Water surfaces

Matthias Meyer’s pictures always open up broad perspectives. They allow our gaze to wander through interleaving city landscapes or glide over stretches of water towards a seemingly boundless horizon. We very rarely have a fixed reference point within the picture. In Meyer’s paintings of buildings we are usually looking at them from an elevated vantage point, so that their shapes are merely hinted at through the mist and through the dripping of paint. We are not necessarily meant to regard the receding, dispersing shapes as symbolic of the fast pace of a vibrant metropolis, as, for instance, in films and photographs from the 1920s. Rather we are reminded of images whizzing by, as if we were seeing them out of the window of a moving train or car.

Despite the wealth of atmospheric associations that Matthias Meyer offers us, his work is mostly about fathoming artistic possibilities. His interest in the baroque, where a delight in optical illusions is expressed in many and varied ways, is coupled with the question of where figuration and abstraction overlap and perceptions become blurred. He sometimes creates a fine, geometric web of lines in front of his architectural views – lines which we initially tend to perceive as scaffolding. This web, however, forms part of an artistic feature with a complex structure, a feature in which he plays with the dimensions of deep space and where he offers us a final visual foothold in his drifting pictures.

Meyer has once again used photographic images or pictures from the Internet as the starting point for his latest paintings, with titles such as “Water Lilies”, “Lotus” and “Reef”. For Meyer they are like sketches, from which he then greatly digresses in his paintings. Unlike Monet’s water lily ponds, which are instantly recognisable, Meyer does not reproduce nature. Rather, well aware of the historic paintings he is following, he plays with the motif of reflective water surfaces and presents a glimpse of what lies beneath. Sometimes we are reminded of an aquarium with its artificial plant world, or a diver’s perspective. As the artist works from photographs, he effectively inserts a second visual impression between the direct portrayal of nature and his painting.

Matthias Meyer’s earlier works were characterised by drab, muted shades, but his palette has become brighter over the last few years. His new works in particular, which tackle the phenomenon of water surfaces, feature pastel colours with predominantly blue tones. The paints are used thinly, dripping down the canvas, and he employs a wet-on-wet technique, blurring the outlines so that we can no longer distinguish the boundaries between ostensible reality and mirror image. Plants, coral reefs, shoals of fish and water surfaces develop a curious, vivid life of their own. Yet like architecture, they are only motifs to work from, allowing the evolution of evocative paintings which explore the appearance and dissolution of shapes. Working on his large-format canvases, Meyer uses a technique that reminds us of the energy and immediacy of Japanese calligraphy, where motifs outlined in filigree fade away and then re-emerge in the same instant. His painting technique, which is characterised by dripping paint and is therefore prone to chance, leaves him little scope for correction. The flowing and shimmering surface of the water which he explores in his paintings is like a metaphor for a reflection upon the process of painting, the nature of the surfaces of pictures and their artistic depth.

Beate Ermacora

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