Matthew Mann | The Salon of Little Deaths

Artist Statement

My paintings are broadly concerned with how pictorial language mediates visual experience. I am interested in exploring how hierarchies are established through compositional ideas, and how meaning is then generated and steered. The intention is to interrogate/interrupt these compositional and symbolic relationships, to misdirect them enough to open a new and interesting visual experience. What results are paintings that are narratively and spatially dispersed in an effort to approximate the visual milieu in which we currently live.  

I imagine this group of paintings as, to borrow a term, a topocosm. Theologian Theodor Gaster used this term to describe a complete environment that, through a combination of topography, weather and atmosphere gives rise to belief, myth, and ultimately, a worldview. The topocosm I have created in these paintings is characterized by incongruous circumstances: foliage, streams and green spaces shift abruptly, horizons drop off or disappear entirely, birds paint pictures and die upon completion.

The bird paintings, through their pathos and melodrama, allow for a self-mocking expression of the creative and philosophical dilemmas inherent in the art-making process. They wryly acknowledge the sturm und drang normally associated with creative pursuits and reference sources including Spanish painter Antonio Maria Vassallo, William Wegman and Jean-Francois Lyotard.


The landscapes emerged from the bird paintings and fill out the world that the birds inhabit within a frame narrative structure. They borrow organizational concepts from Chinese landscape painting, illuminated manuscripts, medieval tapestries and the unmoored spatiality frequently encountered on desktops and smartphones.  Here the notion of the topocosm (and its own broad and abstract notion of landscape) was particularly instructive because it allowed me to conceive of the landscapes as an articulated space of imagination rather than a quasi-recognizable place.