An Emancipation Fraught with Complexity:
Freedom, Mythology and Allegory in Matthew Hindley’s ‘Twilight of the Idols’
There's so many different worlds
So many different suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones
Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms (1985)
Taking its title from Friedrich Nietzsche’s 1889 book of the same name, ‘Twilight of the Idols’ affords the viewer a look at the journey that Matthew Hindley’s paintings have undergone over the last three years. During this time, Hindley’s paintings have begun to define a separate world unto themselves, with each new work acting as a fragment; a peek into a small corner of this alternate painted reality. With each series, an additional region is added to this world’s geography and, perhaps paradoxically, the impression grows that even less is known about it.
In earlier works like The opposite of memory (2009) and The Hour of Lead (2010), the subjects were enclosed within the hermetic space of the artist’s studio. This was an isolated existence surrounded by paint-smeared walls, taxidermy animals, ropes and polypropylene sheet foam. True to the title of Hindley’s early 2011 exhibition ‘An Everlasting Once’, this appeared to be a self-contained, liminal space; timeless and secluded.
As the only painting in ‘An Everlasting Once’ to depict a realm outside of the studio environment, it was the aptly-tilted The End of the World (2010) which changed everything. From the moment that Hindley’s two female subjects stepped out onto the balcony at world’s end, the studio ceased to form the entirety of the known world for them. It simply became a location within something far greater. Subsequently, Hindley’s subjects have dispersed into the great unknown beyond with varying consequences; an emancipation fraught with complexity.
To speak of Hindley’s subjects is not to refer to a coherent, fixed group. The cast changes continuously from series to series, but they are all defined by similar traits. Since leaving the studio, they appear displaced and are inappropriately attired for their surroundings. Whilst having reached adulthood, there is an almost childlike innocence in the way in which they engage with their surroundings, wandering through a world that they appear not to understand. This naïveté extends to the taxidermy hyena which has stowed away with the female subjects in the works from the Waenhuiskrans series. Completely out of place and impractical in context, it may assume a similar role to that of a child’s stuffed animal; an inanimate source of comfort and security. This is certainly suggested by a work such as Dirt and Agency (2012).
The juxtaposition of what does and does not belong within a scene is something that Hindley incorporates into the actual painting of his images as well. The figurative handling of his characters and environments are contrasted with abstract splashes and drips of paint that serve to snap the viewer out of any impression of representational reality. In some cases, such as Healing and Authority (2012) the choice of colour in these abstract overlays enhances the dramatic content of the painting. In others, as with Untitled 1 (Waenhuiskrans series) (2011) and Untitled 2 (Waenhuiskrans series) (2011), these painterly interventions upset the internal logic of the work. Here the black and red drips of paint resemble stalagmites and flow in the opposite direction to the assumed pull of gravity within the scene.