Landscapes have always played a central role in the paintings of Matt Wood, a theme that has continually evolved throughout more than two decades of work. Even at their most abstract, Wood’s canvases retain an elemental core of earth, sea and sky. The horizon is always present: sometimes evident as a distinct boundary between land and air, at other times present as simply the emotional certainty on the part of the viewer that it is there. Regardless of how it is portrayed, the horizon is the focal point of much of his output.
Trained at the University of Iowa and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena California, his journey encompasses an impressionist view of the landscape where the subject is clearly articulated in a wash of color as well as highly abstract paintings in which the subject is reduced to its core elements and the horizon expressed on an intellectual rather than physical plane. Boundary often gives way to intuition: the viewer instinctively knows that the work is a landscape without necessarily being able to clearly pinpoint why. Many of his works have the tempestuous quality of Turner.
In “HMJ“, Wood forcefully draws the viewer toward the light. There is a palpable sense of movement, of being pulled into the brilliant vortex of cloud and sky. The horizon becomes a point or intense light somewhere in the distance. In “France IX”, the rich colors and bold brushstrokes evoke a strong emotional interplay among earth, sky and that magical space in-between. The interplay between saturated dark colors and lighter transparent hues is infused with the brilliance of light seeming to emanate from behind the canvas. In “Under the Bridge”, the solid black of the bridge itself takes on the role of the horizon, while in “Liminal III”, the dialogue between the landscape boundaries is reduced to subtle vertical color fields that pay homage to Clifford Stills and John Opper.
Equally intriguing is Wood’s experimentation with “plexiglas as canvas”. In these works, the artist’s contribution to the painting becomes only the fixed point of departure which grounds the image. The spaces of clear “canvas” allow for an interaction between artist and viewer wherein the work’s narrative is “completed” by the background which the owner chooses – or changes.
In all of these works, Wood’s own dialogue with nature is ever-present. This body of work is all about his exploration of that magical boundary between earth and sky. The vision changes from canvas to canvas, but the core dialogue of the search remains immutable. For Woods, his art is best summarized in the words of Edvard Munch: “Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye…it also includes the inner pictures of the soul”.