranging. Nor is it just random, as I’m not at all interested in creating studied artifice. Rather, there is a kind of ‘intuitive messaging’ that naturally arises from familiarity within this meditative state.
For me, it’s important to understand the interplay between these two spheres and the seeming paradox between them. Though, everything that might form the nature of my relational subject matter ultimately relies on this ‘intuitive messaging’.
Another important aspect informing my work is my lifelong interest as a musician and percussionist in African and African diaspora music and culture; from having studied drumming in Ghana in my early 20s. From being a member of various multi-racial bands, from studying percussion and Kora with a Guinean griot family, through to my close connections to the Sydney Congolese community with their music and emersion in the fashion culture of Sapologie–in this way, my entire life has been devoted to this zone or interface between black and white culture. Articulating and celebrating a shared space.
I am interested in creating work that explores and helps to open this space further. Music is a fundamentally important element operating in my work (central to ‘intuitive messaging’) in terms of animating certain states and primary emotional impact; visually expressed in strong colours, rhythms, vibrations, dissonant clashes and certain types of violent energy. Music and musicality is transmuted as a guiding visual principle.