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Matt Duffin: The Birds and the Beeswax

A Parallel Planets piece by Jofer Serapio
For much of the past year, Matt Duffin has been busy winning awards and gaining recognition all over the world. Between his solo shows and his four gallery representations, each in a different American state, it's not hard to pinpoint why that is. His medium of choice is not unheard of but is relatively uncommon. The statements his paintings make, the message each bear for the viewer, are nothing new but the way they make them is virtually charming and affably witty.

Born in 1968, Matt grew up in Houston, Texas, where he received his never-used Bachelor of Science in Architecture. Now, he calls another state home. In much the same way, Matt now calls another medium home: from charcoal, he has evolved to encaustic wax, encaustic painting, though he retains his footing in dark recesses and stark contrasts, solitude and irony.

To the uninitiated, encaustic painting involves using heated beeswax, or other related wax, to which pigments have been added. There's something you don't learn everyday (in particular, I only learned this was an actual thing while writing this feature). Matt shares this specialty with Macedonia's Heracleides, Italy's Michele Ridolfi, and of course, China's Jenny Sages, all of whom paved the way for the medium's growth as a popular artform, at the very least in its resurgence since the 1990s.

All that black and white really hammers home Matt's affinity for the depths of humanity's depression. Be it the deliberate isolation of the self or the unintentional (and sometimes intentional) cynicism moving forward, Matt is able to capture it all in all its tragic beauty. The subtle and choiced presence of yellow and red, bright as bright can be, provides an interesting highlight where necessary. The textures are also incredible, showing just how masterful Matt is when it comes to details whether great or small.

Easily winning this writer over was the painting that featured a school desk cradling three books in front of a bookshelf filled with iPads. If that isn't a witty jab at the conflict between the old world and new technology, I wouldn't know what is. To someone who prefers hardbound to e-book, collects typewriters not just for aesthetics but also for everyday function, the concept speaks volumes. The image of a large donkey (an animatronic being operated by a smaller donkey hiding from plain sight) standing before a group of smaller donkeys reminds me so much of a scene from The Wizard of Oz and even harkens to the concepts of politics and public relations.

Matt's work provides a fun visual commentary on the darker, less sunny, side of human society as well as the state of being. With his adept attention to detail, his paintings and illustrations effortlessly capture the attention of on-lookers, both new and old. His creative take on familiar truths is a joy to behold. If anything, his is a welcomed respite from the present reality.

For more of Matt Duffin's meticulous neurosis, take a trip to his breath-taking website.


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