26 November 2005 - 21 January 2006
26 November until 21 January
Galerie Fons Welters presents a solo exhibition of work by the American artist Matthew Monahan (1972). Monahan's third exhibition at Galerie Fons Welters will provide a look at his new chiaroscuro charcoal drawings, which take on architectonic dimensions and enter into dialogue with earlier work and figurative sculptures.
The dark lines of bizarre figures cover large sheets of paper, which are crumpled and reshaped into a different, seemingly solid creature that makes the blood curdle. We see dolls that seem worn by heavy use and bring to mind a voodoo doctor's potent curse. Masks redolent of lost traditions and mysterious religions. Totem poles intended to keep evil at bay, which look like the very source of that evil. Toothpicks, glass, pins and hair accompany this collection. These works repulse and attract. They are remnants of people's lives, and they exude the beliefs, the hopes and the dreams of their imagined former owners. We avert our gaze, because they seem to threaten our very existence. But at the same time, we have to look, because they harbour a lost element of life for which we too are searching. Nail polish, glitter, silver foil and cheerful colours should lighten the tone, but instead they form a cloak, hinting at the secrets - and perhaps the terrors - which these creations conceal. The works of Matthew Monahan are signposts pointing to an unreachable place, a time long past, an old story. They depict a quest that has obsessed humankind since the dawn of time.
In that quest for meaning, all aspects of life must be confronted. The philosopher Georges Bataille (1897-1962) is well known for his writings on death and other gruesome subjects. He shows that a genuine experience of life lies on the fringe of death. To preserve our way of life, however, we keep all that is gruesome hidden away. The only thing on display is happiness - not failure, misery or mortality. This leaves us numb to our own experiences. Monahan searches for images, icons of hope and faith, and in equal measure of despair and pain, cutting across history, across cultures. He modernises these images and makes them utterly his own. Even so, we understand exactly what they mean, in all their mutability. Like Aby Warburg (1866-1929), he shows that the power of certain images transcends all these boundaries. No matter where or when they are found, they retain their impact.
Matthew Monahan gives us objects that bellow with life. They point towards something eternal, but are very much of this world. These sublime forms have always been a means of coming closer to eternity, closer to the meaning of it all. But most importantly, they are intended to make life more bearable. They offer hope, forge bonds between peoples, or tell stories that rouse memories of our ancestors. Should we perhaps ask ourselves whether such creations could help us? Is it possible that Monahan's works could lead us in a new direction?
Laura van Grinsven