AVA (All Visual Arts) is proud to present the first major retrospective of French artist Charles Matton. Thirty undiscovered boites or enclosures will be installed in a specially constructed labyrinth in Kings Cross.
From 1985 until his death in 2008, Charles Matton created mixed media works which defy easy classification. Theatrical, atmospheric, meticulously constructed, his small scale interiors are housed in see through boxes with glass fronts.
The miniature spaces represent real world interiors and revisited memories from Matton’s own life, as well as other recognizable places such as Francis Bacon’s studio, or the library of his close friend Jean Baudrillard.
The artist also fabricated interiors from his imagination, intended to recreate cherished sensations, such as the loneliness felt in an abandoned hotel corridor or the intimacy of a forgotten and disused library.
Matton and his assistant painstakingly hand-built, painted and sculpted every visible detail to 1/7 scale, from fading wallpaper to broken light sockets. Many of his enclosures of famous artist’s studios: Vermeer, Bacon, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Giacometti, Hopper and Courbet are such direct representations that viewing these boites is almost like making a journey through time. Matton reconstructed the room in which Paul Bowles died as well as Freud’s study, with his personal art collection displayed exactly as it would have been on his desk in 1910, lit by the wintry sun of a February afternoon.
As time passed, subsequent boites started to take on a more poetic quality. For the literal encounter to be complete for the viewer, the boxes needed to be not just how something looked on a particular day, but how they felt. To do this, Matton sometimes used one-way mirrors and videos to add hypnotic optical illusions.
Poisson d’Or depicts a music room with a grand piano, on which is projected the ghostly image of a young man performing Debussy’s Goldfish. The player is Matton’s son Jules, an accomplished classical pianist.
‘Magic boxes and metaphysical boxes, I’d like people to enter my boxes as they go round an exhibition’.
Such effects seem derived from Matton’s experience in film making, which he never abandoned. In New York University Club Library, Matton used double sided mirrors. These magic mirrors play with the involvement of the observer, who despite looking into a mirror within these miniaturised worlds, cannot see themselves. These Vampire boxes were the last step to fully integrating the viewer.
‘More than a voyeur’s delight, each room is a triumph of theatre’
Grace Glueck, New York Times