Matthew Trueman’s Dirt at Westland Gallery

Dirt – Matthew Trueman
Westland Gallery

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Dirt – we stand on it- we move it- we reshape it and, biblically, we are made of it. Dirt forms the basis for all existence. Matthew Trueman’s show at the Westland Gallery takes ‘Dirt’ as its title and explores the landscapes of nature and those altered by Man. The artist accomplishes this through both his large woodcuts and digital photographs.

“Dirt supports, quite literally, everything humanity stands on. But figuratively, dirt tends to be socialized into a synonym for ‘nothing’, ‘valueless or ‘worthless’. The dichotomy- between dirt’s literal and figurative meanings- is readily exemplified by how North Americans treat their landscape. Suburban housing and shopping developments marketed as a slice of paradise, produced so largely and quickly, precludes social memory from recalling that dirt founds social, architectural and natural growth.”, states the artist.

The woodcuts stand out. They are very large in scale and unframed leaving the paper they are printed on exposed which is unusual for this medium. The printing relies on the removal of areas of a wood block to create the negative spaces and the inking of the remaining surface to create the positives. Multiple colours require a series of blocks.

One such woodcut entitled, ‘Cliff Jump’, uses a background of yellow to highlight the black and white cliffs below. The myriad textures and shadow areas of the rock surface create a feast for the eye. A fully black and white work, ‘King of the Hill’, uses the black figures of the people waiting at the top of a sled run to contrast the slope scarred by the tracks of previous sleds . This landscape marred by man encompasses most of the format. The multicolour image of a field of dandelions frames the discarded television set in ‘Built to Last’. A telling statement about Man’s use of the landscape. Other prints focus on themes such as unfinished buildings or a forest segmented by seismic lines. Trueman’s training in both visual arts and psychology comes into play as he explores this contrast between the natural and the manmade.

The digital photographs continue the theme. ‘Pink House’ and ‘Pink House South View’ use the large lower vista of earth topped by the smaller glimpse of the dwelling. ‘Lightening Rod’ tops the sashed hillside with a metal tower and ‘Blue Box embeds the recycling bin in a winter landscape of ice. Man’s contribution to the view.

Many of Trueman’s works focus on the land- the dirt we live upon and the intrusion of man upon that landscape. Dirt, something we value little but rely on for survival. The show runs until March 26th.

Cheryl Jennings is a local artist, freelance writer and retired high school teacher.

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