“I think my strongest paintings blend abstraction with naturalistic representation, flirt with perspective, and contain a photographic complexity, arrived at primarily by happy accidents that occur with my brushwork. I apply paint in unorthodox ways, and wait for the precise moment to bail out. For me, the thrill is not knowing the end, till the last possible moment.”
Born and raised in Morristown, New Jersey, William Mathews received his B.A. in history from Yale in 1979. Upon graduation, he operated a general contracting business doing custom apartment renovations in New York City before devoting himself to painting. He maintains a studio on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
William Fletcher Mathews
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
Skyline Hotel, New York City, 1995
Claus F. Rademacher Architects, New York City, 1996
Image Arts Gallery, Princeton, New Jersey, 2006
Overture Financial LLC, New York City, 2008
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
Whitby School, Greenwich Connecticut, 1997
Charity Event for Princeton University Art Museum, 2004
Bruce Museum, Greenwich Connecticut, 2007
Program, International String Quartet, 2007-08 Season
Program, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, 2009-10 Season
“When Brush Touches Sky: Up Close and Personal with Artist Bill Mathews” by Katherine Schimmel Baki, Wild River Review, 2009
William Mathews: WHY WOMEN AND NOT MEN?
(excerpt from Wild River Review)
One of the rarely discussed aspects of painting and drawing is the physical pleasure derived from moving a brush or pencil over a surface in a circular fashion. Consciously or not, the human hand and arms tend toward looping motions, arcs.
As anyone who has ever observed children’s drawings knows, those drawings are invariably curvilinear until children reach about the age of 5, when he or she is handed a straight edge or told to “copy" a straight line. It takes concentration to draw a straight line, and most people, even trained artists, never really learn to do it without a straight edge. Matisse couldn't draw a straight line to save his life, and often resorted to a plumb bob or chalk line to get the job done. His eyes, brain, and hand wanted to go elsewhere. The subject comes up in context of my figurative paintings.
Why, I've been asked, do I prefer female figuration to the male figure? (I rarely, if ever, draw men.) The short answer is that I prefer looking at women to looking at men. I prefer women's faces to male faces, and I, like most artists, prefer representing things I like to look at.
The more complicated answer is that drawing the male figure requires certain mechanical adjustments to my natural brushstroke and that takes some of the pleasure out of painting. Of course, there is a kick in bringing a person to “life” with a few deft strokes. The final result DOES MATTER. But just as important to
me is the effort required to do this. Too much effort spoils the fun. Since the female figure (or at least my idea of the female figure) is easily reducible to a series of arcs, and since my natural stroke (like most others on the planet) is a series of arcs, it’s only natural that I take the path of least resistance, and draw women.
Our brains didn’t evolve to process straight lines, conceive of straight lines, much less figure out how to draw them, until the invention of string, or some observant Egyptian who, maybe noticed that pools of water, bounded by wooden slabs, left mineral deposits that were unlike other kids of lines: unusually straight.
I know exactly, as I'm working, when a painting is coming to life by a combination of brush work and serendipity, and I know exactly when I'm killing it. I have a long rap sheet (a photographic record) of paintings which I've killed off, not intentionally, but by placing one stroke too many. One mistake leads to another and the thing veers out of control like a train flying off its rails while going a hundred miles an hour.
The sangfroid of painting isn't so much putting up with lean times, or rejections, so much as fiddling with a really good work you have in your pocket, a saleable work, a perfectly gorgeous work, and taking the final risk of trying to improve it because there's something about it that's bothersome.
Sometimes it works out beautifully, but a lot of it is botched. That's where sangfroid enters the equation. And you have to have that sangfroid to be a painter. Otherwise you'll wind up just repeating yourself.