Matt Gatton is an artist and scholar based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was born in Europe, raised in North America, and performed his graduate studies in Asia. Gatton is a pioneer of photo-sculpture as fine-art medium, having worked in the field since the 1980s. Photo-sculpture combines the two-dimensional veracity of photography with the three-dimensional reality of sculpture. This enhances the presence and essence of the subject. Photo-sculpture is, in some respects, a postmodern translation of the remarkable polychrome sculptures of Greek antiquity and the Spanish Golden Age, when artists sought to en-vivify their subjects with exquisitely detailed surface treatment. Gatton’s portraits are visual poems, a photographic form of magical realism, which conveys not only the appearance of the person, their presence in an indexical way, but also expresses their essence, evoking their true spirit through collaged, dreamlike, imagery.
Gatton has exhibited extensively, including works in the Hayward Gallery, London, UK; Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki Finland; PS1 Contemporary Arts Center, New York, USA; and the Ayala Museum, Manila, Philippines. Gatton’s photo-sculpture work brought him into contact with many important art world figures, including Chuck Close, Richard Avedon, and Duane Michals. Gatton has also collaborated with noted conceptual artist Judy Freya Sibayan (under the curatorial direction of Hou Hanru and Hans-Ulrich Obrist).
Gatton’s passion for imagery has led him to become a leading expert in the ritual and aesthetic uses of physical light in prehistory and classical antiquity. Gatton has written on the origins of art for the festschrift of the renowned Oxford art historian and da Vinci expert, Martin Kemp. Gatton’s groundbreaking work on optical distortions at Lascaux was published in the Journal of Applied Mathematics (APLIMAT) and Oxford University Press published his work on optics in ancient Greek religious rituals (Eleusis). Gatton has lectured at the Institute of Archaeology at Oxford among others. A large arts festival in Belgium was themed on Gatton’s art writings, which were also presented by Neil de Grasse Tyson on National Geographic’s ‘Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey’. “With all the intellectual bona fides,” curator Naomi Stuecker notes, “it’s easy to forget that Matt Gatton is, first and foremost, a stunningly talented artist.”
ARTIST Statement (250)
My portraits are visual poems, a photographic form of magical realism, which conveys not only the appearance of the person, their presence in an indexical way, but also expresses their essence, evoking their true spirit through collaged, dreamlike, imagery. This latest series of portraits has evolved into something larger, a portrait of Santa Fe, which is a crossroads of cultures set in a landscape of unspeakable beauty.
A word about the process:
I make a sculpture of the person and collage photographs onto the surface of the sculpture. I then photograph the photo-sculpture. I sell both prints of the photo-sculpture and the photo-sculpture itself.
A word about the medium:
Photo-sculpture has deep art historical and photographic roots. It can be seen as a postmodern expression of the ancient practice of surface treatment on figurative sculpture, a global practice that reaches back into the mists of time, from prehistory to classical antiquity, through the Middle Ages, and the Spanish Golden Age.
The pursuit of three-dimensional photography began almost at the beginning of photography itself, when François Willème patented a process to use photography to make sculpture, the first recorded use of the term ‘photo-sculpture’, in 1859. The family of long time Metropolitan Museum of Art director Philippe de Montebello came to New York in an ill-fated attempt to find investors for a commercially viable photo-sculpture process. The seminal event in the realm of proto-photo-sculpture was the exhibition Photography into Sculpture, at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), in New York, 1970.