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Despair and Repair

Updated on February 12, 2017
"Loss" Matt Higgins, 2016 Oil, oil stick, spray enamel, photo transfer, mylar and graphite on canvas. 72 inches x 64 inches
"Loss" Matt Higgins, 2016 Oil, oil stick, spray enamel, photo transfer, mylar and graphite on canvas. 72 inches x 64 inches

During his study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Matt Higgins has explored a wide array of exploration through his own art history. Upon entering the Academy, Higgins work was committed to geometric design and color exploration through warm/cool whites and neutrals on top of chaotic, highly chromatic backgrounds. These first works were based in Higgins love of en plain air, formal, landscape painting. He then began to deconstruct the necessity of what was being represented externally in the landscape, as well as, what is internally viewed and felt in the viewer.

Once it became clear that Higgins had learned what he could from the chromatic/white paintings, he returned to more traditional landscape once more. This time his work was committed to understanding pure geometric abstraction of forms one would see in a landscape. These works then transitioned and evolved into mostly monochromatic, small color studies of layers and placement of color.

It was after this time, a relatively dramatic change occurred in the artists work. This can be seen most clearly in 2016s Loss. Here, the artist does not seem to be as concerned with the external world and representing an impressionistic concern of natural light. Instead, the viewer is thrown directly into Higgins own consciousness, history, and emotions.
The center of the painting is a portal of raw canvas that shows a history of notation, diaristic entries, and sketches of possible forms made with graphite. This portal almost allows for a window in history to see the Apollonian struggle for creating a formula for truth in a work of art. The notes almost read to describe that a possible answer to art can be found in an a + b + c = Art formula. This notion is quickly erased by the Dionysian intoxication of the fluidity of the blacks and grays that begin to cover and surround the notation. The viewer gets a sense that Higgins is finding himself and what is important in his process - the joy of creating almost negates the previous formulating attempt at finding a perfect way to make art.

In the top left corner there is a blip of cloudy white enclosed by an organic, yellow oil stick cube. One could read that this could represent Higgins own inner voice or consciousness, fearing through and abyss and out onto the rational world. This layering of information centers the viewer to being inside of Higgins mind as he looks out onto the world for understanding. The viewer is in a very romantic and vulnerable position with the artist. He is opening a conversation to the viewer stating I believe this makes sense to me. Does it make sense to you as well?

Matt Higgins lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania and is a 2017 Master of Fine Arts Candidate at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. His work deals with finding a better understanding of self through painterly meditation and geometric diagramming.

More of Higgins work can be found at his website,

-Brian Jerome


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