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.
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.
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.
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’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