Charles Matton- Enclosures

 The resonant tones of Debussy, lingers. The video projection scatters light onto the faded, peeling          wallpaper, and the slightly worn oriental carpet. A young man sits, only his back visible, shimmering slightly as he plays the piano. The scene has the atmosphere of a particularly vivid memory or a resonant dream, and invokes a certain feeling of melancholy.
Reduced to a scale of 1:7, Charles Matton’s boites are hauntingly beautiful. The boxes use mirrors and light to project an anamorphic, miniature wonderland, in which our sense of perception is enhanced rather than diminished. One of the most immediately impressive aspects of Matton’s miniature boxes is their bewitching quality; the wires and outlets, chipped wood, dust and stains, the slant of a picture, a crooked frame, a curtain's crease and mirrored reflections astonish us with details that would likely be overlooked if the same room were at eye-level. Matton’s choice of boxed formats recall Joseph Cornell yet Mr. Matton’s work has more in common with the world of Lewis Carroll and meticulous stage designer David Belasco.
Matton’s work is precise, skillfully playing with light and mirrors. While it may teeter over the line of fastidious craft, verging on a somewhat diminutive verisimilitude, the work evolves from an intriguing concept–the idea of peering into created worlds only through one perspective, a view enhanced by the image-trickery Matton offers. Curator of the Enclosures exhibition, Joe La Placa, acknowledges Matton’s technical skill, but believes that his work is distinguished by its content rather than its form: “With Matton, many people pay attention to the technical aspects of his work, which are extraordinary. But there are many other artists who work in miniature, and it’s what he depicts that is important: moments in time, moods, qualities of light at particular times of day, a certain kind of metaphysical feeling that the boxes exude; that is what makes his work so captivating.” (cited in Herd, 2011)

In his influential study of the implications of our interactions with buildings and spaces, the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard observed that it is “reasonable to say we ‘read a house’ or ‘read a room’, since both rooms and houses are psychological diagrams that guide writers and poets in their analysis of intimacy”(cited in Herd, 2011). Matton’s box suggests that it is our spatial awareness that most vividly suggests memories. Bachelard’s interest is in the powerful correspondence between the spaces we live in and our psyches, the ability of rooms and buildings not only to reflect our personalities and imaginations, but to affect them, and the ability of spaces to harbour our most intimate and deeply personal memories. (1994)
Baudrillard’s writings on Simulacra seem particularly pertinent. Baudrillard believed that our contemporary experience is so dominated by images, simulations, replicas and references that we have lost our ability to experience what the images are meant to depict: reality. (1994) While Matton’s work makes a concerted effort to approximate reality as closely as possible in the boxes, by the act of doing so they also articulate a drama of the hyper-real, where the distinction between reality and replica blurs. Once we have seen Matton’s box, that virtually becomes the reality of the space depicted and we lose touch with a sense of what the real space might have been.
Furthermore, Matton’s painstakingly detailed works marks him as a serious collector. Matton collects spaces. He collects specific moments in time and reproduces them with such scrupulous fervor, in can be considered as a kind of fetishism. Baudrillard explores this idea, claiming that “in later life, it is men over forty who most frequently fall victim to this passion. In short, there is in all cases a manifest connection between collecting and sexuality, and this activity appears to provide a powerful compensation during critical stages of sexual development” (Baudrillard, 2005, p.93). The idea of collection as a powerful form of self-expression plays with the notion that what really is on display is the creator. “For what you really collect, is always yourself” ( 2005, p.96), Baudrillard claims, hinting at the idea that the real discovery when peeking into Matton’s boite, is the psyche of the artist.
However much Matton’s boites verge on the edge of craft, their enchantment is instinctive. Art began in magic and, despite dogmatic efforts to rationalise it, it is refreshing to meet this reminder. His work successfully weaves ideas of experience and memory forming both a personal and collective response. Monsieur Matton’s uncanny cabinets operate in a world of feeling- primal delight- that comes close to bewitchment.

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