Matt Gee’s exhibition Lustre explores the artist’s mission to subvert and imitate phenomena that arise from humankind’s long-term traces on the environment.
The viewer is presented with a range of mixed-media artworks incorporating a variety of glazes, shimmers and glows associated with natural phenomena such as volcanic rock, pyrite and crystals, but also urban materials such as spray paint, imitation gold and fired clay. The show is ultimately based on a new geological epoch known as Anthropocene.
The Anthropocene age signifies the beginning of significant human impact on the earths geology and, conceptually for the purpose of this exhibition, it is used to articulate a moment where objects become indistinguishable as either natural or artificial.
The epitome of this is Plasticglomerate, a tragic, yet fascinating symbol of the extent to which human intervention has become embedded in the natural world. This rock consists of sedimentary grains and lava, and is held together by molten plastic. It is formed from excessive levels of plastic being washed up on the beach and melting into lava streams, and because the plastic is not biodegradable it can even become fossilized, leaving behind a legacy of waste.
In a series of 24 cyanotypes, various pieces of Plasticglomerate, ‘Detroit Agate’, have become generically unified with images of studio sculptures and crystal growing projects. Negatives of all of these are laid on paper laced with a photosensitive mix of ammonium iron(III) citrate and potassium ferricyanide, and then exposed to sunlight, creating a synonymous portrayal of both studio based projects, and objects resulting from the Anthropocene.
Pyrite and Geodes are a recurring motif for imitation in this exhibition. Pyrite is labeled by society as ‘Fools gold’ and acts as the fake gold at Legoland. One might wonder why should a mineral be categorised as a substitute when it is an alluring natural material in its own right? Matt Gee sees geodes, with their modest appearance on the outside, and sparkly insides as a metaphor for a chance encounter, or a symbolic subversion of society’s cliché: Style over Substance.
Gee creates his Glazed Ceramic Geodes by firing clay to a temperature of 1200 degrees, a heat reminiscent of the actual volcanic lava which creates cavities in which natural geodes form. The fired clay shells are then encrusted with Copper Sulfate which, left to grow in a controlled studio environment sheltered from the elements, develops crystals upon the sculptures’ surfaces in a simulation of the natural process.
In this exhibition, Matt Gee continues to explore issues and materials previously encountered in his 2015 exhibition, Nutri-Artifice, at Gallery 286, with the addition of ceramic and pre-digital photographic elements to his practice. The results are both intellectually stimulating and visually seductive.