Isolation in Art and in Reality
Beers- the gallery- is familiar to me. It was a treat to return for the opening night of Peter Matthews’ solo exhibition, In Search of the Sublime. Comprised of drawing and video works, the exhibition portrays his experience of isolation in the wilderness. Abandoning himself off the Pacific Ocean for the sake of his art, Matthews explored the nature of painting and himself as he faced the challenge of losing his work into the abyss of the ocean. The work is about exploring and questioning one’s own personal relationship with the wild and natural environment.
Art is personal, for the artist that created it and for the viewer that appreciates it. In one way art can be isolating: the viewing experience is shared but the sentimental aspect of it is strictly personal as one person may not feel exactly the same way about a piece as the person standing next to her.
After spotting whom I thought was the exhibiting artist, I made my way towards him ready to ask him the questions I had prepared within the 30 seconds it took me to reach him. I felt flustered and wary that he would know I spent all but 30 seconds thinking of what to ask him. My little episode was all for nothing because he said “God no, I’m not the artist but I…”
I did manage to locate the artist later that evening and bombarded him with my first question. He started to walk away mid way into his response. The gallery had emptied by this point and he literally had no one else to tend to besides my friends and me. I had to ask myself whether his time spent in isolation painting impacted his reality. I did not understand why he did not want to talk about his experiences or in the least help us understand his work. It was possible he was isolating himself because he felt it was beyond our capacity to ever fully understand it, so why bother?
I had asked him: “your canvases depict the physical story of your time in isolation, but do you think they accurately portray your emotional story?” His eyes were glazed, rarely met mine and he responded incoherently- maybe I zoned out- just in time to hear him say “yes, I mean look I’ve written on the canvas…”
I was not satisfied with this response and thus the joys and doubts surrounding conceptual art had once again prevented me from appreciating the works the way the artist did. I did appreciate Peter’s work in my own way though and imagined how I would make art whilst in the wilderness and in isolation.
That night we experienced someone else’s isolation and in doing so we isolated ourselves with nothing but our perceptions to guide us through the gallery. Ironically beer was served instead of prosecco on the night and this did not dissapoint me.