In music, the act of sampling is to take a piece of a song, a sample, and reuse it in another tune. It is a way of cutting and pasting an interesting lyric or break to be born anew in a different context.
Originally born out of necessity, patchwork was a way of making fabrics last longer. Once a garment was worn out, it was cut up into patches and sewn together with other fabric patches into a “new” useful item. A quilt made of different patterned fabric and designs is called a sampler.
A collage, from the French word coller meaning to stick, is a collection of disparate items combined to create something new. The term was coined by Pablo Picasso in 1912 when he first used collage in his work Still Life with Chair Caning in which he pasted a cane design onto a painted canvas. The Surrealists also made extensive use of the collage in the visual arts, as well as in the literary field where the “cut up” technique involved splicing up bodies of text and reassembling them in different formats.
Rehgan De Mather draws upon all these techniques in his paintings and assemblages. He creates layers of images, motifs and text drawn from disparate sources and assembles them onto a literal patchwork of reused canvases. These elements combine with marks and colour to create an urban fabric full of signs that are particular to the artist.
Where a sample in music usually utilises another artist’s song, De Mather appropriates his own imagery from previous works and recasts them into new situations, creating a personal iconography. Certain images recur throughout De Mather’s work such as variations on the head or self portrait, as well as a small house and a spaceman. These emblems become connections between disjointed elements across time and location.
Throughout his work De Mather casts himself as Art boy, the protagonist in a journey through the machinations of the art world and the challenges of contemporary life. Some of the text in the works overtly refers to the art world while in other works it is the title that makes reference to it. The comic book styling and the use of graffiti-like writing belie and disguise the often critical stance that De Mather makes about being a young artist and the heavy weight of art history.
De Mather’s works are a mash up of ideas and imagery or what he calls “contemporary leftovers”. Their lack of defined narrative encourages viewers to construct their own meanings and connections. While at first there seems to be no discernible way to navigate our way through the barrage of images and text we eventually recognise something amidst the clamour. It is the familiar feeling we get when we hear a sample in a song, we know we have heard it before but can’t quite put a finger on what it is.
Louise Tegart, April 2007
Rehgan De Mather
Acrylic, spray enamel, oil stick and collage on board