Monday, June 27, 2011

Patron Saint #2: Roberto Matta

“We should one day represent what we don’t see.”

"Visionary artist Roberto Matta (1911-2002) was arguably one of the most important artists of the 20th century. His high profile association with poet Andre Breton’s group of Surrealists only initiated his own personal evolution and style, which culminated in addressing the realm of the subconscious and the invisible. Thus, Matta is the patron saint of so-called “metaphysical art,” the graphic depiction of energies beyond the physical realities of everyday life.

“Matta – The Eye of a Surrealist” is a brilliant documentary by filmmaker Jane Crawford, which shows the artist exploring and simultaneously explaining the creative process. The film is also a cinematic retrospective of Matta’s life and his work with interview commentaries by art historians, curators and fellow artists.

Trying to explain his own personal creative process, Matta says, “If you start with a white thing [referring to a canvas or piece of paper], you are going to project things you already know. Make it dirty somehow and then you will start using hallucinations.”

These “hallucinations” are simply the power of imagination as when “people see in a cloud an elephant and begin to hallucinate to suggest something [to their mind.]” We make our own realities in other words, says Matta, and art is the expression of bringing the hidden into the visible."

- Uri Dowbenko - excerpt from “Matta – The Eye of a Surrealist: Mapping the Dimensions of Consciousness" - 2005

Chilean artist, Roberto Matta, I think, is often overlooked as a Surrealist, because his work never fit comfortably in that category. You can see in the article above that his work has been sited as "Visionary", "Metaphysical", and Surrealist. Ultimately, for the artist especially, this presents a problem. Even by my own definitions, Matta, like myself, was both a Transfigurist and Transdimensionalist. Ultimately, I think Transfigurism (and you'll note I'm reverting to the more simplified terms) and Transdimensionalism are one and the same; Transdimensionalism being the main category and Transfigurism being a subset in that category.

Matta is certainly one of the "patron saints" of this blog. I consider him one of the first true transdimensionalists. For more views of his amazing work and his hundreds of paintings, visit Tim Rock's amazing Matta gallery found here (this link also appears on the sidebar of this blog).

(Oil paintings by Matta in this post... Upper: Let All Flowers Bloom - 1952; Middle: Untitled -1959; LowerDar a la vida una luz - 1970.)


  1. Beautiful; I've not heard of him, I'll be sure to explore his site.

  2. Matta was one of those artists who tended to fall through the cracks, so to speak, because his work really didn't fit well into any particular category. He was a very prolific painter, however, so there's a huge number of works at that site link... much of it strange and enigmatic. Enjoy!

    Actually, you've just inspired me to revise the post!

  3. It's funny that this imagery is fairly familiar if you think of him trying to depict the content of dreams or the essential impulses in the subconscious. The images aren't horrifying in that context. But imagine if they were real, or if you could see them around the people you were talking to - probably akin to schizophrenic visions. Then it would be truly horrifying. But in fact everyone is carrying this monkey on their back, as it were.

    You have me thinking about transdimensionalism as an artistic label, and as a millennial concept...

  4. Ah, music to my ears... Transdimensionalism as a millennial concept... I will discuss that at length at some point in the future - I hope!

    As far as the "mad" artist issue - well, artists are sort of "lucky" in that way... they're able to make a profession out of their mental "disorders"! ;-)