May/June 2019: “Deep Surface” Explores Consciousness in Main Library’s Michael Phipps Gallery

"Deep Surface"
Rexo Droppers | Bob Mathews | Sophie Newell
On display May 3 - June 30
Michael Phipps Gallery, W. Dale Clark Main Library, opens a new window

The artists featured in "Deep Surface" draw from the ephemera of memory and inner consciousness to explore narrative through color, fabric and found objects. Bob Mathews depicts animal figures in vibrant paintings that playfully assert the obvious in bold strokes and French phrases. In a more subtle manner, Sophie Newell carefully constructs stories that slip between imagined and real using found materials and photographs. Influenced by her upbringing in Papua New Guinea, Rexo Droppers creates vivid mixed media textiles that respond to intuition and memory.

Each artist is asking very different questions as they move from the beginning layers to the finished piece. Droppers’ work is wrestling with themes from the Book of Job and what it means to be in a space of healing, while Mathews paints over pieces that don’t make him smile. Newell wonders how she can elevate the everyday objects of our lives and bring the tactile memory these objects carry into visual forms. As they work through these thoughts and connections, the physical layers of thread, paint and paper accumulate as well as the meanings viewers can derive from them. 

View photos from the exhibition opening on OPL's Flickr page, opens a new window.

Artist Statements:

Rexo Droppers

My mixed-media art-making practice is often similar to responsive or reactive drawing except instead of using graphite, I’m using thread and mixed media with fabric. I begin intuitively - making bold, quick decisions with pieces of fabric. The further along I get with the piece, the more deliberate and intricate my marks become. I grew up in Papua New Guinea and my experiences with color and textures there continue to influence my work and sensibilities. At the markets I watched women sewing dresses of boldly patterned cloth. As soon as I could reach the pedal of my mom’s treadle sewing machine, I sewed skirts and shorts for kids in the village. After moving to the States, I was inspired by fashion design and continued to sew clothing for myself and others. I studied painting and photography in art school, but my passion for sewing remains.

Bob Mathews

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael and a life time to paint like a child”. What a magnificent quote from Pablo Picasso.

My series of animal paintings represents my ongoing evolution as a painter. I have always enjoyed making art; however, I am experiencing the most fun thus far in creating these animal figures.

There have been long periods of time in my life where my “left” brain has dominated. I am currently enjoying more and more influence from my “right” brain, and this is a wonderful journey.

Sophie Newell

I am interested in biographies and the idea of telling stories through objects. By using found materials and photographs to create original pieces I aim to tell a life story, either real or imaginary. My work primarily combines handmade elements: drawings, paintings, collage, and sometimes digital processes. I blend layers of controlled, precise imagery and shapes with areas of more expressive mark making and texture.

Although my pieces are two-dimensional I want them to retain a tactile quality. I especially savor materials that show signs of being handled such as creases, smudges, and handwritten scribbles. Each piece of ephemera has a history that is personal, intriguing, and offers a glimpse into a stranger’s life.