Bold Marks of a Master
By Veronica Russell
Published: 09/27/2012  Updated: 06/21/2019
Photo by Gary Hayes

Artist Christopher Mathie paints using bits and pieces of reality, allowing the rest of his piece to be more abstract, leaving the viewer with an important role in the painting: interpretation.

Artist Christopher Mathie has not always been so unafraid to express himself. Admittedly, the prominent Northwest artist's early work was somewhat stifled by his own fears: fears of offending the public, fears of not being able to sell his work, fears of exposing himself too much in his art. However, according to Mathie, his recent work has taken a serious turn in tone.

A recent exhibit called "Conversation Pieces" is an exploration of the human mind and body that allowed him to take off the mask and explore in ways that might not always be comfortable. "Art reflects life on all levels," he says, "and our experiences aren't all lovely."

Mathie's journey to a finished piece includes many layers, each another step on the path to completion. It is during his final layer, though, being the most visible to the viewer, that he is most concerned with his emotional state of mind. Every mark carries the energy of the artist, each mark exposes the attitude, the opinions, even the strength or weakness of the painter. He spends as much time preparing himself physically and intellectually as he does actually painting. "I have to be willing to let my emotions be viewed publicly through my work," he says, "to create confident looking and feeling pieces."

Mathie defines his style as "Emotional Semi-Abstraction" and his technique helps him exhibit that style. "I paint quickly and spontaneously," he says, "in a style that favors intuition." Often, Mathie will scatter photos around his workspace, images that he's collected through the years, as he paints. He uses these images as inspirational inanimate muses as he works, interpreting bits and pieces from each photo, (or each emotion the photo elicits), onto his canvas as he builds his painting.

Mathie is quick to point out that he does not attempt to paint realism. "I truly believe reality is over rated... highly subjective," he says. Using only these bits and pieces of reality, he allows the rest of his piece to be more abstract, leaving the viewer with an important role in the painting: interpretation.

Individuals react to art based on their own collection of memories and experiences. Some are repelled by a piece that others are quite attracted to. Mathie says a good piece of art will offer the viewer an opportunity to interpret as they see fit, and he does not like to spoon feed a particular message to his viewers. "I prefer to make work that requires thinking and participation," he says. "I think people are smart and sophisticated. [They] like to be engaged, challenged to think and participate."

Mathie's work has been displayed in galleries from New York to Washington State, and currently, you can find his work at several Northwest galleries, including Gallery 903 in Portland, Gallery Mack in Seattle and White Bird Gallery in Cannon Beach.
Bold Marks of a Master