Matthew J McConville

Figures in Landscapes 1993-present

These paintings are part of a series that I have been working on since 1993. The images are mainly about human relationships, with an emphasis on the behavior of men. The figures are self-involved, prone to violence, not necessarily smart, as well as curious, playful, and vulnerable. The cast is drawn from average people, a little out of shape, less than perfect. The combination of the nude figure and landscape recall Arcadian images, unreal, and unrealizable, neither past, nor present, part of a collective imagination. While the landscapes are beautiful, like the figures they are not wholly idealized, and at times unsettling and uncomfortable.

This work grows out of an art historical context. Embracing the artificiality of idyllic scenes in classic works, my paintings re-imagine them populated with contemporary people, struggling with contemporary thoughts. Historical models include Poussin, Fragonard, and Thomas Eakins.

When placing the work in a contemporary context I feel a greater affinity for photography than painting. More than painters, photographers are comfortable with narrative and figurative imagery. John Coplans has influenced this body of work with images that are playful and morbid, beautiful and ugly. There is also an entire school of photography dedicated to documenting unreality. Using photography's automatic credibility they play with our sense of reality by staging situations, undermining gender roles, and other stereotypes. While painting doesn't have this credibility, it has an historic weight, and the ability to describe things outside of a specific moment in time.

These paintings combine traditional techniques with contemporary psychological and sexual situations. This exploration of human relationships, with undercurrents of violence, competition, eroticism, and humor that form a subtext for our interactions, is the primary theme of these paintings. The most recent works focus on athletic competition.