“Candy Colored Dreamscapes”

By John Held, Jr.



Airstream 2, 2013, acrylic on panel, 24h"x49w". Courtesy of the gallery.

Airstream 2, 2013, acrylic on panel, 24h”x49w”. Courtesy of the gallery.


I was intrigued when I first came across the paintings and drawings of Matthias Düwel. They reminded me of one of my favorite artists, Roberto Matta, the Chilean Surrealist painter, who breaks up the painting surface like a science fiction writer on psilocybin. When I went to the opening and mentioned this to Düwel, he acknowledged Matta, but said Mark Tobey was a greater influence. Not a bad choice, as far as I’m concerned.


I’m equally impressed with Mirus Gallery and it’s management under Paul Hemming. It’s like 111 Minna on steroids. Paul not only directs the gallery, but runs an adjacent nightclub, a sustainable sushi restaurant, a recording studio and is in the process of setting up a residency program for visiting gallery artists. Past shows have featured abstractions in the vein of Düwel, self-styled abstracted “geometries of chance”, spun out of candy-colored dreamscapes. But let’s cut to the chase…



A Sea of Houses, 2013, acrylic on panel, 24w"x49h". Courtesy of the gallery.

A Sea of Houses, 2013, acrylic on panel, 24w”x49h”. Courtesy of the gallery.


Düwel was born in Germany, and currently teaches at Prima County Community College in Tucson, Arizona. When I searched him on the Internet, I came upon a “rate my professor” website, which proved hilarious. Here’s one feedback on the artist/professor, formerly of Parsons School of Design in New York: “Duwel is a master of color and color theory but beware when taking this class, it’s far from easy and several dropped it. Don’t take it instead of basic if only looking for an art credit because unless devoted to art it isn’t (worth) it. Duwel is the only teacher who uses real paint for this class, so look forward to LOTS of paint matching.” One can only imagine the cowboy headed for an easy art class butting heads with this no nonsense German technician.


But Düwel is no systematic slouch. He begins the work with no preconceived outcome in mind, letting the canvas develop as it will. I was surprised by this. The works look too thought out. But no, they evolve at their own pace with one turn leading towards another, one mark at a time, time after time again. These are sophisticated works, made more so by a technique honed over time.



Pinkhouse, 2013, acrylic on panel, 24h"x49w". Courtesy of the gallery.

Pinkhouse, 2013, acrylic on panel, 24h”x49w”. Courtesy of the gallery.


The works are definitively open to interpretation. I immediately saw them as some sort of “incredible journey” through biological systems. But the artist has titled the series, “spindrift,” which conjures the spray coming off ocean waves, and the exhibition press release states that, “…the earth’s oceans act as the exemplar of the current state of the planet: a vastness being used up and destroyed – a wave peaking and on the brink of crashing down.” Yadda yadda yadda. Sometimes you just have to enjoy something for what it is and all else is speculation and whimsy. But I do subscribe to another statement in the release that reads, “Düwel’s intricate paintings allow the viewer to experience a world of perpetual motion and constant change, -where everything is in flux and nothing remains at rest.” Things “in flux” are the only certainty in the works. Blink and a whole new vision appears.


The artist has been riding an upward trajectory for a number of years, with an enviable gallery record stretching from Berlin to New York to Los Angeles, with write ups in “Hi-Fructose” and “Beautiful Decay.” With the fluidity of the artist’s line and acidic coloring, it’s easy to understand why these pop culture magazines would be taken with his work, but I hope the artist doesn’t get lumped into the Neo-Surrealism bandwagon. He deserves more than that. He’s a classicist in the line of a Matta or a Tobey, rather than just another Juxtapoz set artist. I hope he can be seen that way in the future, although the currents blowing “Spindrift” in that direction are fairly substantial these days.


This exhibition is on view through November 16, 2013.


For more information on Matthias Düwel‘s solo exhibition “Spindrift” visit Mirus Gallery, San Francisco.