The work of Mathew Zefeldt (previously featured here) successfully balances improbable combinations – modern with historical, digital with classical, painterly foregrounds with computer-like backgrounds – all by densely rendering them in traditional painting techniques with oils and acrylics. Having created an advanced personal lexicon of art historical references to classical sculpture, as well as to abstract and figurative painting, these figures cohesively exist alongside more modern glitch aesthetics, shifting colors, garish patterns, and computer-like repetition. Through the combination of these disparate elements, Zefeldt recalls the history of the painting medium, while referencing the potential to represent our new, hybrid reality. Explaining his work, the artist says, “My paintings are still-life arrangements that take place in my head; they are windows onto a fictional world, governed by rules based in the real world, but bent and broken…”.
These still-lifes exist in another improbably capacity, that of using both illusionistic depth and perspective, but on two-dimensional plane. This use of the flat-plane is more often found in collage, as is Zefeldt’s tendency to repeat (almost) identical imagery. When asked by Beautiful/Decay why he chooses painting to construct his explorations of a variegated contemporary visual culture, Zefeldt replies, “It would be a million times easier to collage or photoshop rather than paint. But paint forces you to slow down. Painting the same thing over and over again is almost meditative. Painting can be subversive too. Everything is getting more digital, movies etc. I think its important to keep making things manually, by hand.” This attention to craft highlights a uniquely human quality, where each sculptural bust appears exactly the same, but holds its own standard of flawed beauty upon closer inspection.