An Artist's Eye: Matthew Monahan

'I think her ears are there to be whispered into'

In a new series, artists exhibiting at Frieze London selected works at Frieze Masters that spoke to them. Matthew Monahan - whose Neptune (Rescue) (2016) is in the Sculpture Park (S1), presented by Massimo De Carlo - chose a cult goddess (c.520 – 460 BC) at the stand of Kallos Gallery (B5).
 

kallos.jpg

Head, shoulders and arms of a cult goddess (Korē), (c.520 – 460 BC) at the stand of Kallos Gallery at Frieze Masters 2016. Photo courtesy: © Kallos Gallery and Luke Andrew Walker Photography.

Head, shoulders and arms of a cult goddess or Korē, (c.520 – 460 BC) at the stand of Kallos Gallery at Frieze Masters 2016. Photo courtesy: © Kallos Gallery and Luke Andrew Walker Photography.

 
The scale is what strikes you first of all - slightly less than life size. It’s not monumental, it’s not quite intimate. It’s almost doll-like.  Like a mannequin, the figure has holes in her ears for earrings, and holes across the breast that a dress could be hung from. It would have been painted on its “skin”, like makeup. It could be played with.
 
It was a vehicle for worship, it houses a living presence. It's a living figure of a goddess of beauty. There’s a suggestion that some of these holes by the ears were there so hot air could escape during the firing process. I disagree. I think they’re there to be whispered into. So the owners could ask the goddess for things - probably, for more beauty.
 
There’s a clarity in this work that is almost childlike - it’s the clarity of the craftsman, being given an exercise It’s terracotta - which is insanely delicate. It’s not “high status” material like bronze, or even marble. Look at the smile - there are a lot of questions in that smile. When I see it, I hear ‘draw me a mouth’, ‘give me lips’ - it’s the product of an instruction. You can see the artisan modelling each of these fingers, adjusting their length. What interests me is that the whole development of the classical figure is just this kind of modelling process as well. With the Greek kouroi, there’s this moment where the style of the sculpture goes from standing straight to standing with one foot forward. But for a while, the sculptors hadn’t worked out contrapposto, so one leg was just lengthened. The arms here are displayed at right angles to the body, whereas there’s documentation of them being presented one on top of the other (as if we’re still figuring our how to use this goddess: the form of worship.)
 

monahan_sp1.jpg

Matthew Monahan, Neptune (Rescue) (2016) installation view at Frieze Sculpture Park 2016. Photo courtesy: Frieze.

Matthew Monahan, Neptune (Rescue) (2016) installation view at Frieze Sculpture Park 2016. Photo courtesy: Frieze.

 
The evolution of the figure - the evolution of personage itself, really - for me in this way emerges almost by accident from the development of style, or styles. We don’t know who made this, but we can identify it as a product of a culture - that culture, that style is the author. So what does that bring us?  Is this a woman?  There is something in the elongation of these features that for a moment makes you think “alien”. The alien body is a projection of a body formed my technology, by reason (big heavy brains, long fingers). I’m not, in my work, looking at aliens (though I am a child of Mike Kelley).  But I am looking at how exercises - in style, in form, in material, in their challenges - produces these bodies, these gods.
 
View Neptune (Rescue) (2016) by Matthew Monahan in the English Gardens of The Regent's Park until 8 January 2016. The Frieze Sculpture Park is presented with 2016 programming partner Art Fund. 

Most Read

Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia
Tate Modern, London
London’s fourth plinth artists announced; a new fund to protect cultural heritage in war-torn areas
Annika Eriksson, The Social, 2017, wallpaper and objects on a shelf, 500 x 450 cm. Courtesy: The artist and Moderna Museet, Malmö
 
Moderna Museet, Malmö, Sweden
Paul Scheerbart, Nusi-Pusi, 1912. Courtesy: Berlinische Galerie/Kai-Annett Becker
From a short history of plagiarism to Trisha Brown's walk: what to read this weekend
Q. What is art for? A. To tell us where we are.
The work of filmmaker James N. Kienitz Wilkins on the occasion of his inclusion in the 2017 Whitney Biennial film...
Trisha Brown has died, aged 80; two new appointments at London’s ICA; controversy at the Whitney
A round-up of the best shows to see in the city ahead of this week’s Art Basel Hong Kong
How should the artistic community respond when an art space, explicitly or implicitly, associates itself with right-...
Charlie Fox on a new translation of Hervé Guibert's chronicle of love, lust and drug-addled longing
Three highlights from the New York festival promoting emerging filmmakers
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA
A report and the highlights from a show themed around fluidity, flux, botany and the subterranean
From growing protests over the gentrification of Boyle Heights to Schimmel leaving Hauser & Wirth, the latest from...
kurimanzutto, Mexico City, Mexico
Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, Switzerland
The body is a troubled thing ...
Sir Howard Hodgkin dies aged 84; finalists for Berlin’s Preis der Nationalgalerie 2017 announced

From the Women's Strike to a march that cancels itself out: what to read this weekend
The most interesting works in the IFFR’s Short Film section all grappled with questions of truth, honesty and...
With the reissue of their eponymous debut album, revisiting the career of legendary Berlin art project / punk band Die...
Galeria Jaqueline Martins, São Paulo, Brazil 

Tramway, Glasgow, UK
A work by self-taught artist Martín Ramírez
Munich’s Haus der Kunst embroiled in Scientology scandal; Martín Ramírez to inaugurate the new ICA LA
If politics today obsesses over the policing of borders, art in France is enacting multiple crossings
A new video installation from Richard Mosse investigates the refugee crisis
Gustav Metzger has died aged 90; director of the Met resigns
What draws us to certain stories, and why do we retell them? 
It’s time that the extraordinary life and work of Anya Berger was acknowledged

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

Nov - Dec 2016

frieze magazine

Jan - Feb 2017

frieze magazine

March 2017