The secret of happiness is that it comes from small things. Sometimes they are literary small, like in the case of the Charles Matton’s most famous work – the Boxes. Even though he was quite versatile, and worked in painting, illustration and photography, but also as a screenwriter, writer, and a movie director, what marked his career were the miniature worlds. His memories of the places where he lived were poured into the creation of the pieces, but his imagination as well. In the last decade of his life, Matton became worldwide recognizable, exhibiting his work throughout the globe.
It seemed that Matton’s artistic sense was never in step with the times. His Boxes originally served as props for his photography and painting, but they evolved over time and became his trademark. In the period between 1988 and 2007, 36 boxes, all in the scale of 1:7, and all were models of the interior. Some were inspired by the flat in Paris where Charles lived, others on the lives of the known people like Francis Bacon (his studio), and some were made from imagination, where the libraries were the recurring motif. These libraries were heavily influenced by the literature of James Joyce and Jorge Luis Borges.
The huge gap in the artist’s exhibition history comes from his decision to stop exhibiting publicly and instead paint for the chosen collectors and himself. He also worked for the Esquire and publishers like Christian Bourgois and Le Club Français du Livre. This happened between 1960 and 1983, and after that, he continued exhibiting his artworks regularly. The last movie he directed in his rich career was The Rembrandt in 1999. After Matton’s death in 2007, his wife Sylvie continued promoting his creations, and more exhibitions followed. His pieces are included in several prestigious collections like Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto and Tokyo in Japan, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, and in many private collections.
Sometimes life carries us in the directions we couldn’t even dream of. Charles Matton was a talented artist working in many fields, and he was good in everyone. In the end, what gained him fame was something that had a purpose to help in his other projects. Surprises are around every corner, and the way we deal with them defines us. Matton embraced this surprise and turned it into recognizable pieces of art. The boxes were miniature worlds inviting the viewers inside. Careful and very precise use of the lighting effects and mirrors gave the illusion that the place was much bigger than two cubic feet.
He is represented by Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto, Canada.
Featured image: Charles Matton – The New York Loft, 26th Street, 1986 (detail) copyright © All Visual Arts.
All images copyright © Estate of Charles Matton.
|2016||Le peintre Charles Matton, cineaste et ecrivain||Bibliotheque National de France||Solo|
|2015||A Photographic Survey||Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto||Group|
|2013||Summer Lovin’||Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto||Group|
|2012||Metamorphosis||All Visual Arts, The Crypt, One Marylebone, London||Group|
|2012||Enclosures||All Visual Arts, London||Group|
|2012||Charles Matton, Photographies||Agathe Gaillard Gallery, Paris||Solo|
|2011||Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities||Museum of Arts and Design, New York||Group|
|2011||Charles Matton||All Visual Arts, London||Solo|
|2011||Charles Matton||Galerie Agathe Gaillard, Paris||Solo|
|2010||Chalres Matton: Retrospective||Stadtische Museen, Iena, Germany||Solo|
|2010||Permanent installation of The Library Homage to Perec IV||at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France||Group|
|2010||Vanitas: The Transience of Earthly Pleasures||All Visual Arts, London||Group|
|2009||Qui a peur des artistes?, selection of works from the Francois Pinault Foundation||Palais des Arts, Dinard, France||Group|
|2009||Great Way Prevails-Masterpieces of Modern Art||CAFA Art Museum, Beijing, China||Group|
|2009||Found Classics||Found Museum, Beijing, China||Group|
|2008||Charles Matton: Selected Works||Forum Gallery, New York||Solo|
|2007||Etats de lieux||Maison Europeenne de la Photographie, Paris||Group|
|2006||Carte Blance du Ministere de la Culture-Palais-Royal||Paris||Group|
|2006||Unknown||21C Museum, Louisville, United States||Group|
|2006||Permanent installation of a box (Early Morning at the Cafe de Flore)||Cafe de Flore, Paris||Group|
|2005||Important New Works by Forum Gallery Artists||Forum Gallery, New York||Group|
|2005||Well Done||MOCA Taipei, Taiwan||Group|
|2004||Charles Matton, New Works||Forum Gallery, New York||Solo|
|2003||Illusions||Forum Gallery, Los Angeles, United States||Group|
|2003||Art of the Twentieth Century||Armory Show, New York||Group|
|2003||Charles Matton’s Universe||Modern Art Gallery, Taichung, Taiwan||Solo|
|2002||Within These Walls||Forum Gallery, New York||Group|
|2002||Art of the Twentieth Century||Armory Show, New York||Group|
|2000||FIAC 2000||Galerie Beaubourg, Pierre and Marianne Nahon, Paris||Solo|
|2000||Unknown||Galerie Beaubourg, Vence, France||Group|
|2000||L’Appel de Tanger||Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris||Group|
|1999||Matton-Rembrandt||Maison Europeenne de la Photographie, Paris||Solo|
|1999||Deux ou trios choses que je sais de Rembrandt et de quelques autres||Galerie Beaubourg, Paris||Group|
|1998||Litterature et Bel canto||Galerie Beaubourg, Paris||Group|
|1994||Constat de lieux||Galerie Beaubourg, Paris||Group|
|1992||Retrospective et Citations||Centre d’Art Contemporain, Frejus, France||Group|
|1991||Charles Matton||Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris||Solo|
|1990||L’Invention d’un Art||National Museum of Modern Art of Kyoto and Tokyo (MoMAK), Japan||Group|
|1989||Unknonw||Espace Photographique, Paris||Group|
|1989||L’Invention d’un Art||Centre Pompidou, Paris||Group|
|1987||Antipodes||Palais de Tokyo, Paris||Group|
|1983||Seductions utopiques||Galerie Robert Delpire, Paris||Group|
|1961||Unknown||Galerie Raymond Mason and Janine Hao, Paris||Group|
|1960||Cercle Volney with Michel Charpentier||Paris||Group|