vivonne thwaites



mathew mcwilliams



Area, 2009
54cm x 38.5cm, cut educational heliogravure early 20th century



Roman heads, Caesar (first centuary bc), 2009
28.5cm x 21.5cm, collage


mathew mcwilliams

(born Canada 1973, lives and works in Vancouver and Paris)

“The work of Mathew McWilliams lives in the encounter of surface against surface – a mute and minute bumping around of material with material, material with vision, and vision with knowledge.

Each piece in Roman Heads presents a portrait of an ancient stone bust (torn from a rare 1940 Phaidon book of heliogravure plates) half-hidden behind a skin of perforated paper. These punctures, which nearly vaporize the image, call to mind the pointillism of Georges Seurat, the Ben-Day dot of Roy Lichtenstein, even the perforated steel we often see in late 20th century architecture. In these pieces, the work takes place both in the tiny depth of a sheet of paper and on the surface of the retina, but because the image changes as you approach it, it also exists in space and time as your body moves. In this sense it’s a sculptural strategy for the picture plane. Of course these works are also a play of pleasure: the tingle of vibration on the eye, the narrative of Roman history, and the sheer perfection of the polka dot.

For Paper Works, paper is folded and wrinkled into various minimal forms. These folded papers are then photographed and printed with their own image. It’s not the self-reference that’s interesting here, it’s the way representation as a technology is repurposed. The logic of traditional photography assigns value to the image, not to the paper that holds it. McWilliams works shift the gaze from the image alone, to an elusive interaction of image and support.

I remember a Robert Smithson essay called “Teratological Systems” in which he retells a fragment of Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie: a team of cartographers make a map of Germany at the scale of 1:1 but the country’s farmers won’t let them open it for fear the map will block out the sun and ruin the crops. So they store the map folded and make do with the country itself, which they say, is almost as good. McWilliams’ Paper Works are both the map and the terrain, fused at the surface, a kind-of dream topography or topology.

In Areas, McWilliams has taken French educational posters, heliogravures, from the early 20th century – images of splendid architectural monuments – and simply removed a circular area from each, exposing a black void behind. Like the coloured dots covering people’s heads in John Baldessari’s collages, McWilliams’ circles shift the original image by redirecting attention to the picture plane and the rhetoric of its composition. In a sense they are anti-frames – they disturb rather than privilege the image; they de-centre rather than centre; they de-present rather that represent. And yet there is no sense of violence here, it’s more a sense of relief from the ravenous habit of looking; the Areas are exquisite blind spots or mystic wormholes in the fabric of visual culture.”

Josh Thorpe
Josh Thorpe is an artist and writer living in Toronto. He recently published the book Dan Graham Pavilions: A Guide (Art Metropole), and is working on a new monograph titled Gordon Lebredt: Proposals.

Mathew McWlliams studied Fine Arts at Concordia University in Montreal. His work has been exhibited in Rome, Geneva, Paris, Montreal, Sydney and Saatchi and Saatchi London.

2010 projects include DB Projects in Sydney and Goodwater Gallery in Toronto; Additions and Subtractions, Fenestra Gallery, Sydney and Unity, One of a kind space, group show including Shaun Gladwell, Anthony Lister and Tim Moore, Sydney.

Other exhibitions: Revelation 3, Foire de Photographie Contemporaine, Paris, 2009; Paper Works, Plowman Street Studio, Sydney, 2008; 4C SightSeeing Tour, Saatchi and Saatchi, London; 2006; Black Ground, Galleria Bertanicinque, Rome; 2005; Sebastian Bertand Studio, Geneva, 2003; Concordia space Montreal, 1999 and 188 Vancouver in 2007.


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