Matthias Esch: System Structure’ (big, broken)

Matthias Esch

Artwork’s Title: System Structure’ (big, broken)
Year: 2017
Materials Used: oil and mother of pearl pigment on linen,
Studio’s Location: Berlin, Lichtenberg

Symbol struoil and mother of pearl pigment on linen, 260x190cm, 2017
Matthias Esch, „system structure“ (big, broken), oil and mother of pearl pigment on linen, 260 x 190 cm

Art Verge

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

Matthias Esch:

Subjective signifying abstraction.

Would you use another three different words to describe the ‘System Structure’ (big, broken) painting?

The title is kind of self explanatory, it points directly to the set up: a system structure and its condition. A “broken system structure”, these would be the words I choose.

How did you come up with this painting idea? Is there any story behind this painting?

It was painted for my first degree show in Berlin and it was part of a group of four large scale paintings, all dealing with different points of interest I had at that moment. One for each of these  sections: Signs, Symbols, Signifiers and Systems. I can not remember exactly how I came up with this. For a long time I hardly ever made sketches or other preparations for my paintings, but I think this one evolved out of a little drawing in my notebook, little evil looking “S” shapes, or little abstract thunderbolts. As a kid I loved this book about native American art, and there was this archaic representation of rain which probably had an influence, but like I said, I am not sure. In the end, if you look for this specific pattern, you can see it in different contexts as well. For a  while it appeared in fashion, and it is also similar to the floor pattern of the “black lodge” in Twin Peaks. Because the structure of it is quite simple, it seems logical for humans to come up with patterns like this; the lines of the main grid have all the same length and angle. And it is very efficient from its visual impact.

What colour is used the most in this painting?

The first layer is made out of shades of red and purple, most of them were mixed with different mother of pearl pigments. Therefore the colours are not pure, but somewhere on the red spectrum. This painting was made with oil colours on oil primed linen. Although I do not believe that you can express emotions in a direct way through painted gestures, for me the first layer has a chaotic element, it is something “wild” underneath. Like dreams, the unconscious, emotions, something which is always there but difficult to grasp. Red is fitting in that scenario, although that was not my intention. I do not use colours as metaphors.  Then on top I drew a grid with pastels, but because of the oil colour and the texture of the linen, you almost had to scratch it in. This second layer is an attempt to bring order to the chaos, applying a structure that could be the basis for a system, although still transparent. Finally the last layer is defining it, made out of mother of pearl pigments mixed with white. From the distance it looks quite sorted, but if you go closer you can see all the tiny brushstrokes and that it is not really white, nor pure.

Are there other titles that you were thinking before the decision for its final name?

Because of the story I told before it actually was named “system structure” (rain) for a while. But while I like the idea of an archaic representation of elements, it was never really about that. It is a representation of the idea that we are surrounded by systems and structures which we need to deal with the world. Some of them seem far away, like normed behaviour in a general sense, the structure of a society or state. Others are very close, for example the words you are reading right now. So I changed the title.

Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?

I still very much like Ross Bleckner for his use of different means of expression, and for his bravery not to back away from romanticism, sometimes on the edge of being kitschy. Though I did not allow myself to look at his work for a long time now. Anyway you take inspiration from anywhere. I am glad that I can paint bigger formats again because of the overpowering function it comprises. I’m saying that because in music that seems more common. For example I listen to the band Swans everyday, that sound  has everything, there is power, violence, love and devotion. That’s what I want, even though it is impossible to transfer directly, it is very inspiring.

How do you know when your paintings are finished?

Usually I have a more or less specific idea what I want to achieve. Of course on the way there are endless possibilities, but the frame is set very early. With “system structure” (big, broken) the idea was to create a complete system, but half way it was finished somehow. So the rest of the drawn structure stayed untouched and visible. Just a few weeks ago I finally made a complete one: “Signifier” (I cant hold a thought, I am depressed I am going to kill myself).  The most important thing, the only important thing, is that the painting has to “work”, function! If it is not good enough, or does annoy me after a couple of weeks, I will destroy it.  Though this can happen months later as well, I am not prudish when it comes to that. So you could say a painting is finished when it survives haha.

 Is there any particular message that you wish your viewers can take from your paintings?

Not really no. For me it is important that my work has two sides, a personal one (where, after looking at all my work, you gain insight in me as well) and the conceptual basis. Both of them influence each other, they are intertwined and therefore provide many possible points of view. You can think about how language structures our reality, how reality is structured through our perception. You can enjoy the body of the painting, its colours, think about the title, compare it to other works, and so on. Art has to stay open, there is not one, but many messages inside.
Also unfortunately I am not Wittgenstein so I can not provide an actual tool for people, helping to gain knowledge (through language). I am not sure if my work can help you to become more relaxed and subsequently happy, more free. Probably not, but who knows.
Also I am egocentric anyway, painting is important for my sanity, and after it is done, frozen, I have to do it again.

What does your mum think about your art?

She likes it. She is more concerned about my well being though. Many mothers are like that, aren’t they?

Which exhibition did you visit last?

I saw some bad ones here in Berlin, but I also visited the Cady Noland Exhibition at the MMK Frankfurt. It was really impressive, her works are super efficient, beautiful and violent at the same time. And they seem to be so up-to-date! She, as an artist, is super intriguing as well. How she went into hiding and kept control over her work for the last 20 years, an interesting example how you can do it.

Which are your plans for the near future?

Even though I am back in Berlin for almost six months after a year in Glasgow, it feels like I arrived just now. I had a turbulent time lately, lots of shows and other troubles and now I can go back to the studio. My head is full with ideas and I want to concentrate the next months on painting a group of large scale paintings. I am super excited about that. Oh and there is a 24h long video I want to make, I probably should start with that as well.
Finally, I would like to spend the next winter in Mexico with my partner in crime, so I have to find a way to make that possible. And that’s about it.

Additional Works

_Signifier_ (I cant hold a thought, I am depressed I am going to kill myself), oil and mother of pearl pigment on linen, 190x130cm, 2018_2019
Matthias Esch, _Signifier_ (I cant hold a thought, I am depressed I am going to kill myself), oil and mother of pearl pigment on linen, 190 x 130 cm, 2018_2019
_system structure_ (broken), oil and mother of pearl pigment on linen, 40x30cm, 2017
Matthias Esch, _system structure_ (broken), oil and mother of pearl pigment on linen, 40 x 30 cm, 2017
_System structure_ (below), oil and mother of pearl pigment on linen, 40x30cm, 2018
Matthias Esch, _System structure_ (below), oil and mother of pearl pigment on linen, 40 x 30 cm, 2018

All images are courtesy of the artist

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