Portland-based artist Matt Hall creates mixed media assemblages and large-scale ink on paper drawings. He explores the connections between historic perceptions and our sense of wonder with the natural world. As a child, Hall was fascinated with the ability of birds to fly, fish to breathe underwater and other amazing animal abilities. Hall’s work incorporates animal parts with other found objects, sketches and notes in an attempt to re-create, analyze, and pay homage to the seemingly magical powers of animals.
There is also a keen interest in death in Hall’s work. A piece with a snake and a mouse is most obviously about predator and pretty. The title, however, Mithraicism, refers to the practice of inoculating a person against poison by administering non-lethal amounts. The piece becomes a metaphor, or sorts, whereby you can’t be immune to death.
As written in Ampersand Gallery’s press release about their last exhibition with Hall, “[his] finely detailed assemblages bring to mind the dioramas & curiosity cabinets of natural history museums, yet on a deeper level they allude to the ritualistic strangeness of reliquaries, thereby serving as an intersection where notions of religion, science, folklore & quackery collide with the artist’s imagination.” Exquisitely detailed, the animal parts in Hall’s assemblages have been broken and put back together. Hall uses found road kill as the basis for his works. Evoking the spiritual practices of animalistic religious whereby interaction with animal parts was thought to transfer magical and totemic powers, Hall is creating both object and mythology.