Matthew Mullins
Graduate Student

Contact information


Group: Department of Art Practice

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Personal statement

Matthew Mullins’ paintings use the space of architecture to represent the aspirations of a culture forever attempting to understand itself and its natural world.  These spaces of scientific labor, void of human subjects encompass the spirit, priorities, and drive of a culture. His recent paintings acknowledge the collective labor involved in progress in that he does not valorize one human subject, but rather depicts the collective work of many. His paintings also pay tribute to the subject of the archive and processes of storage as the necessary, yet unseen processes of labor and research. These spaces of process point to a cultural ideological narrative of ‘progress’ and to the remnants left behind in this constant lunge forward. Matthew Mullins paintings invite the viewer to reflect upon these vacant physical spaces of labor and knowledge production, even when they are left behind as scientific understandings of the natural world continue to grow and change.

Mullins’ exquisitely rendered watercolor Amundsen-Scott, a panorama of the interior of the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station dome reveals a once important site for astronomy and astrophysics research, abandoned for a newer structure and now used for storage. The geodesic dome, its boxed and shelved remnants, and its snow covered floor are executed with a keen attention to detail mirroring the minutia connected to the labor of research and the glut of process now laid to rest in the archive. These uninhabited spaces, including Greenhouse (2009, watercolor on paper) and Electron Teleportation Machine (2007, acrylic on canvas) invite the viewer in to uncover clues as to the kind of scientific work done in these spaces. Just like sneaking into an abandoned house and searching for clues which might point to the quality of the life that once lives inside its walls, Matthew’s paintings invite the viewer in to do the same. But instead of pondering the life of one or a few individuals, these architectural spaces of science invite the viewer to identify the ideals and ambitions of a culture. In these careful paintings of scientific spaces one may engage with a larger narrative, a cultural narrative of discovery and progress. And, in rendering the process over the product, the work of the collective over the individual, Matthew subverts the linear narrative of the heroic and of forward-moving progress. He instead gives the viewer access to these spaces in order to reflect upon that grand story of a culture and its ambitions of progress, discovery, but most importantly its endless drive to understand itself and the natural world in which it lives.

(Text by Chris Vargas, MFA 2011)