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Hinkley, Matt - 2017.13

Matthew Hinkley

Untitled 2017
polyurethane resin and pigment
dimensions variable, overall installation 170 x 210 cm (approx.)
Purchased 2017

One of the first things we notice about the work of Matt Hinkley is how easy it is to miss. His solo exhibitions can appear, at first glance, as empty rooms, so discreetly displayed are his diminutive sculptures (some of which measure only 1.5 x 1.5 cm). Examining the surface details of the works, we remain acutely aware of the gallery space, brought to the forefront of our attention precisely because so little of it is occupied.

Hinkley’s work is simultaneously modest, almost self-effacing, and powerfully assertive in how it shapes our experience of space. Originally presented as the entirety of a solo exhibition, Untitled consists of hundreds of objects cast in coloured polyurethane resin scattered on the floor, along with a sprinkling of colourful resin dust. Casual and unassuming in its seemingly random arrangement, the work prompts a heightened awareness of the gallery space by necessitating an unusual degree of caution in how we interact with it. Much of the fine detail of individual elements will remain invisible to us unless we make the unlikely move of lowering ourselves onto the floor.

The components of this work were made by casting objects collected on bike rides through rural areas of the Netherlands. Many are natural (leaves, seeds, rocks, twigs) but some of the most conspicuous are man-made (buttons, metal poles, wire); in each case, the intricate surface detail of the component belongs not to Hinkley’s inventiveness but to the original object from which it was cast. Untitled is thus neither strictly representational nor truly abstract. Rather, each element is an ‘index’, a sign with a physical relationship to its referent. As Rosalind Krauss has noted, one of the important effects of adopting indexical modes of artistic production is the ‘deliberate short-circuit of issues of style’.[1] A work made by tracing an impression or making a mould from an object no longer appears to be mediated through the history of artistic styles, conventions or tastes. In his casting of everyday detritus, Hinkley appears to do away with issues of style and taste, to operate outside the histories of both representational art and abstraction. Yet, his pastel colour palette is nothing if not an exercise of taste, a stylistic element that conjures up less the realm of avant-garde anti-art than the contemporary revival of interest in the iconic postmodern design of the Memphis group. (The squiggly Bacterio print of founder Ettore Sottsass seems to have influenced many of the patterns inscribed on Hinkley’s earlier miniature sculptures.)

The work’s scatter form can be seen as embodying this same desire to escape style and taste, while also acknowledging its impossibility. Like American sculptor Robert Morris in his 1968 manifesto ‘Anti form’, Hinkley’s work appears to refuse ‘preconceived enduring forms and order for things’ in favour of ‘random piling’.[2] But unlike Morris and the other post-minimalist artists who explored horizontal distributions of material, Hinkley’s work does not refuse vertical form in order to lay bare the innate properties of its materials. In fact, the appearance of having been randomly thrown on the floor is an illusion; the elements are too delicate to withstand such treatment. Their arrangement is actually a loose replication of piles arrived at by chance on the artist’s work table during production, which Hinkley photographed and then used as a reference when installing the work. In the event it is exhibited again, the work’s arrangement will be a meticulous recreation of the original 2017 installation.

Francis Plagne is a writer and musician from Melbourne.

[1] Rosalind Krauss, ‘Notes on the index: seventies art in America’, October, vol. 3, Spring 1977, p.80.
[2] Robert Morris, ‘Anti form’ (1968), in  Richard Armstrong and Richard Marshall (eds), The New Sculpture 1965–75: Between Geometry and Gesture, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1990, p.101.