Discovering life in fire and death
THE UNMISTAKABLE style of Matthew Hindley greeted me at the studio of the artist. One could describe his works as contained, yet wild. They are surreal, almost hyperreal, and psychologically rich, immediately impressive.
There is a photographic, digital dimension as well as stylistic references to time-honoured methods or techniques of painting and drawing, as Hindley conjures a sense of fantastic realism.
As opposed to his Ruin Lust series last year, the artist seems less concerned with a sense of resignation at the senselessness of the destructive impulse in general than in the possibility of rebirth. Yet there seems to be a thread in this work and his previous output. This coheres with a psychological principle, namely that ego dissolution is a basis for inner growth.
In this sense, whereas Hindley has shown interest in vegetative life that grows precisely when there is fire and embers, here one finds the main image to be the curious juxtaposition of a flower and plumes of smoke.
This motif is iterated in ever nuanced ways. The flower refers to genetically modified sub-species that grow in curious ways.
This makes a comparison to synthetic concoctions that are not simply aberrations, but may be useful for medicinal purposes. On the one hand, this is then co-joined to smoke rings that refer to oil spills, but on the other hand becomes a sculptural mass that acts as the stem of the plant. One can then infer that the roots grow deep below the water surface, making a connection to the ground below the calm waters. For even in the psychological turmoil and suffering, there is yet a certain harmony and beauty.
Such dichotomies are explored not only in his paintings, but also in his numerous prints. Hindley refers to painters of yesteryear such as Goya, Rembrandt and Giotto in his mark-making technical virtuosity and the narrative that unfolds.
For the nexus of life and death and the seeming enemy that is death is somewhat subverted. One may read in this alive flower attached to the smoking-stem a metaphor for reincarnation. Or at least that the spirit lives on, and may even not yield so easily in life proper, and defeat death – even if temporarily.
Such interpretation is not far-fetched. In conversation with Hindley, he mentions the difficulty of dealing with his mother’s cancer diagnosis. Also, the recent death of Barend de Wet was tragic and Hindley expressed his sense of wanting to carry on the work of Barend, or take up the sword or paintbrush and fight the cause.
It appears that in this series, Hindley is trying to defy entropy through creative struggle and the harmony of opposites: fire with water; the brittle and soft with the geometric and logical. In that dialectic, the struggle becomes noble and energising, and promises creative fruits. It recalls a poetic truth: that seemingly irreconcilable ideas can be brought together.
The smoke plumes become a life-giving principle that gives rise to the singular flower. The visual is heightened and then somehow one can touch the images as the flowers appear alive. One can discern the way they are constructed: flecks of colour and line with subtle observations of colour and light. His work thus has the dual effect of being photographic and painterly, based on strong drawing ability.
Hindley is presenting his work at the Everard Read Winter Show until July 15 at the Everard Read Circa at the V&A Waterfront. He will present a bigger selection later at Everard Read in Johannesburg and in London.