A review of the paintings of Matthias Meyer from the past few years display a profound curiosity on discovering abstract expressions found in the most mundane moments of life; our interactions with puddles on a rainy day. Something most people just want to step over and move on. Whats interesting is that while water is the same everywhere, these puddles of water look different in different cities, perhaps there are elements of the street that differ, which is reflected in his paintings.
As a protege of Gerhard Richter, the influence he had on Meyer’s artwork cannot be underestimated, although there is a notable difference on technique; while Richter’s paintings show a conviction with opaque, thickly applied paint, Meyer’s backgrounds are highly diluted, giving a watery, water-color look, punctuated with sharp touches of materiality, mostly in the form of bubbles or ripples in the water. This theme of duality; of solidity and fluidity, visual focus and focal depth and abstraction and realism is a constant throughout his work.
Working from photographs and acrylic sketches, Meyer explains the constant tension between abstraction and realism, in an interview in which he said that “as soon as a detail becomes recognizable,” he “puts a stop to the process.”
Focusing on the negative spaces, the undesirable or background elements and using these as the subject has a long history in visual culture, starting from the time when Van Gogh painted a pair of worn workman’s shoes, to Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph of a man’s shadow in a shaded stairwell, however I can’t find any famous artist or photographer who has used puddles of rainwater as the subject before, which is…remarkable. The picture of a ‘down-trodden’ James Dean walking through an empty Times Square, slogging through puddles of water on a rainy day, was staged; he was at the cusp of stardom at that time and far from ‘down-trodden’, but it did further his image of a lonesome outsider, struggling, pursuing a dream. This image was incidently, more aptly renamed Boulevard of Broken Dreams in subsequent re-iterations as a poster/painting.