Standing Serenely
Juan Carlos Palenzuela

James Mathison’s sculpture has a series of points on which it maintains and develops its own process: it is figurative; its model is the individual, in bronze. That personage transmits notions and feelings of loneliness, melancholy, and mutation. The body appears as a whole or a fragment. It is young, solitary men; concentrated. The fragment of their bodies reminds one of archaeological remains, the studies of the detail, the particle that evokes the totality. In those bodies there are lesions, which are not necessarily wounds, but a part or tracks of an accident. For that reason the blows of life live on, the tearing, the withdrawals are in infinite dialogue; they meditate in the circumstance of existence.

They are straight-backed men, leaning slightly, naked, sometimes with extended arms or standing firm, or with a hand on the neck. They stand serenely. One glances over them and analyzes their perfect anatomy, their strength could even stand out, and one discovers that they have a particular skin, and it is there, in the texture of their skin, since they are sculptures, that the richness of the material is shown. The body is support for a phrasing of the material, calligraphy of the constituent clay. The body is like a tactile element and the pose like a transmitter of a spiritual feeling of discouragement, of waiting, of melancholy. The being is then open and exposed to internal and external readings.

Although he says that they are men, in plural, they are the same subject. His face is repeated, the same one, perhaps as autobiographical data. The individual is standing, legs slightly opened, without marked characteristics, except for the texture of the skin, the intensity of the look, the eventuality of the empty river basin.

The power of dialogue is to be found in that silence. They are of one size and another, always of good contexture. Maybe they are next to one another, so as to create scales, appreciations in the midst of the abyss. The model is shown as a whole but also as a body part, as a hand, an arm, a nose or head, a head without hair, never any hair, always skin. Hands and arms are like volumes in space. Mathison is interested in a dialogue with a certain artistic tradition (Michelangelo, Rodin, Degas, Giacometti, Zitman), in which one goes back to external proposals on humanity: to be before man, before matter, transformed into an idea of mankind.

Another aspect affects the face, when several lines of a text are repeated endlessly, as a sentence in capital letters, firm, precise, legible. It is like a crown of thorns, like an engraved text coming from the interior of the being. There can also be a line crossing the body like a scar, more a seam than a thought.

Energetic lines lightly engraved on the chest, on the head, the back, fine, separate spaces from skin. The density of the body varies from one part to another, from one facet of the face to another one. On the other hand, one can speak about the virility of the models, with their sex exposed, without shame or deviation.

In this work, the figure as such constitutes the sculptured volume. There is no base although sometimes they rest on a block of wood. When there is no pedestal, their aspect is that of a human or a ruin - or remains – which is the particularity of the proposal.

Work, as a monument, disappeared in our time, although we do have monumental works in the same way that the figurative expression of the sculpture has been reduced to a minimum. It is from those perspectives I analyzed James Mathison’s work. Mathison feels the importance of the return to this skill and of the figurative reaffirmation of the sculptured object. Their figures are anatomical, a certain integrity (in spite of isolation and possible mutation) and the determination to be there in spite of the passage and the emptiness of time.