MATT BAHEN: PAINTER, PROPHET, MAGICIAN
Toronto-based painter Matt Bahen's primary influence is literature. He strives to interpret the power of metaphor and allegory with paint. Bahen listens to audiobooks while working in his studio and is an avid reader of fiction, in particular the writings of Cormac McCarthy, T.S. Eliot and Joseph Conrad. His impastoed surfaces and stark compositions are at once unsettling and highly engaging. Using various motifs including water, fire and animals, Bahen constructs individual narratives that remain in a state of perpetual tension.
Matt Bahen was born in 1979 in Schomberg, Ontario. He received his BFA from the Ontario College of Art in 2002. In 2013, his solo exhibition, Gravity's Faith, was held at the MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie. Bahen is represented in Toronto, Edmonton and New York. He will exhibit at the Glenhyrst Museum in Brantford, Ontario in 2022.
Interview by Rebeccah Love
'The Strange Garden', 78 x 108, 2021
How would you describe your childhood and a community that raised you? I grew up in Schomberg, Ontario, in the eighties and early nineties. It was just a rural upbringing. Played hockey, worked on farms. It was a rough place, one of the small places where you'd feel very safe at the same time, everybody's door was unlocked.
What type of art did you make as a kid? I would do drawings from star wars and comic books. What kind of person were you as a teenager? I was very very responsible. I had a lot of responsibility that I had to pick up. What type of creative arts did you take part in as a teenager? Did you have any standout mentors? I had the worst mark in my high school art class, and the arts education was terrible. I had one guy, Mike Black, He was good. He showed me Francis Bacon paintings. The education as far as the arts was dismal. Our art history books stopped in 1950. I was already starting to read existential philosophy in high school. Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus.. And then I was like looking at what was on posters, the most generic, the Group of Seven, Edward Hopper. But when I went to art school, I was curious, I wanted to know more. We had a Van Gogh sunflower print and some Robert Bateman prints in the house growing up. What high school classes did you gravitate towards? I gravitated towards History and English and Art classes.
'As Though It Was Of Some Other Order', 72 x 78, 2021
Can you talk a little bit about your paintings and the subject matter that interests you the most? I do oil painting, thick, impasto that is fairly evenly applied. Right now the current show is called the Strange Garden. I'm using the narrative device of the enchanted forest or dark wood to talk about climate change. The basic hypothesis of the exhibition is that it’s impossible to make landscape paintings without considering the issue of climate change. What is revealed to you in your depictions of landscapes? What I'm looking for right now is to find very disparate types of landscape. It could be like having various seasons at the same time and basically collaging them together and having the image itself seem cohesive, but a longer one looks at the painting the more incongruities one would find for that to be a reflection of our changing climate in the sense that the climate is unpredictable now in a way. So like that's the type of mirror that I'm trying to present.
'The Colour of the Edge of Things', 48 x 54, 2021
Why is painting important? I think that painting is important because it's kind of like magic. Someone can take basically coloured mud, move it around on a flat surface and such a way that it creates a moving experience for the viewer. There are very few things that are better than a really good painting.
Matt Bahen's 'The Strange Garden' is showing at the Nicholas Metivier Gallery between November 4th and November 27th.
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