What to book: Matthew Day Jackson at Hauser & Wirth Somerset

This immersive multi-media exhibition explores mankind’s relationship with nature

‘Bouquet in a Sculpted Vase Beside a Wreath of Flowers (Berlin)’ by Matthew Day Jackson, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth

While most artists leave viewers to interpret their work, at Matthew Day Jackson’s ‘Pathetic Fallacy’ exhibition, held at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, you will quite literally find the writing on the wall. Opening with a glossary of terms and concepts, unusually pointing out the themes that underlie the art, the display stands boldly in its intent: to investigate how humans understand the natural world. By presenting the ‘answers’ as part of the exhibition, Jackson asks every visitor to engage with his message as soon as they walk through the gallery doors.  

‘Solipsist II’ by Matthew Day Jackson, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth

The California-born multi-media artist conceived ‘Pathetic Fallacy’ during his time as the artist-in-residence at the Somerset gallery. The title – a term used in literature to denote the attribution of human feelings to inanimate objects or animals – serves as a way of exploring the multiple ways in which humans interact with the natural world. Jackson’s latest works came out of collaborations with his family and the Somerset community, including local metal- and leatherworkers.

‘Flowers in a Glass Vase (Madrid)’ by Matthew Day Jackson, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth

The materials Jackson uses in his richly textured artworks are carefully chosen: the Formica in the Solipsist paintings – the silkscreen landscapes that hang in the Rhoades gallery – is a reference to the artist’s memory of the tabletops in his childhood home and suggests the artificiality of American culture. The same pieces also feature satellites made of poured lead, an allusion to the poisonous history of human intervention into previously untouched landscapes, leaving them ruined beyond repair. The experience is made even more evocative by a scent, produced by Jackson in collaboration with Bestscent, that is atomised throughout the space.

Matthew Day Jackson. Photo: Clare Walsh

Elsewhere, in the Bourgeois gallery, the walls are brighter, showing a series of floral still lifes, collaged out of paper and fabric. These works show nature as manipulated by man: picked, cut and prepared in order to please only humans, both exaggerating the wealth of nature and our abuse of its beauty.

Jackson deals with messages of sincerity, playing with humour and encouraging interaction. A role-playing game titled Maa, devised for his forthcoming exhibition at Finland’s Serlachius Museums, is set in an imaginary dystopia in a far-flung future and explores themes such as colour theory, gender and geopolitics, a novel way of navigating the 21st century’s biggest issues.

Matthew Day Jackson’s ‘Pathetic Fallacy’ is at Hauser & Wirth Somerset from 19 January until 6 May 2019.



Behind the scenes of ‘The Nutcracker’

What to book: ‘Friends and Family – Portraits by Stanley Spencer’

Meet the maker: Sew & Saunders