BLACK AND WHITE
Spurred by the pandemic, Saunders examined a new way of working with black and white photography outside of the darkroom. Some of these works, rendered from his negatives, were literally made in the bath.
Coaxing images out of the struggle between oil paint and water-based photo chemistry, this work is his unique reflection on proximity and distance, bodies both mediated by materials and emerging in the difficult alchemy of the moment.
The subjects—close-up torsos and torquing bodies—are drawn from memories of life and sources ranging from 19th Century photography to 1970’s films—a typical range of references for Saunders, and a very personal one.
“I had been working with black and white materials. I was invested in the liquid, alchemical aspects of this process, but yearning for color and so found myself minutely exploring the subtle variations within black and white.”
—Matt Saunders, Poems of Our Climate, 2022
The role of light in Saunders’ darkroom is transformative: one that turns paintings into photographs. Guided by instinct, Saunders meticulously manages both opacity and transparency to create the desired result.
“I cannot tell you how many hours I’ve logged in the dark, 'seeing' my paintings by the touch of my fingertips, smoothing them flat, running my palms gently over and over across them. It’s odd to get to know your own work this way—slow, uncertain, intimate.”
—Matt Saunders, Poems of Our Climate, 2022
Matt Saunders: Poems of Our Climate
Drawing on avant-garde cinema and found photographs, Saunders' multimedia works explore the mobility and affective power of images. This publication encompasses eight years of work by Cambridge, MA- and Berlin-based artist Matt Saunders (born 1975), who engages painting as a time-based medium through cameraless photography, animation, and innovative painting and printmaking processes. Best known for his haunting portraits and landscapes (using imagery culled from avant-garde cinema and found photographs) and moving-image works, Saunders uses analog materials to explore the affective power of images.
Focusing on his experimentation with color processes, the stunning reproductions in this volume range from his first color film, Century Rolls (2012), to his more recent large-scale video installations. Moving image folds together with painting, photography, and print, enlivening our relationship to images and their capacity for uncanny returns, echoes, and ghosts.
Matt Saunders was born in 1975 in Tacoma, Washington. He lives between Berlin, Germany and Cambridge, Massachusetts where he currently teaches at Harvard University. Saunders’ work challenges the boundaries of artistic media. He enacts painting as a time-based and transitive medium through his camera-less photography, multi-screen animation and innovative painting and printmaking processes. Best known for his haunting portraits and landscapes (the imagery culled from a myriad of sources including avant-garde cinema and found photographs) and moving-image works, Saunders' practice uses analogue materials to explore the fleetingness, mobility and affective power of images.
In 1997, Saunders received a BA in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard and completed his MFA in Painting and Printmaking in 2000 at the Yale University School of Art. In 2010 the Renaissance Society of Chicago organized his first solo institutional show. He has also exhibited at the St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri (2018); Tank Shanghai Project Space, China (2018); Qiao Space, Shanghai, China (2018); Tate Liverpool (2012): and the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Massachusetts (2012).
Matt Saunders’ work has been in numerous group exhibitions including at: Ecole des Beaux arts de Paris, France (2022); American Academy of Arts & Letters, New York (2022); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2020); Mass MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts (2017); The Photographer’s Gallery, London (2016); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2016); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2013); de Cordova Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts (2012); the 2011 Sharjah Biennal; and the Apsen Art Museum, Colorado (2011). His work is in the collections of major institutions including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; the UCLA Hammer Museum, California; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Saunders was the 2015 recipient of the Rappaport Prize from the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, the 2013 Prix Jean-François Prat and the 2009 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation award.
Photo credit: Charles White / JWPictures.com
Video credit (Raft): Chiara Barlow
Video credit (Darkroom): Tiff Rekem