“The true paradox of these paintings is that they really are about nothing. At the exact same time, they are about everything, which is the magic of abstract painting”, tells us Matthew F Fisher, whose exhibition Soft Nature is on view at Ochi Projects in Los Angeles until February 16. Get to know his sunsets, sunrises, blooming flowers, fish and giant rock – a beautiful portrayal of his “amazement of Mother Nature and her power”.
But where does this fascination come from? As animals who inhabit planet Earth, it should come as something natural to us but, unfortunately, urban life makes us alienated. “I moved from an urban setting to the rural countryside of Michigan when I was 9. Once there, I quickly realized that I had lost the proximity of my friends”, says the artist. “This forced me out of the house, into the woods, cornfields, streams where I fished, climbed trees, dug – did anything I could do to fill the time between breakfast and dinner”, he continues.

His paintings, nevertheless, are much more than just his memories and influences from a childhood split between Michigan and his “father oceanside shack on Long Island”, when the Internet wasn’t as widely spread, social media still didn’t exist, and couldn’t spend (or waste) all his time scrolling infinitely. “I yearn to be an abstract painter but have never been able to paint nothing unless I’m painting something. From the bands of empty skies, seas, and sand, to the obliques rock forums that seemingly occupy the whole the picture plane are examples of this of desire.”
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The title of the exhibition, Soft Nature, “certainly refers to the colors, shapes, and motifs that I use within my paintings. I also hope it describes my personality and attitude as a person.” But as Matthew reveals to us, there’s a curious story behind it. “Funny enough, I came across the phrase as it was the budget brand toilet paper supplied in my Inglewood studio building.” But his passion for finding expressions, phrases and interesting language is nothing new to him. “I am deeply intrigued by the idea of chance learning, or as I call it, ‘found knowledge’. I actively collect discarded dictionaries as an opportunity to have these chance encounters of found knowledge. Starting with a word or name, I go to that entry and allow the dictionary to speak to me”, he explains.

His artworks’ titles reflect this curiosity imbued with a sense of humour as well. “After meeting my studio neighbor, Will, a few months back, I looked up his name in the dictionary and came across the term ‘will-o’-the-wisp’, a nineteenth-century phenomenon created by the release of swamp gasses that causes a mirage of lights to form on the horizon. Often, travelers would leave the path to chase these distant lights thinking they were a house or city, only to find themselves hopelessly lost in the woods. After reading in depth about the term online, I couldn’t think of a more perfect title for the violet sunset painting I had just finished.”
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When taking a closer look at his paintings, one can find many references, especially American. “Georgia O’Keeffe is a huge inspiration. She’s so great. I have always enjoyed how the objects in her paintings float above the landscapes, causing the familiarity of nature to be otherworldly”, he says. “The paintings of Roger Brown are another inspiration. The way he used the motif of the landscape as abstraction to create stacked space is so exciting”, he continues. But to him, it is important “to my own mental space to search out artists who make work, think, and create in completely different ways than myself. It’s all about the creation of the image, of how it’s made, that keeps me interested.”
Soft Nature, by Matthew F Fisher, is on view until February 16 at Ochi Projects, 3301 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles.
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