Mat Clum, an American living in London, reveals an abstract world which exists between art and science. Like hybrid imagery created from the Hubble Space Telescope and passing clouds, Clum’s paintings make real an abstract landscape and inhabit a space where reason and emotion meet.
These large scale oils are composed of layer upon layer of glazed colour on canvas and are uniquely engineered to float off the wall, unconstrained by the supporting framework. Combined with simply trimmed edges, this treatment keeps the painting from being physically trapped within two dimensions, flat to the wall. It releases the story held within the paint, allowing it to breathe and changewith its environment. More importantly this treatment also implies the paintings are only fragments of a larger, more engrossing story-a world outside the frame which continually effects change in both the viewer and the painting.
Clum approaches his art through the world of theoretical science and uses a vocabulary of abstract shapes and colour to explore the process of evolution and systems theory. While the images often appear complicated, this complexity is nothing more than an organised simplicity created by the multiple layering of his visual lexicon. The resulting textural depth and colour often evokes the meditative possibilities of stained glass windows, creating imagery with pseudo-religious overtones.
A series of smaller works, “Stations of the [Scientific] Cross”, directly addresses this religious theme from within the history of science. Each painting represents, in title and abstraction, a specific moment when the accumulation of knowledge reached a threshold and the course of our understanding of the world was profoundly changed. These select points run in loose parallel to the Stations of the Christian Cross. The implication is that the Scientific Stations are as majestic and awe-inspiring as any fable from mythology – even more so since, as Clum says, “they do not require the invocation of supernatural gods in their explanations.”
The subtle movement and reflective surfaces of Clum’s process serve to occasionally obscure the painting’s content. This elusiveness does not always allow the painting to be viewed wholly from one particular point in space and time; it requires the viewer to physically engage with the work by moving around it, viewing it from different perspectives. Like any good idea or scientific theory, although robust, the painting and its subject remains partly obscured and forever changeable.
Mat Clum was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1962. A graduate of the School of Art at the University of Michigan, he worked in design in New York City for 15 years and has lived and painted in London, England for ten.