Matthew Monahan

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Matthew Monahan
Riker's Island, 2005
mixed media
205 x 110 x 45 cm

Matthew Monahan’s work presents a futuristic archaeology. Drawing from a wide range of influences, from Modernist art to ancient totems, Monahan’s ‘artefacts’ are both familiar and strange. Filtering historical mythologies through his own personal system of reference, altered further through the experience of making, Monahan’s work alludes to a contemporary spirituality, where beauty and brutality coalesce as virtual monuments. In Riker’s Island, Monahan adorns his vitrine with hand-crafted ‘relics’. Nondescript and clunky, their plausible function is secondary to their materiality: wax, paper, and plaster take on barbaric forms, their temporal media humorously suggesting timelessness. Their precious value is guarded by an over-sized sculptural ‘shard’: a monolithic goddess modernised and flat-packed in 2 dimensional card. Through his assemblages, Monahan offers a dark mysticism, where material trickery and abstracted form resurrect forgotten primal instincts.

Matthew Monahan
The Benjamins, 2005
mixed media
215 x 27 x 27 cm

Placed within a 2 tiered structure, Matthew Monahan’s The Benjamins suggests a decrepit power. Posed with Soviet-style glory, mutated figures toil and salute, weathered emblems of a fictitious nation, both barbaric and industrious. Exposing all the evidence of their clumsy making, Monahan invents a parallel world where the artist is creator and conjurer of nightmarish fantasy. Riddled with dark humour, Monahan’s shrunken monument offers a sinister element in its parody propaganda. Abject and absurd, The Benjamins brings to mind whispered lore of Amazonia, voodoo dolls, and witchcraft, contriving monster lore from recent history.

Matthew Monahan
Tarted Up For The Lions, 2005
Mixed media
188 x 32 x 32 cm

Matthew Monahan
Guild of Mad Builders, 1994
Charcoal on paper on muslin, wood, wax glass, carbon paper, transfer drawing, dry wall
246 x 94 x 51 cm

Matthew Monahan’s sculptures strive to recondite technological advancement and social flux with an archaic spiritualism. Stylistically drawing from Constructivist artists such as Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner, Monahan’s abstracted assemblages capture a lost spirit of ideological innocence; presented in contemporary context, they also allude to its corruption. Shown as a typical museum display, Guild of Mad Builders references this artistic lineage while contriving an historical fiction. His makeshift sculptures act as an impetus for aesthetic contemplation; their geometric composition suggests an architectural maquette, modelling an ancient and advanced society more enlightened than our own.

Matthew Monahan
Lesser Known Son, 1994
charcoal on paper, wood, dry wall
313 x 66 x 41 cm

A drawing perched as a sculpture, placed high on top a plinth, Matthew Monahan’s Lesser Known Son is captivating in its placid simplicity. Reminiscent of the famous Easter Island moai, the stoic face could be a refined descendant of the prehistoric remnants of idolatry; its serene delicacy points to something more cerebral, a futuristic incarnation of primal ritual and belief, possessing the secrets of ancient wisdom. Creating his monolith in paper, Monahan’s ‘sculpture’ is a humble facsimile, encapsulating a sense of timeless wonder with a meagre and bereft gesture.

Matthew Monahan
Sweet Grunt, 2005
mixed media
165 x 100 x 110 cm

A Green Man is a pagan symbol found throughout European, Asian, and Arabic cultures, thought to denote ‘nature’, or the ‘cycle of life’. Matthew Monahan’s Sweet Grunt reinvents this character as a malevolent golem: decrepit and inane, he towers in zombie-like stance over an assemblage of classical construction. Cut through with Perspex boxes, atop drawing atop plinth, Monahan’s nymph becomes an unlikely design element: colour coordinated, and efficiently incorporated into the whole. Material substance is subverted in this alternate history: stone transforms as wobbly paper surface, and ancient legend is constructed of malleable wax. Monahan’s work points towards an unsettling sense of cultural disorientation, where independent references coalesce in awkward harmony.

Matthew Monahan
Blood for Oil, 2005
mixed media
160 x 62 x 62 cm

Corporeality is central to Matthew Monahan’s work. His figurative references are often distorted to near abstraction, their forms both glamorised and tortured by their material construction: suffocated in lacquer, contorted through folding, pierced by objects, and smothered beneath glass. Through his work, Monahan presents images of both promise and anguish, edging towards an unsettling spiritualism. In Untitled, Monahan’s forms hint at military display: adorned with heroic regalia, his ‘uniforms’ are crumpled and gaping with suggested viscera, implying both honor and horror. Preserved in glass cases, they exude a reliquary aura of reverence, and a disturbing threat of contamination. Crowned by a veiled and severed head, Monahan makes religious references; splattered ‘blood’ denoting sacrifice and catharsis.

Matthew Monahan
The Family Tree, 2005
mixed media
285 x 82 x 63 cm

Straddled between representation and invention, Matthew Monahan’s Untitled molds a monumental drawing into architectural form. Rolled into a giant obelisk, Monahan’s portrait of a venerable muse is rendered in charcoal, giving the illusion of stone or earthy substance. Untitled’s strange cylindrical form suggests a variety of functions: icon of worship, stylised geological formation, or futuristic tepee encasing magical power. Through an opening in the back of the sculpture, Monahan reveals his construction as pretence: his immortal god is a paper effigy. The ballast within, however, stops short of actually supporting the object, instead becoming an altar for a simple fetish; leaving the physics of the structure as a mystery of equilibrium and balance.

