Asya Geisberg Gallery is pleased to present our third exhibition of works on paper by Matthew Craven, “TIMES GONE BY.” Craven has long been interested in the universality of symbols and patterns, referencing textiles, painted pottery, and mosaics from across the world. New elements have emerged, taken from flags and pennants, old cross stitch patterns, and most intriguingly, organic shapes and flowers. Setting aside the artist’s frequent use of vintage collage elements, the large pieces in this show are bursting with a dizzying array of patterns and colors. Entirely hand drawn, the pixel-like squares that make up the designs are now smaller in scale, radiating from a center point and morphing to build organic structures within the ever-present grid. The backs of vintage B-movie posters still form each work’s foundation, browned, stained or torn from a previous life. Where before the artist drew inspiration from travel and in-person visits to book shops and museums, strict lockdown orders and a relocation have turned his references inward. The prismatic works in this show are a journey into pattern gone awry, the laborious and time consuming process of their creation a kind of meditation.
While the composition of some works recalls actual carpets or textiles with their framing and symmetry, Craven now actively disrupts these expectations in other works - as if the weaver has a bug in the program. The radiating center of “MORTAL()COIL.” has a magnetic pull to it, reminiscent of a mandala, a portal, an acid dream or a kaleidoscopic Louis Wain cat. In “EMERGE.”, seemingly orderly patterns fragment and overlap, cut short and then skipping across the page to march on in some further spot, as though jumping through time. Flowers bloom in “LAST MINUTES OF MEMORY.”, bleeding over Greek keys and breaking up patterns like weeds in a sidewalk.
Craven has built a visual language that is both instantly recognizable and tantalizingly obscured. These pieces contain a kind of alchemy, a spell built by symbols morphed and intertwined, ingredients taken from the lexicon of visual human experience. The titles of the new works - specifically TEMPLE., ALTER. and CLOISTER. - allude to the act of spiritual introspection. “While my head felt cluttered during the pandemic, creating these drawings was a release for me. I let the imagery come to my mind's eye in a stream of consciousness. Meditative drawings in the middle of a mad world.”