Matt Brinkman’s Phantasmatgoria drawings, at the Hole, attracted me immediately with their simultaneously eerie, anachronistic mood and childlike playfulness. Taking a seemingly simple idea, Brinkman creates something that cannot be easily delineated. The way he switches from the clarity of the charcoal to the ambiguity of his ink drawings, only strengthens both bodies of work, mimicking the complexity and confusion underlying our presumptions about human nature.
The most literal interpretation of these horrific, little, fun-loving guys, is that they are just figments of Brinkman’s imagination; harmless, benign, fictive, post-modern artifice at its finest, but the psychological intensity with which the artist approaches his drawings, betrays such a simplistic read. Brinkman’s monsters are everything but univocal. Are these creatures, metaphors for who we are as human beings, or are they emblematic of our worst fears and nightmares? They can’t be either because they are too funny, or maybe they are both, who we are and what we fear, just because of how tragicomically absurd these drawings are.
Monsters are a universal and timeless archetype, and yet Brinkman manages to make his demons timely and relevant. Brinkman shares a history with Goya and Ensor, but splits away severely from them. There is a specific wit and self-consciousness about these drawings that makes them entirely a product of our time. There is no text to provide us with any clues, as to what caused the origins of these endearing, little monstrosities. In Goya, the sleep of reason produces monsters, whereas in Phantasmatgoria, the monsters seem to exist without a cause. Ensor infuses his works with sardonic, moralistic, Judeo-Christian references. Brinkman is less judgmental. His creatures are clearly misbehaving, but it doesn’t seem that they will suffer much retribution, unless of course another monster comes along and devours one of them.
The style in which these drawings are executed, also directs them toward a contemporary dialogue. Classical chiaroscuro has a huge goblin orgy with the pastiche of Expressionism, 70s and 80s metal album covers, and the kitsch aesthetic found currently in the “bad” girl/boy merchandise sold through the Old Glory catalog. The debauchers birth love children, as a result of this unlikely union, who then go on to form their own identities in Phantasmatgoria.