Chason Matthams is a painter working in New York City. His paintings are playful juxtapositions. When exhibited together, they create a prismatic channel flipping narrative of celebrity icons, landscapes, cartoons, and classicism - a roulette and investigation of cultural iconography.
What are you working on now?
I’m finishing a large and absurdly whimsical view into a thatch of flowers. But it kind of has this oppressive daunting light through it, like if Kirsten Dunst at the end of Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia” had crawled into a bush of blossoming camellias as the world ends.
How did you start painting? How has your creative practice evolved over time?I hated paint growing up. My dad is an architect (rulers and drafting tools, thank you very much). Paint is messy. Oil paint - forget about it. So quite predictably (because I was terrified of it) at age 22, I tried to learn how to control it. The joke is on me of course - all of my clothes have paint on them.
You’ve painted American celebrities - Tom Cruise, Lindsay Lohan, Heidi Montag... What draws you to these figures?
I forgot I even painted Lindsay Lohan until you just mentioned it! That is pretty telling. Sometimes they are just fleeting signifiers.
Others like Tom Cruise represent something much more important to me. Tom Cruise needs to own me. I have unwavering support of the man. It’s like Christopher Nolan’s third “Batman” movie when Bane instructs one of his henchmen to kill himself and the henchman obediently snaps his own neck. Yeah, that kind of relationship. You know “Top Gun”? And his haircut in the first “Mission Impossible”? And his shorter stature and screwed up nose, which mirror my own? All of these are reasons (despite recent information that has come out about him basically being a maniac) make me his supporter. And on that subject, we all have a pretty arbitrary relationship with the truth when it comes to protecting our baby dick identities. He is a good reminder of that. I also have the same relationship with painting. I am devout.
And generally, how do you choose your subjects?
The same way I heart things on Instagram. I scroll passively and then suddenly feel ridiculously emotional over a JPEG. The universe is wide open and gaping. It is 100% necessary to string some things together and believe in it. I understand I am an idiot and that sounds silly here, but that practice means a lot to me.
The placements of your paintings seem very considered. Why do you show them mostly as diptychs?
Yes, very considered. Referring back to the last question, the first choices are pretty random, and the next ones are where the religion comes in. Despite failing over and over again, I am still trying to create this narrative I have complete faith in despite its flimsy fabrication being in full view.
You also create diptychs where the two images are on the same canvas.
One time this gallery person told me I have to stop doing diptych paintings on the same canvas because it’s their job to pick what goes next to what. (I think they work in insurance or something now.) Anyways, they might have been right. I don’t have any tattoos, so maybe me permanently placing two paintings next to each other is my version of getting a tattoo? Though poor decision-making looks amazing sometimes, thinking back to Lindsay Lohan….
We heard you just got back to New York because you were working on the cartoon "Jeff and Some Aliens" for Comedy Central in Portland. How was the experience? How has it since affected your practice?
There are a lot of very talented people in animation that could care less about the art world, which is lovely to be around. We are in the middle of this figurative painting moment right now and so much of it is just glorified illustration (And I love it all!) I’m probably doing the same thing, but let's call a spade a spade. A lot of these artists who want to show in galleries are just illustrators craving a more cultural cache, or are looking to climb up a social class. This is fine - we all need hobbies. Where else are we supposed to go with the magazine industry on its deathbed?
When does the show premiere?
"Jeff and Some Aliens" premieres January 11th on Comedy Central right after "South Park."