Mat Brown

Our Anthropic History, 2011, ink on board, 37" x 24" (94 x 61cm)

Our Anthropic History, 2011, ink on board, 37" x 24" (94 x 61cm)

The intricate drawings of Mat Brown, are reminiscent of the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch-  seeped with animals and sinister monsters and yet alarmingly blunt to the human condition. Brown’s detailed drawings are saturated with erotic figures in questionable positions, mythical creatures and animals melanged with contemporary symbols and events. He is concerned with exposing and investigating the development of humans from prehistoric, biblical times to the contemporary to create one universal narrative between humans and the world around us. These works are significant in exploring how human history has played a large role in limiting our understanding of the world around us. As humans, we tend to intake of the world through certain limitations and categories such as religion, technology or history - as all seperate entities. Brown therefore attempts to reconcile these limitations by emphasizing our relationship of technology, wildlife, pre-historic and contemporary events and figures into one illustration illuminating the universality and oneness of us all.

Mat Brown is a Toronto based artist,  currently producing works in Toronto. He is represented by Christopher Cutts Gallery. His works are now on display at the Art Miami

ET: I have seen you at work. You are meticulous and take an extremely scientific approach to drawing, spending hours studying the form of a figure, whether it be a human or something as small as a beetle. What is it about the medium of drawing that you love? Does this medium articulate something that maybe other mediums cannot?

MB: I love drawing in the same way that I love the english language, I don't often think about that love or even acknowledge it because it is the only language I know, the way that I communicate and the way that i see the world. I am a mono-lingual person and in that way a mono-medium artist, I think in a way drawing is the first language any artist learns to speak - I just never learned any other language. The language of drawing however is basically limitless as far as two dimensional art is concerned. The type of drawing that I do is also not limited to reference, as most of the figures, animals and backgrounds are drawn from memory or conglomerations of different sources composed into a narrative though imagination. Perhaps drawing can articulate the imagined narrative in ways that other media cannot, but really any medium can be used as drawing… so maybe it's all drawing in the end?

ET: Your works have this strange dichotomy between pulling from pagan and Christian mythology and contemporary events. Why create this dichotomy? Is there something specific you are trying to evoke to the audience?

MB: The incorporation of ancient and contemporary events and mythologies, is the basic viewpoint that I approach my work with. The focus of my work for the past few years have all been about the concept of worldview - investigating what that means to me and attempting to present visual representations of my view of the world. Specifically weaving christianity into the story of evolution for example, is my way of illustrating the fact that all the metaphors of western science are born out of christian institutions, without exception. All of the universities, individuals and groups of people responsible for the foundational ideas of the enlightenment were Christian and hence all the narratives used in science from evolution to the big bang come out of an imaginative framework or worldview of Christianity. This being said, that is not just limited to Christianity, you mention pagan ideas, these ideas in the same way are incorporated into the original narratives of Christianity and so by overtly including these references I am trying to make visual the continuum of ideas that our contemporary worldview is the result of. 

ET: Your work tends to be highly politicized with its small references throughout the drawings, such as “The Age of Pisces” landscaped within New York during the time of 9/11, or a military force in the bottom corner of “World View Warfare (Samantha Power as the whore of Babylon) and the US ambassador of the UN as the whore of Babylon. Is there a form of critique you are attempting to convey? Or are you playfully just presenting these figures and events for our own interpretation?

Worldview Warfare (Samantha Power as the Whore of Babylon), 2012, ink on board, 24" x 33" (61 x 83.8cm)

Worldview Warfare (Samantha Power as the Whore of Babylon), 2012, ink on board, 24" x 33" (61 x 83.8cm)

Precession of the Equinox - Age of Pisces, 2015, ink on board, 10" x 8" (25.4 x 20.3cm)

Precession of the Equinox - Age of Pisces, 2015, ink on board, 10" x 8" (25.4 x 20.3cm)


MB: I believe all art is political. Whether that means the zombie abstraction of the past few years is political precisely because it says absolutely nothing- political in this way because saying nothing with a platform that has an audience is a political act of negation - total nihilism. I have approached my work in a completely literal way, trying to be as honest as possible with my perspective starting with the story of evolution and continuing in a linear way to tell my version of the story of "history". I used Samantha Power as the whore of babylon, again with a Christian story from revelations in the Bible to depict a version of the present western world.  Samantha Power seemed an apt choice as she is billed as a humanitarian and "genocide expert" but her job is essentially to make excuses for the US to invade countries pre-emptively in order to "avoid or prevent genocide" a war apologist to put it simply. I used this story from revelations in the bible as an allegorical framework for a depiction of the war economy of the west. So yes I am attempting to convey a critique of these systems of political rhetoric and the industrial war economy, with a sense of humour of course. The Age of Pisces piece is the punchline in the 12 part zodiac or Precession of the Equinoxes series. In short the pieces in the series depict a sacrifice or ceremony to mark the end of the age of each zodiac sign, and the last age that came to an end in the turn of this twenty first century was the age of Pisces. The air planes in the sky above the NYC skyline, twin towers visible, imply the impending symbolic sacrifice of the twin towers as a ceremony to mark the end of the age of pisces… political humour. 

ET: The work evidently, is highly erotic. Can you take us through the importance of why this plays into your practice?

MB: I have always framed everything I have made with the visceral anthropomorphic - the legs and joints of most animals look vaguely human, the tree stumps and veins of leaves look like limbs. The rendering or understanding of the world we all see is inside our bodies, we perceive the world not as detached cameras (eyes) processed by computers (brain) but rather as a big sweaty stinking meat bag. We taste and smell and feel the world just as much as we see it, we often intellectualize or remove the body from our perception of the world but it is always there. We are all erotic creatures crawling over each other towards inevitable death and decay… I think it's just plain honest to let that concept creep into the work...