Matthew Lahm
Artist Statement

I paint views of the human body that intentionally obscure literal references. This approach reveals the body as an abstraction that can be beheld without the reference to proper names. Notions of wrist, hand or leg are distractions that would make subject of that which I want to be viewed as object. I want the work to express a visceral humanness by rendering the body formally where it is reduced to anatomical and fleshy curves that play off each other through the manipulation of light and shadow. It also allows the paint to become the flesh itself, which to me is far more important than referencing actual parts of the body. The works vary greatly in size where some are as large as ten feet across and others have been as small as twelve inches. The scale enables the work to express a range of proximity where the small works are very intimate and the largest of them communicate as vast landscapes that reflect the sublime.
I have very specific intentions for why I do this work. I want to tap into perceptions of the body that are intuitive because I believe that names can carry with them connotations that disrupt the act of direct aesthetic perception. For example, breast has a different social taboo than does knee or finger and yet, they are all connected in the body. Without reference to these names, the body is all that remains. I am very influenced by Derrida’s writings on Deconstruction and Poststructuralism. These names that we use to identify the body in parts are wholly subjective and have no intrinsic connection with the forms themselves. Where does the lip end and the chin begin? The body is being and language is the clothing of its identity and my work attempts to strip that clothing away. I want for the paintings to be self-reflexive statements of sensuality that act as metaphor; when cognition is subverted, all that is left is feeling. It is portrayal of ourselves to embody the very mystery of ourselves. The series is titled Flesh Compositions and they are simply numbered.
Donald Kuspit said that paint is a medium perfectly suited for the rendering of flesh. I take this further in that I am not simply rendering flesh; I am making it. I agree with Clement Greenberg’s idea that in a painting, the paint is just as poignant a subject as the picture. The tactility that I want the work to reflect requires that not only the image read spatially and environmentally but that it also exists materially.

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