Nostalgia for the Future
In the 1980’s I encountered a painting by one of the then new enfant terrible Neo-expressionist American painters David Salle at the National Gallery Victoria. It had Salle’s standard mixture of exquisite drawing, bravura brushwork and transferred photos but what shocked me was a curved vinyl chair back stuck to the middle of the canvas. Of course when reproduced in the art magazine it only registered as a flat image, but here it intruded pugnaciously into my physical world and yet was a logical part of the picture in a beautiful hierarchy of means, which extended from sketchy drawing through painterliness and photography to real objects.
Salle belonged to a lineage that stretched back through Rauschenberg and Duchamp but his painting used that vocabulary with the images of my time and it was fresh, real and part of my world.
Rehgan De Mather’s works operate as part of the same tradition, employing a magpie collecting instinct and an eye for the remarkable in the ordinary. De Mather, like Salle, has formidable drawing skills, which when combined with the objects from the now that he fastens to his work, honour a sense of immediacy and moment. Like many contemporary artists he uses personal branding devices in his painting and these seem to rhyme and contrast poetically with the many artifacts from the advertising world that he appropriates.
One can imagine that in the future, like Rosenquist, Cornell and Schwitters, De Mather’s work will have a richly nostalgic feel because of its inherent preservation of objects and images that are normally washed away by time as detritus. In that sense his work has an anticipatory ‘nostalgia for the future’.
For now though, they are noisy, vulnerable, exuberant and rich in layering and stray meanings.
Rodney Forbes, Churchill 2012
Director, Gippsland Centre for Art and Design
Faculty of Art Design & Architecture, Monash University