Matthew Schofield: Snapshots Revisited

Snapshots Revisited

It’s not by chance that Toronto-based artist Matthew Schofield’s paintings seem a little “off.” Schofield bases them on family photographs, or photographs he’s taken himself, noting he’s “attracted to the amateur, to the idiosyncrasies of the person holding the camera.” Thus it might come as no surprise that his images feature subjects cut partially out of the frame, or entirely to one side in unflattering fashion—the family photograph gone to Hell, as if your grandmother took them when trashed, or high on Vicadin. That’s life though. After all, life, in all its everyday banality, is what interests Schofield. Averse to the technical showmanship of most painting, he wanted to de-skill it, so to speak, by using his family photographs—as well as others found online and all around him—as subject matter. Almost entirely unexceptional, even boring, Schofield’s canvases depict drive-through zoos, beach scenes, and domestic interiors, such that everyday moments are lent a Norman Rockwell-like gravitas.

The works are hung in large groupings meant to overwhelm visitors. For his exhibition “(almost) everything” at AWOL Gallery in Toronto, every saved image on his computer, as well as various others he stumbled upon, were turned into a continuous, side-by-side line of paintings. “Email, Internet, magazines, newspapers, videos, and photos have all informed and influenced the work,” as he wrote about the show, continuing, “this is the same information we encounter on a daily basis living in a western society. The constant bombardment of changing images can trigger thoughts that can direct our minds and influence our decisions, affect our moods and take us mentally to places we were not prepared to go.” Taking the schizophrenia of contemporary visual data and bouncing it back at us, we’re forced to question just what it is we fill our life with. Is it junk or treasure? The answer may not be so easy to answer.