Hat Here Hen

October 2023

Written by Jan Matthé.
On the occasion of the exhibition Hat Here Hen,
presented at Galerie Palermo, Stuttgart, Germany.

Belgian artist Pol Matthé (°1982) was born in Antwerp and has been living and working in Stockholm since 2014. Matthé is an avid collector of everyday ephemera, his vast archive of paper and other small objects ranges from bouncing balls and walking sticks to stools, brooms, boxes, and bulbs. His work is a poetry of assemblage, finding the right objects or images to convey the subtle, transient feelings of nostalgia and joy. Matthé is an artist looking with loving, serious attention at commonplace objects and forms, made from simple materials such as wood or cardboard. Part research, part devotional act, he meticulously collects and catalogues his finds and acquisitions, before making intuitive leaps through categories — chopping things up, splicing them together, omitting parts — creating an enigmatic universe wholly his own. By means of an amalgam of treasures amassed from bookstores, auction houses, wanderings across cities and through nature, Matthé builds himself a site for compiling and arranging materials and words in ways that imbue them with poetry, in recognizable acts of joyous creation, rigorously editing his own compositions with a capacity for masterful visual economy.

What his past work demonstrates is the radical equanimity of his eye, the capacity for finding beauty in the most unprepossessing of physical forms, the ability to look and be moved by what he sees, from birds in a tree or shifts in the weather, to the marvellously chaotic traffic of dreams and imagination. Pol Matthé’s private universe of objects and images reminds us ultimately of the strangeness of the familiar, the odd familiarity of the strange, the final mysteriousness of the world we thought we knew. His aesthetic is as rigorous as it is consistent, all the works he composes seem both well-made and yet possessing a lovingly hand-built quality. He conceptualizes these as much by scribbling notes, maps or technical sketches as by gathering materials and creatively exploring an imaginative pictorial research akin to the image-making of poetry. His compositions belong as much to the lineage of the wunderkammer as to surrealism and arte povera.

Hat Here Hen, Pol Matthé’s fourth solo exhibition in Stuttgart, could be read as a self-portrait of a curious mind, an adult explorer who never abandoned the element of play. No better way to experience how he sees the world than by watching these poetic dioramas and intimate theatres play out, boxed records of his wandering, wondering gaze, each one a small world unto itself and a remembrance for things that can so easily become lost. Together they reveal an improvisatory universe, at once homemade and universal, modest, and profound, melding the iconography of childhood pastimes with more sophisticated interests in architecture, cinema, language, and craftsmanship.