Matthew Monahan
Blindness is Believing, 2005
mixed media
250 x 50 x 37 cm

Matthew Monahan’s work resides in a realm of paradox: his subject matter and materials transcend logical expectation, creating mysterious fictions from formalist play. Untitled shows an ambiguous figure: rough-hewn with metallic sheen, itshero wavers between ancient explorer and space-age cyborg. Teetering atop a geometric column, Monahan incorporates the idea of the traditional plinth as a device that both frames the figure as an icon, and evokes a cross-section of icy terrain. Supported by an elongated walking stick, Matthew Monahan’s sculpture proposes a vivacity of movement and precarious weight of solid metal. The figure is in fact made from paper, folded into a 3 dimensional form.

Matthew Monahan
Morning Thaw, 2007
Foam, wax, paper, paint, brass, nylon straps and glass
213.4 x 61 x 30.5 cm

Matthew Monahan
Midnight Mission, 2009
Polyurethane foam, wax, epoxy resin, photocopy and charcoal on paper, paint, pigment, metal leaf, glitter, glass, ratchet straps
295 x 61 x 63.5 cm

Matthew Monahan
Hale Bopper, 1997
pencil on paper
183 x 61cm

Utilising many of the same concepts as his sculptures, figurative drawing becomes a way to explore the body as a totemic entity: spiritual, biological, abstracted and shamanistic. Drafted with pencil on paper, Hale Bopper depicts a figure as both natural and mechanical. Matthew Monahan renders his study as an anthropological blueprint: beneath the crisp diagram are faint traces of perspective lines, alternate poses, and alteration smudge marks. Reminiscent of old masters’ medical studies, Monahan’s figure diverts from the purely human, suggesting a being both ancient and alien.

Matthew Monahan
Untitled (Red Face), 1997
oil on paper
99 x 100

Mapped out in thick red oil paint, Matthew Monahan’s Red Face is alluring and ominous. Delineating his form through heavy-handed contours, colour bleeds and spills like surgically exposed sinew or ritual dissection. Alluding to tattoos, diagrams, tribal face painting, and geological strata’s, Monahan’s Red Face looms larger than life, tempting with the voodoo seduction of the unknown.

Matthew Monahan
F Minor I and II, 2000
Ink on paper
Two parts, each 175 x 81.5 cm

Presented as a diptych, Matthew Monahan’s F Minor I and II conveys a fossil-like effect, as if describing two halves of a long absent presence. In the drawing on the left, an image of an animistic deity can be made out in the angular patterning, while the striated abstraction on the right suggests a tomb-like moulding from which it is derived. Replicating the aesthetics of stone rubbings or x-rays, Monahan transcribes the physicality of sculptural space into two dimensional form. Flaunting the versatility of ink, organic washes bleed beneath areas of condensed cracquelure, creating a negative impression that is simultaneously visceral and technological.

Matthew Monahan
Untitled (Blue Mask), 2002
Plastic coated fabric and paper
56 x 48.2 x 44.4 cm

Echoing the modernist’s engagement with ‘Primitivism’, Matthew Monahan’s Untitled (Blue Mask) reflects a contemporary fascination with exotica. Made from paper and fabric coated in plastic, Monahan’s crumpled mask suggests a creature that’s both archaic and industrial. Smothered within a rubbery skin, Monahan’s sculpture exudes a seductive tactility, merging the ritualistic and sexual connotations of fetish in a bizarre space-age artefact.

Matthew Monahan
Discussion on Making all Things, 2001
Charcoal on paper
330 x 170

Forging parallels between painterly abstraction and subconscious expression, Matthew Monahan’s Discussion on Making unfolds like a Rorschach test of artistic process. His ephemeral drawing simultaneously unfolds as compositional study, landscape, and mind map. Within the shadowy planes, chaos brews in cloudy explosions and lightning sparks, illuminated sporadically by heavenly beams of divine inspiration. Caught in a no-man’s-land of spontaneous gesture, miniscule figures make their way towards the apocalyptic glow, leaving tiny footprints in their wake.

Matthew Monahan
Untitled (figure back), 1997
pencil on paper
183 x 61

Pencilled with ephemeral delicacy, Matthew Monahan’s Figure Back is less a diagram than an impression. Emerging from the ground as a skeletal ‘remain’, forms are embossed, traced over, erased, and ebonised: capturing a sense of preservation and decay. Pictured on an elongated sheet of paper, Matthew Monahan’s figurative aberration is not merely a representation, but a falsified artefact: the ground, sullied and blotted, acts as both canvas and shroud, a museum-like curios or holy relic claiming the truth of myth

Matthew Monahan
Ad Infinitum, 2001
Charcoal on paper
305 x 163

Matthew Monahan’s Infinitum expands as a landscape of psychological space. Rendered in charcoal, Monahan uses the velvety medium to it’s full potential: dark crevices recede into deadened abyss, grainy textures suggest distant forms in mist, and light appears to radiate from within the ground through a process of reductive drawing. Traversed by tiny figures, spindly and strange, Monahan suggests a barren wilderness of primordial drive, reflective of emotional sub-conscience.

Artist image © Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, 1997



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