Matthew Eickhoff: Ashes from the Cradle
Murphy Art Center
You can count on Matthew Eickhoff to produce a work of art that speaks to a larger context, all the while remaining grounded in its individuality. Eickhoff, who lives and works in Indianapolis, is known for his former (and experimental) gallery space The Everyday Inventors in the Murphy Art Center. When Eickhoff made the decision to let go of the space and focus on making art, there was an inevitable turning in. The results of this are on view in a temporary Murphy space.
Set up as a film sequence, Ashes from the Cradle is a series of a dozen “stills” — narrative paintings that Eickhoff intends us to view chronologically — including opening and closing images and an intermission, also in the form of paintings. The set-up also mimics an album with 12 cuts: You may have one or two favorites, but the artist wants you to hear (or see) them as part of a whole.
Eickhoff toiled over this labor of love for two years, he says, working on the paintings in tandem rather than in sequence. Hung to span a long wall in a former restaurant space (next to Galerie Penumbra) and moodily lit, the large paintings speak to Eickhoff’s personalized aesthetic. They spring from the personal but he doesn’t want us to get fixed on those possibilities. Rather, we should look to what we see, evolve our own narrative arc and derive meaning from there.
In images such as “Dear Dishes,” as in much of Eickhoff’s other domestic scene paintings, one is tempted to make a sentimental interpretation. A woman stands at a sink; the baubles of a dated kitchen are carefully placed on countertops, while outside the window we see a pre-storm sky. We’re carefully prodded from making any sentimental references and instead may look to allegorical ones. In the next scene/painting, “Immovable Peace,” the woman points to a tornado on the horizon, flanked by a waterlogged sky spilling open. As happens here, each subsequent painting makes some reference to carry you to the next and, if you look closely enough, you’ll notice other defining details — such as a single color that repeats, or that foretelling image outside the window.
Eickhoff’s domestic narratives always foreshadow something more, whether it’s disaster or grief or a combination. But he stops short of alienation. The figures may at times seem unaware, but there’s always some sort of narrative response. While Eickhoff’s painting style is inspired by Vermeer, he captures such silky depth and detail best in his final of the 12 scenes. “Pastoral Rebirth” depicts the spirit of a deer leaving its body in a clearing infused with a dusky light. Here, all pieces come together: the linking of nature with human nature and the Shakespearian notion of fate.
Ashes from the Cradle is on view by appointment in Suite 6 of the Murphy Arts Center in Fountain Square, with a reception on Friday, Oct. 27 from 5-9 p.m. For more information, call 317-955-7577 or e-mail the artist at firstname.lastname@example.org.