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Art & About with Matthew Van Roden

Queer artist Matthew Van Roden had a strict religious upbringing – a factor that still emerges in his multi-disciplinary art practice. Van Roden is in the midst of a visual arts research masters at Charles Darwin University and will be sharing a look at what he’s been working on with his show THE//WORD//BECOMES//FLESH as part of the Darwin Fringe Festival.

Tell us about the elements you’re researching in the show.
The exhibition brings together all of my material pleasures – wax, text and flesh. I see their Trinitarian interrelation much the same as the holy Godhead of the Bible; three 
in one, one in three. I feel they all speak in differing ways to notions of embodiment.

Why has text played such a big role in your artistic practice?
I have always been a child of ‘The Text’, and for me as an artist there is no creative force without a text in mind and in action. So my practice is very much a discursive one. Although it relies on that which is seen, it must ultimately be read. Also, if by some miracle the force of it is sufficiently imbued, to cause a re-reading of one’s own self; it’s suspicions and possibilities; yourself as a text? Lordy aspirations I know, but a girl can dream.

What text inspired this body of work?
The specific text I refer to in this exhibition is found in the Gospel of St. John, where it is said that ‘The Word became flesh… and dwelt among us’ (John 1: 1-14ish). I take the peculiarity of this text, this singular triumphant statement, and apply its miracle creatively to other possibilities. What happens when words become flesh? What kinds of flesh can be created? And what, that I can identify as fleshly in myself, came from which texts? 

What’s the importance of wax in your work?
Wax is so important to this triangular approach for its visible flesh like qualities and its loaded history of human simulacrum. In this work, I have created an encaustic (wax) flesh field. It contains words stenciled in scar-like wax, “THE WORD BECOMES FLESH, THE FLESH BECOMES TEXT”. This visceral, flesh-like, ‘porky’ screen gives way to the stilted, shifting, forming, fleshy and exposed movement of my naked body.
Of course, conceptually it is nothing original, informed entirely by those mummies and daddies of queer theory that have nursed me at their collective milky appendages.

What will this visually look like?
There is a nine-panel grid of encaustic wax with stencilled text inlayed and a projection of a performance piece with audio. It’s very immersive and you either can’t turn your eyes away or want to run out of the building.
What do you hope people will get out of your show?
I hope if you are queer, you might find a home amongst the folds of this work. I hope if you are gay, you will find a space to smile. I hope that anyone else will find a feast for the eyes and for the ears, and perhaps leave with a suspicion of the possible.

Fri 6 – Sun 15 Jul | Official Opening Sat 7 Jul, 4-6pm | Nan Giese Gallery, CDU | See the event listing

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