Self Conscious: Pat Snow & Matthew John Winters at grayDUCK Gallery
It seems almost fated that Texas transplants Pat Snow and Matthew John Winters would exhibit together. The mellifluous title to their grayDUCK Gallery duet Wintersnow Snowinters echoes the innate, mantra-like concentration evident in their respective works, combining images and memories to sublime conclusions. — Brian Fee, Austin contributor
Upon meeting Snow at the three-artist exhibition True Story at grayDUCK last year, I was stone-cold smitten with his graphite portrait Record Shop Girl and the liquidic color bouquets blooming across watercolor Sleeping vs Waking. There was something uncanny about these figures — Facebook “selfies” of Snow's friends — something nostalgic, like girls I'd met in university or at some party in New York. His usage of text (either unsteady print or carefully meandering cursive, culled from snippets of conversation or song lyrics) redoubled this deep familiarity. Like: I know them from somewhere, or, I want to know them. Wintersnow Snowinters signals Snow's first painting show in some two decades, so several earlier watercolor works (like Sleeping vs Waking) reappear here as fully-formed oil on panel compositions. The 2013 Wake features Snow's hometown friend Heather (now an Austin-based chef) with clouds of grey across her face, like sleep's last remnants, instead of the tropical shadows from last year's watercolor. The same script — “it wasn't so much the sleeping as much as the waking up” — snakes across her partially concealed arm like a tattoo, but the subdued palette radiates hazy consciousness, flickers of violet in her hair, a single streak of watery red extended beneath her lips.
Snow explained that he works to keep his colors “pure”, using CMYK process colors in warm-up compositions, and then only three to four colors in his oils. Black becomes sharp outlines, like screen-printing but hand-brushed here, strengthened by a flatness forged by finishing each with Krylon Kamar varnish. To me, his color choices appear much bolder: like the rouge slash across Sleeping's cheek and the goldenrod collar of her jersey shirt, and the warm blue highlighting Bubblegum's hair, echoed in her piercing eyes. If the “selfie” captures one's likeness in time, I proffer that Snow's reductive palette and contrasty outlines activate those moments, and by working from watercolor to oil he makes their reality that much more present.
Matthew John Winters | The God Head, 2013, Ink on paper, 35” x 35”. Image courtesy grayDUCK Gallery, Austin.
Winters' contributions come in two broad flavors: ink on paper and paint on reclaimed wood. He emphasized that his images “have all undergone a change in state. These things go through a strange magic as they are cast aside or incorporated into an artwork.” Consider The God Head, a pink- and black-ink cloud of addiction and temptation clawing at one another, floating in the outlined vestige of a child wearing a Rubbermaid bin like a helmet — or a shield from some very grownup troubles. The original compositional photograph is not exactly forthcoming (unlike its kin Moosebeetle — a hulking, hyperbolized insect with antlers) but The God Head's imagery isn't so hard to decipher. Winters' ink drawings exude an unbelievable intensity, as he “draws” literally from his subconscious in constructing them, though the narrative within The God Head suggests some deeply considered self-reflection beyond its automatic roots.
Matthew John Winters | Transfer of Energy, 2013, Ink on paper, 21” x 21”. Image courtesy grayDUCK Gallery, Austin.
The massive horizontal Pink Mountaintops derives from Yann Arthus-Bertrand's Earth from Above, a favorite picture-book of Winters' grandfather. Uneven striations of wood recycled from the Blanton Museum (Winters' day-job) echo the craggy ridges, while the mountains themselves coat the composition like an outsized decal, hugging every tectonic peak. The use of gradient is intriguing: silvery speckles deliquesce into black shadow and rosy sunlight into whitish snow, like a Polaroid in Winters' mind, sharpening from a youth's overactive imagination to sobering reality.
Matthew John Winters | Pink Mountaintops, 2013, Acrylic and spray paint on reclaimed wood, 10' x 5'. Image courtesy grayDUCK Gallery, Austin.
Two artist “selfies” — Snow depicted in ink by Winters, Winters in crayon crosshatchings by Snow — were used in exhibition promotional materials and anchor the show. Both images are very much them: Snow's unruly hair and quizzical expression, Winters' stoic-yet-Socratic gaze, like each bears a simple Photoshop filter manipulation. Each is a translation of the original, but in the artists' hands they feel more authentic than a self-shot photograph. Snow gets this in translating his friends through watercolor to oil, depicting them more closely to how the world sees them, more than just a mirror of themselves. Winters turns that mirror back on himself, but by eschewing a traditional self-portrait for intuitive ink vignettes he creates a portal for us to see him a bit more clearly.
Pat Snow and Matthew John Winters | Wintersnow Snowinters, 2013, ink on paper and crayon on paper. Images courtesy grayDUCK Gallery, Austin.
Pat Snow was awarded the Individual Artist Fellowship/Grant Award by the Alabama State Council on the Arts in 2010 and 2011 and has participated in many solo, two-artist, and group exhibitions in Birmingham, Alabama and Austin, Texas. Recent exhibitions include Interchange Alabama/Texas, an artist exchange program between Space One Eleven (Birmingham) and Project Row Houses (Houston), supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andy Warhol Foundation. Snow lives and works in Austin.
Matthew John Winters has participated in numerous group exhibitions around his degree program at DePaul University (Chicago) and in Austin, Texas, including Ink Tank Collective's Armageddon Outta Here at Co-Lab Project Space and Art on the Green at AMOA-Arthouse, both in 2012. He is currently featured in the youth-artist/mentor partnership exhibition Advanced Young Artists at AMOA-Arthouse, through September 1. Winters lives and works in Austin. Wintersnow Snowinters continues through July 21.
Brian Fee is an art punk based currently in Austin, TX, but he can usually be found back in New York or deep in Tokyo, depending on the art season.