nicholas c. mathis


Space and memory dictate both composition and subject matter in Nic Mathis' new work on view at Bows and Arrows, Dallas. The subjects in his paintings, drawings, and animation evolve from the memories of a first impression, a direct image, or a vivid dream. The composition of these memories developed as reactions to the size of the canvas, the paper, or even the environment he is working within. Further complicating this use of memories in these developments is the artist's color synthesia, a neurological phenomenon that elicits involuntary associations between colors and other entities, such as letters and numbers. It only follows that Mathis' experience of this phenomenon informs his choice of subject matter (chairs, shadows, obscured human forms) and color palette (muted and limited, but liberally splashed with black). These choices illustrate an exploration of memories that are rooted in inexplicable and personal color relationships.

Mathis jumps back and forth between mediums and projects and it is this movement that remains a constant through his paintings, drawings, animations, and sculpture. In Mathis' oil paintings the dark shadows aggressively retreat into corners of canvas and push chairs and limbs toward the viewer forcing movement throughout the surface of the paintings. In the works on paper the buildup of white paint and pigments fight with the rangy black lines, ultimately isolating the subjects and moving the gaze nervously around the sheet of paper. Even in the sterility of the small pen drawings Mathis teases out depth and movement through line and shadow.

Mathis has focused on sculpture in recent years. Though none are included in this exhibition this focus has informed his approach to the drawings and paintings seen at Bows and Arrows. The influence of sculpture is seen in the build-up of composition and the use of the palette knife, as well as the physicality of the figures and objects within the paintings and drawings. Restricted only by size of the canvas or paper, Mathis builds upon his sculptural work, personal memories, inherent movement, and his unique relationship to color to create works cannot help but stick within in a viewers' mind.

-Laura Phipps

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