Christopher Mathie—Essences of the Seashore


Christopher Mathie is a frequent exhibiting artist at Childhood’s End. It’s been long enough since I’ve seen his work that it’s a pleasure to see it again, even if the paintings in his current show are a tad too much like ones I’ve seen before. Is he recycling previously shown paintings or are they simply similar? I can’t tell.

I’ve long enjoyed Mathie’s abstract paintings for their incredible energy and rich surfaces. I’ve never enjoyed his landscapes and other works with more recognizable subject matter as much as the abstracts, because the true subject of his work is the painting itself; the subject matter seems superfluous and in some instances his imagery seems to be catering to potential buyers who have to be able to find something they can recognize something in a painting.

Having said that, seascapes are a natural subject for Mathie, and I get the feeling that he loves the sound and the fury of waves breaking on rocks. Like J.M.W. Turner before him, he captures the essence of wind and waves and water, even when none of those are recognizably present in his work, which they are in his current show at Childhood’s End.

In this show we see scenes of waves breaking on rock, we see boats at harbor, we see seabirds and crabs. All are mixed-media paintings, and most are in the four-by-five-foot range, although there are some smaller works too.

The only one that comes close to being purely abstract is “Sea Cliff,” featuring a great range of brush effects with a terrific feel for turbulence at sea. The one drawback is its glossy finish, which makes it difficult to see — perhaps due to its position in the gallery and the time of day when I saw it. Nevertheless, the glare is unfortunate.

One of the more naturalistic and enjoyable paintings is Memory of a Sailing Trip, which depicts boats docked in a harbor. The depth of the semi-transparencies in the water and sky and the way in which Mathie obliterates the far shore with misty white is marvelous. It almost makes one shiver.

There are also a number of small paintings of crabs. My favorite of these is Dungeness II. It is a small painting, a mere 10-by-20 inches. The crab fills almost the entire space, with the tips of its pincers cropped on all four edges. The crab is painted with heavy slabs of brilliant cadmium red layered like icing on a cake. Icy blue and white water surround the crab. Such an exciting contrast between the hot, hot red and the cold blue and white! This painting comes close to single-handedly wiping out my contention that his paintings of recognizable subjects are not as good as his abstracts.

Also showing are a lot of small pseudo-impressionistic landscapes by Cal Capener. These small, sweet works are the calm in the storm of Mathie’s paintings. Technically they are well executed paintings but hanging in the same room with Mathie’s more exuberant paintings they are too safe. It’s like putting Pat Boone on the same stage with the Rolling Stones.

There are two Capener paintings that stand out. They are Tao Cottonwoods, N.M. and Olympia Forest. Each of these feature a single image of yellow leaves against a darker and more somber background, both of which seem to hover wonderfully in the foreground — most effectively in Olympia Forest where the yellow ochre autumn leaves float beautifully in front of tree trunks.

This review appears courtesy The Weekly Volcano.



Christopher Mathie and Cal Capener Exhibition


10 am – 6 pm Monday – Saturday, 11 am –  5 pm, Sunday, through August 26, 2018


Childhood’s End Gallery

222 Fourth Ave. W, Olympia






Skip to content