Artists Magazine

Other Beings

One of the curiosities of the contemporary art world is that we generally expect an artist to be focused on one activity and to display a consistency of style and approach. This was not always the case. Artists before the Romantic era would often run studios that offered a wide range of services that might include painting, decoration, architectural design, interior design or almost anything else connected to the visual arts. It’s a legacy that certainly resonates with New York artist Matt Cauley, whose superb and electrifying portraiture is only part of a creative output that includes sculpting custom action figures, making prints featuring toy imagery and working as an art director for a major music company.


When it comes to portrait painting, Cauley looks at the world with an electric eye—a cool, sharp-focused gaze that misses nothing in its exploration of form, light and texture but focuses primarily on the human presence. In his early portrait series, Big Heads, larger than life-size heads appear in almost fish-eye close-ups, rendered with an arresting richness and clarity. The impressive realist control in the paintings is built around the gaze of the subjects who are usually staring away from the viewer, thoughtful, animated yet somehow distant, separated from us by their own concerns and reveries (see Khadi, page 78). More than mere renderings of heads, the paintings project powerful intuitions about the nature of human beings and their relationships with each other.

In a more recent set of work, his series, the artist changed his viewpoint, moving back from the sitter to paint much more of, page 80, and , page 81). The result is an isolated figure whose clear outline gives a graphic account of pose and posture. As in the earlier paintings, the subjects gaze away from the viewer, absorbed in their own inscrutable worlds. The poses are never quite relaxed, often somewhat twisted or pushed—signaling, perhaps, some inner turmoil, a certain tension and unease.

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