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Matt Lively: Destructive Distillation
October 5 - October 27, 2018
Opening Reception, Friday, October 5th 6:00 UNTIL 8:00pm
Matt Lively

Matt Lively has distilled his work down to its essence, paying tribute to the many artists that have influenced or supported his career. When Matt was in college and couldn’t afford the expense of oil paint, he turned to Tar for the darker values in his paintings. Oddly enough, it’s a material he never grew tired of working with even though most of his clientele are more familiar with his colorful vibrant work like the beecycles. At the 2017 Current Art Fair, Lively released a few tar paintings including one of his own studio more lovingly referred to as, “The Barn.” That painting sold quickly and many inquiries followed. It spurred Matt on to start bringing the Tar more in foreground with some plen air work and now the almost completed studio series. Matt visited over 30 plus artist studios here in Richmond to capture their space in tar.  Tommy Van Auken, Diego Sanchez, Heide Trepanier, Nico Cathcart, and even the late Bill Fisher’s studio have been painted for this series just to name a few. Matt in his own words talks about the importance of this body of work and how it is a turning point for him below.

"Destructive Distillation is the process of decomposition of unprocessed material by heating it in the absence of oxygen.  Over millions of years, nature grinds inexorably toward its own essence. Trees die, becoming compost and peat, and eventually — starved of oxygen — tar.  The tar for roads and rooftops is made by speeding up that process in a controlled way by heating coal, wood, petroleum or peat in the presence of no oxygen to the point when the only thing left after all of the molecular bonds have been broken down is tar.   

25 years into my career as an artist, I am retracing my steps - not for the sake of nostalgia - but to dismantle the structure of my work.   That particular numbered anniversary made me really conscious of where I was, who I met, and the materials I used during that time and how they helped direct my career. 

Using only tar on enamel on wood, I am boiling down and choking off the essentials of my own work. Depicting studios and physical environments in which other artists engage in their own processes, I am stripping away my habitual essentials of color, whimsy, and ego to squeeze out what is left.  I am removing everything that has informed my work along the way: voices of teachers, fellow artists, collectors, galleries, family and friends and my own thoughts."


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