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“Consider yourself. I want you to imagine a scene from your childhood. Pick something evocative... Something you can remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all, you really were there at the time, weren't you? How else would you remember it? But here is the bombshell: you WEREN'T there. Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place. Every bit of you has been replaced many times over... The point is that you are like a cloud: something that persists over long periods, whilst simultaneously being in flux. Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you. Whatever you are, therefore, you are not the stuff of which you are made.”

Steve Grand, ‘Creation: Life and How to Make it’

For Mat Chivers a fascination with cloud structure serves as a metaphor for an affinity with human internal and external metamorphic process.

His process often embraces a collaborative aspect, utilizing scientists, scanning and rapid prototyping is in stark contrast to more traditional and spontaneous, direct carving using a hammer and chisel. The astonishing and ambitious two part work ‘Syzygy’ emphasizes these differing approaches in direct contrast. An intuitively carved sculpture in Spanish alabaster of a cumulus cloud stands upright reaching skywards appearing weightless, its surface scarred with a multitude of directional marks resulting in an undulating, transient quality. It is a work made from memory, copied instinctively whilst carving the stone. The accompanying sculpture sits more statically alongside, placed horizontally emphasising its weight. This component is the result of the intuitive ‘analogue’ sister piece being digitally scanned. This process results in a 3D virtual lattice comprising millions of triangles, which interpret the surface of the volume. Chivers then systematically reduced the number of triangles. The resultant polyhedron was then created in mirror polished Indian Black granite using a milling machine from the computer rendered geometry. It, by its nature, is a synthetic, corrupted, transformed; mirror copy of the hand carved element.

‘Outbreath’ presents a transient ‘cloud-like’ form produced from an exhalation. This life sized sculpture of the artists out-breath. In order to create a sculpture of his breath, Chivers collaborated with scientists at The University of Bristol to accurately photograph it in three-dimensions. Wearing a specially made black Lycra suit with just an opening for his mouth and nostrils, he put a pellet of solid carbon dioxide under his tongue, which gradually dissolved to become the visible vapour. With studio lighting positioned to just illuminate the breath it was photographed using high-speed digital cameras borrowed from the BBC Natural History Unit, these photographs were then used to make drawings in order to define the limits of the form. He then worked with a specialist in the latest envisioning technology and CAD software who used developed a three dimensional representation of the breath based on these drawings. This data was then used to fabricate the final sculpture employing rapid-prototyping process. 

An interest in metamorphic process was present from an early age, as a child Chivers bred tropical moths and butterflies. The undercurrent that runs through all the works in this exhibition is the relationships between opposite states and a sense of mysterious, alchemical transformation - metamorphosis. 

This exhibition also includes pencil drawings, which reflect and support Chivers interest in duality and contrasting extremes of perception. ‘Perceptual Ecology’ is a series of individually framed drawings in pencil on paper which provoke a dialogue between diverse subjects, exploring an interest in objects that indicate something about the way we perceive ‘our’ reality. Two particular pencil studies are of two sides of a brain - mirror opposites of one another. These have been copied from a life-size rapid prototype model of his own brain built from MRI scans – the right side is the intuitive and imaginative whereas the left relates to logic, reasoning and intellect, illustrating clearly notions of opposition and connectivity.

The duality of pencil on paper or chisel on stone contrasted with the digital processing of computer or machine, may represent a desired point of unity between physical and metaphysical extremes or perhaps they represent a paradox? We occupy a space at the centre of things - the meeting point. Chivers regards these contrasts as symbolic of ‘the intuitive’ and ‘the logical’ aspects of human cognition. The whole focus of reality is one of contrast or conflict and of attempting to reconcile a multitude of extreme states – of trying to make sense of and reunite that which may and perhaps should remain irreconcilable. This is a hypothesis, which echoes where we as human beings sit within the culture and the nature that has been created for us, and that we have created for ourselves. 

Joseph Clarke, 2013 


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Mat Chivers is a British artist born in Bristol, England in 1973. He currently works in Devon.

Chivers’ artwork examines how fundamental phenomena that exist below the surface of things informs the way we experience the world around us. For Chivers, the process of making draws on combinations of analogue and digital technologies in works that embody a hybridisation of old-world and contemporary envisioning and production processes. Mat Chivers sculpture often incorporates the use of heavy, solid and dense media such as metal or stone, shifting the context of the raw material to reflect an ephemeral an indeterminate subject matter from cloud formations, waves data or altering climactic statistics. Through the materiality of his sensuous sculptures, drawings, prints and performance, he offers the viewer an alternative view of these notions.

The use of indeterminate forms to disrupt a determinate geometric pattern (or vice versa) has a mesmeric effect on our visual perception. From some perspectives the objects seem recognisable, from others they have an ambiguous quality as the forms are visually eroded by the geometry in the base material. This perceptual phenomenon acts as a metaphor for the contemporary digital moment in terms of how envisioning technology gives us a way of seeing elements in the world but simultaneously fragments it, unable to describe the totality of the relationships involved.

Chivers studied Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University and Escula de belles Artes, Barcelona (1993-6). A formative influence on Chivers’ practice are the years that he spent working and travelling in Southern Europe and Morocco, culminating in a journey overland to Iran, Pakistan, India & Nepal where he spent time in the mountains of the Hindu Kush, Zanskar and Himalaya. On his return to the UK he established a studio in Devon where he is now based but travels regularly on international artist residencies. His placement at the Nirox Residency in South Africa and the Kappatos Residency in Athens both culminated in major solo exhibitions. He has been involved in numerous cross-disciplinary projects with research scientists at The University of Bristol. His site-specific film work ‘Purbeck Vanitas’ was shown in 2012 as part of the commissioned project ExLab in conjunction with the Cultural Olympiad and The National Trust at the coastal UNESCO designated World Heritage site in Dorset. In 2014 he completed 'Axiom' a major public commission for the Mathematical Institute in Oxford. His work also features in many other collections internationally notably including the Berengo Collection, Italy, Crisis UK, Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, Mochary Collection, USA, Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Soho House and The Met Office. Chivers has been included in numerous high profile international exhibitions including ‘Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick’ at Somerset House, 'Air: Visualising the Invisible in British Art 1768-2017’ at the RWA, Bristol, 'A Place In Time’ at Nirox Sculpture Park, South Africa, Premio Fondazione Henraux, Italy, 'Out Of Our Heads' in London, 'The Knowledge' at the Gervasuti Foundation, 54th Venice Biennale and 'Glasstress: White Light/White Heat', Pallazo Cavalli Franchett at the 55th Venice Biennale and a solo presentation at the Venice Biennale the same year titled 'Satyr' in association with Venice Arts Factory. Mat Chivers is represented by Anima-Mundi.