ITA
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134. PETER MATTHEWS

WITH THE FORCE OF THE SEA

Is it therefore possible that by losing our reflection and our shadow in the water, we become better creatures?

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"Qui se baigne il ne se réfléchit pas", wrote Gaston Bachelard. The swimmer who agitates the surface of the sea, which immerses himself in the waters of a river or of a lake, moves his body away from a known place, to make it enter an informal space, often infinite and obscure. His body projects splashes of water. The space of the water is shattered. The shape of the body, the sharpness of thoughts and the limits of the world as we know become vulnerable. All we can do is to reconfigure our certainties, feeling the space that surrounds us like a different universe, like a primordial liquid from which we come from and to which we belong.
Is it therefore possible that by losing our reflection and our shadow in the water, we become better creatures?


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petermatthews artist ocean sea painting water contemporary art nature sublime

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Peter Matthews, A Journey In, On and With the Pacific Ocean, 2015, courtesy the artist and BEERS London


Place of life but also place of death, the sea is home for an unimaginable number of stories. Space to be crossed in search of the promised land, frequently the protagonist of ecological disasters, the sea is one of the best known battlefields for raising awareness on environmental issues.
One of the most suggestive subjects of romantic poetry, in particular of the painting by Caspar David Friedrich, the sea is one of the places in which the feeling of the sublime takes shape. Whether it is quiet or stormy, the enormous expanse of water is able to reduce the "egocentric" tendency of contemporary man.
"The individual, a tiny point in the immensity, nonentity between nothing and everything does not reflect himself in it [in the sea], but he lose himself there. Erased from the scene like an insect “ (Cécile Guérard, Little philosophy of the sea, Ugo Guanda Editore, 2006, p. 52).

The sea is also the place of discovery, of an authentic contact with a natural element linked to life, a source of inspiration for poetic and solitary souls.
This is the starting point for the artistic research of Peter Matthews, a London based artist who has made the sea his privileged interlocutor. Like a modern neo-romantic painter, Peter Matthews plays the role of an explorer in search of the sublime. The artist has understood that to give shape to his artistic practice it is essential the direct and unconditional contact with the sea.
From this awareness arises the need to go physically towards the ocean, be it the Pacific or the Atlantic. The immersion of his body in the often wavy and dangerous waters of the sea is the ritual element from which start the production of his paintings.


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petermatthews artist ocean sea painting water contemporary art nature sublime1

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In order: A Journey In, On and With the Pacific Ocean, 2015; Installation views from the group show No Man Is an Island at the Künstlerforum Bonn, Germany, April, 2018. Photography by Álvaro Valdecantos and Cynthia Rüehmekorf. Courtesy the artist and BEERS London


It is at this point that Peter Matthews finds the necessary harmony to give free surge to his creativity. At the limit with a practice that could be read as performative, the artist immerses the canvas in the water and starts the production of the painting. A "four hands” creation process, which is both a production of an artwork and an exploration of the expressive potentiality of nature. Then the artist bring back the canvas to the mainland adding more signs on it; these are suggestions that emerge from the marine depths, which give life to an iconography and a universe of colors whose references are hidden in the sea.

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Peter Matthews, In and With the Pacific Ocean (Chile), 2018, courtesy the artist and BEERS London


“It is a crude reality that many of Matthews' works are lost to the oceans that produce these monumental works. And they are monumental, both in dimension and in scope. But they reference the sublime in their presence and also their absence: suggesting a journey the artist has taken, drifting, heaving, swelling, and breathing somewhere out there in the beautiful fluid liminal spaces between ocean and land. For Matthews, each day is an adventure, "found and revealed within the dynamic experience of wandering with the sublime, the mysterious, the unknown," where Matthews paints in, on, and underneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. But for Matthew's the real object of art exists where the object loses itself in the subject, where the ocean and the painting are indivisible to one another and where the ocean and universe write their own image.”