The What is Painting? Project: Featuring Matthew Ballou

What is Painting? Norbert Marszalek

I thought it would be intriguing to ask painters this simple yet complex question. This query comes with no ground rules—it’s up to each individual artist to find their own approach and direction.

This project will be an ongoing exploration … let’s see where it takes us.

What is Painting?
Featuring Matthew Ballou

In my life, painting has always been directly related to evocative experiences. What I mean is that I often find myself occupied with some sensory information – some concentration of my own physical/intellectual/spiritual involvement in the world – and this leads me to reflection. In that process of contemplation, certain sorts of experience rise up and lend themselves to pictorial translation through the plasticity of painting.

The translation allowed by painting is unique, since the 2D-ness of painting is forever bound up with its 3D-ness and its 4D-ness; not one of these can be found without the other two close at hand. This triumvirate stands as a pivot point of negotiation between surface and illusion, between times past, present and future, between determination and yearning.

Painting, to me, is a love of attention. That is, as I pay attention to experiences and objects and ideas and light and space and hope, my painting becomes a kind of index of those things. It is made in the humble expectation that others will also offer their own contemplative attentiveness, submitting to the possibility of meaning in the work. In sharing our attention, we share in the reality of others. The best painting will always be a relational conduit.

Paintings are a physical artifact proving the potential for meaning in the world. In spite of everything, emotions are real, ideas are real, experiences are real, objects are real, and people are real. Paintings offer some sort of embodied proof that intangible things are real.

This last assertion is, for me, perhaps the main reason I continue to make paintings in spite of my ongoing failures.

Matthew Ballou

Matthew Ballou, Immanent Eminent, oil on linen on pentagonal panel, 18.5 by 18.5 inches, 2007-2008
Collection of Geo Weissler, Illinois

Matthew Ballou is an artist and writer living in Columbia, Missouri with his wife and two daughters. He is an Assistant Teaching Professor of Painting and Drawing at The University of Missouri, where he has taught since 2007. Recently his artwork has been seen in solo exhibitions in the suburbs of Boston and Seattle, as well as in a two-person show with Tim Lowly in Louisville, KY. In summer 2012 his work was seen in a group show juried by famed author and critic Dore Aston at First Street Gallery in New York City. Currently his work may be seen in Both Sides of the Brain, a mezzotint exhibition traveling to a number of venues throughout the Midwestern United States. Ballou’s recent curatorial project, Certain Densities, which was exhibited at the George Caleb Bingham Gallery at Mizzou in 2013, received broad press including on the Painting Perceptions and The Painter’s Table websites. Ballou’s most recent important exhibitions were In Three Moving Parts at the Evanston Art Center and a solo show titled ASEVENANDAWANADOE* at Fort Hays State University in Kansas.

Writing has been an important aspect of Ballou’s output since 2001. Highlights of his publications include a 2006 cover feature on the work of Odd Nerdrum in Image Journal and an extensive review of Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park Retrospective for the Chicago-based publication Neoteric Art. Ballou has been a contributor to Neoteric Art since 2009, and they released a collection of his essays, titled Nine Texts, in October 2011. A Finalist for The Ruminate Visual Art Prize in 2011, Ballou had several of his artworks and a short piece of writing published in Ruminate Magazine in 2012.

A passionate educator, Ballou was honored to receive an Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award from the University of Missouri Graduate Student Association in 2012. Additionally, he was recently named to the 2013-2014 University of Missouri Faculty Scholars Program.

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