Had the pleasure to collaborate with Chilean-born multimedia artist Matías Alvial for my project “Queering Lockdown”. For “SpectRoom: Fluid Narratives” we discussed the importance of painting as a fluid process, highlighting that the finished works are often privileged over the preparatory phases. Alvial decided not to show a finished work but a series of exploratory studies, communicating a beautiful DIY-low budget spirit working with what he found at hands.
Alvial’s portfolio includes works such as ‘Fluid Beings‘ (2019) and ‘Lyrically Intoxicated‘ (2019). In May 2020 Alvial organised a fundraiser art sale for The Center, the heart and home for the LGBTQ+ community in NYC.
Francesco Ferranti: Can you please introduce yourself?
Matías Alvial: Hey everyone, I’m Matías. I’m an artist and graphic designer from Santiago, Chile, currently based in Chile. I will be moving back to New York soon. I use He-They pronouns to simplify. My work explores themes of identity, human connection, gender and sexuality. In the greater context, it examines issues of power dynamics in relation to our physical bodies. “Why may a penis guarantee you a higher place in the societal hierarchy? Why can’t we live freely from patriarchal notions?”.
Francesco Ferranti: What does Spectrum mean to you?
Matías Alvial: My own life philosophy is that we don’t owe anything to anyone, we don’t have to justify ourselves, our personas, our identities to other people. I think that’s it’s very natural for us to question things as we grow older. I am not talking about this age period, when you are in your twenties but throughout your entire life. I think it’s rather natural to really question who you are both introspectively and retrospectively.
But having said that, I don’t subscribe to the models of the binary, of male and female cause that is patriarchal, antiquated, you can call it many things. Given my philosophy, you just have to be. Instead of questioning sort of why I’m an artist, why I’m Matías, I think it’s much better for our mental health to just be in the moment, be present and assume things as they are. And of course, we have to question the status quo, systems of oppression but when it gets to our personal matters and identities, I think those are things that we should only question for ourselves and we don’t owe an explanation to an outsider.
That’s why I’m excited to be part of “SpectRoom: Fluid Narratives”, because I can see how other artists are navigating these waters of fluidity, identity, belonging, and also being. I’m just fascinated by how different people feel a strong opinion towards this subject, because I personally am very confused, I don’t know. And that’s exactly the beauty of things, that I don’t know and I am trying to figure things out. And even if I don’t get an answer, the beauty is in the journey of learning who we are.
Francesco Ferranti: Which paintings have you selected for “SpectRoom: Fluid Narratives” and why?
Matías Alvial: These paintings entitled ‘Studies‘ (2020-ongoing) are not finished artworks, but instead explorations into somatic abstractions. Here, bodily shapes all merge with one another or fit together in geometric formations, rendering the distinction of an individual a rather impossible task. When attempting to delineate a singular figure, we may be tempted to use genitalia as a unit of measurement. Yet this methodology will only prove futile. In the greater context, I want to point out the absurdity of the hyper-categorization of things. Why are we compelled to distinguish A from B? Man from Woman? A figure from another? I believe that complex themes, such as gender, should not fall into a binary scheme. Instead, we should strive to embrace the middle of a spectrum; where lines blur.
It is important to stress, however, that these works on paper are not a traditional painting series per se, but rather, a collection of studies that was created to inform my newest work (which is still in development). Each of these studies mainly focuses on the abstraction of the human form (and the myriad of iterations this may embrace), and secondarily on texture, light, and how the laws of physics affect the shapes. The studies don’t inherently have much meaning on their own, yet they represent the birth of early ideas, all of which have yet to mature.
I decided to showcase this ‘body of work’ to highlight the creative process. Often times, the viewer is presented with the finished work and is asked to appreciate a cohesive set of ideas. I, on the other hand, want to offer an insight into what happens behind the scenes: the product of subconscious thought as the artist goes about his lived experience.
For instance, the materials reflect my current circumstances. With little disposable income at hand and in an unfamiliar country, I found myself buying the bare minimum I need to create — two tubes of Winsor & Newton gouache and sheets of Khadi paper. I chose Alizarin Crimson and Naples Yellow to capture the warm colors of flesh while avoiding the resemblance of any one skin color in particular. Additionally, the paper, which is handmade in India from 100% long fibred cotton rag, called my attention with its ragged edges. I thought to myself it would be a perfect fit for my pursuits: to create imperfect (liminal) images on an imperfect (raw) surface — showing the hand of the artist exempting itself from concealing.
Francesco Ferranti: What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
Matías Alvial: As things slowly return to “normalcy”, I hope that people reflect on the past year and embrace the future with altruism. I envision people working together to nourish their respective communities and achieve common goals. We have the potential for change.
Francesco Ferranti: Are you working on any new projects?
Matías Alvial: Yes and no… I’ve been in a transitional space for the past month and haven’t been able to create much work. However, I’ve sketched a handful of artworks that I’ll bring to fruition when I have the space and time. I’m hoping to break away from traditional painting and embrace a multimedia approach that is more sculptural in nature. Will share more with you when the time comes later this year!
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