Matteo Massagrande’s new paintings feature his characteristic use of subtly-manipulated perspective. His is a world of mysterious vistas and abandoned interiors, filled with light and atmosphere. There is a new emphasis on specific sites and landscapes, particularly Venice, New York and Tuscany. This exhibition has something of the flavour of a modern- day ‘Grand Tour’. Untypically, in a few works, figures are present. An urban crowd populates the meticulously-defined cityscapes of Venice and New York, distinctly ephemeral against the lucid solidity of the architecture.
Massagrande deploys skilful draughtsmanship to delineate the intricate geometries of his spatial configurations. Tonal colour-mixtures are built up to articulate light, mass and textured surface. What can appear from a distance to be a photographic image, is, on closer inspection, revealed to be paint, and the artist’s fluent handling becomes absorbingly apparent. Distortions and variations of a conventional perspective system are introduced to lead the eye and enhance a feeling of dream-like detachment. The compositions are like stage sets, carefully organised to achieve dramatic tension. Massagrande is not simply a recorder of places but a re-inventor of them.
The painter specialises in ‘the view beyond’. His pictures signal that there is a world outside the one he so carefully describes. Doors, windows and openings disclose views of exterior spaces and landscapes. He determines a sense of specific place but emphasises seriality: we anticipate further stops along the way. His well-worn interiors are uninhabited, everywhere there is evidence of use and occupation, but people are absent.
Who are they? Where have they gone? Will they come back? The artist is following in pursuit. Massagrande’s itinerary of significant sites brings to light a romantic sense of yearning for things lost, fugitive and just out of reach.