Aaron Kasmin returns to Sims Reed Gallery with his third exhibition inspired by American feature matchbooks. Bold. Dynamic. Energetic. Nostalgic. Showtime! Is the British artists largest show to date, showcasing 31 vibrant drawings that depict a more diverse range of subject matter than his earlier work, transporting viewers back to the dynamism of a bygone America.
After the success of Up in Smoke, 2017 and Lucky Strike, 2016, Kasmin is hosting an exhibition of new works that take a look at themes ranging from restaurants and nightlife to sports and travel, nostalgically shedding light on early to mid-twentieth century American life. Celebrating both the every day and glitz and glamour of the time, his drawings hark back to the post-prohibition era, a period filled with movie stars and opulent parties as described in the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Raymond Chandler.
Kasmin began collecting Lion Match Company’s matchbooks several years ago, inspired by the lively and inventive images in what must have been the beginnings of graphic design in minute form, which reflect the rise of America's consumer culture that was originally mass-produced for advertising purposes. The small and humble matchbooks soon became the most effective advertising medium in America, which were embraced by almost every industry – as seen in Showtime’s! variety of subjects. Kasmin has subsequently turned them into an art form in their own right, drawing attention to the little known and almost forgotten ephemera whilst paying homage to advertisers breadth of imaginative ideas.
I wanted to show the diverse uses the matchbooks advertise. Their originality is illustrated through totem poles advertising a Canadian shipping line, boys wrapped in cellophane for Sylvanian cellophane, and a Scottish terrier drinking scotch and soda for Highland Queen Scotch whisky brand. I love the ones with a strong design element, bright colours, repetitive patterns and atmospheric scenes. Pencils and brushes work particularly well as the striking part of the match can be incorporated to represent the pencil’s rubber and paintbrush ends.
The chalky, matt quality of carbothello pencils render a texture similar to that of the matchbooks, allowing for a stencil-like quality that incorporates the matches into the images. Kasmin takes several days to create these unique works on paper, building up A4 and A5 sized drawings using a wider palette of colours than his earlier works. Highlights of the exhibition include Mr Peanut and Delicious – both advertising American restaurants; Totem Poles – shipping company; Best in Pictures – cinema, and Scotch & Soda – Scottish whisky. All works are available to buy, ranging in price from £850 – £2,000. The exhibition is accompanied by a selection of the artist’s own vintage matchbook collection and a catalogue.