Master of Photorealism: Matthew Cornell

Photorealism is perhaps one of the most striking movements in art because there’s nothing quite like realizing that what you’re seeing wasn’t captured by a camera, but was rather meticulously hand-crafted by an artist and a paint-brush.

The movement evolved from the pop-art movement in the late 1960s as a way to reclaim and exalt the value of an image following the advent of photography. Photorealists felt photography threatened to lessen the value of imagery in art and responded against abstract expressionism.

One contemporary master of the photorealism movement is Orlando based artist Matthew Cornell. Holding a Bachelor of Fine Arts from California State University, he describes his paintings as “sublime observations,” dramatized by his careful use of colour and atmosphere.


The Road

Matthew with his painting Coming Home

Growing up, Matthew’s family moved around a lot, having a significant impact on Matthew as an artist. The constant changing landscape made it difficult for him to garner an anchored self-identity. This, as well as the landscapes themselves, are reflected in his work.

“The landscape in my work is both dramatized in panoramic vistas and minimized in simple paintings of the ocean. Its all created with great detail on a small scale to encourage a more intimate interaction between art and the viewer,” explains Matthew. “All human presence has been eliminated, creating an idealized world where nature again rules.”


Initially, Matthew was purely a landscape artist, but soon got very interested in painting just water. Perfecting the waves and ripples of light became a major artistic goal for him. “Eventually, I got interested in painting house and neighbourhoods, especially ones I was familiar with,” continues Matthew. “I would set up outside around dusk and dawn and paint the streetlights and the roads. Those are the most interesting times for me. When even the most banal scene can seem mysterious.”

More and more of Matthew’s paintings are of familiar old neighbourhoods, and homes with glowing lights inside. He attributes this direction in his work to the recent passing of his parents. His paintings reflect their history, and the different places he grew up. Its an idyllic representation of those memories and has pushed him to create more complex paintings from memory and photo references.


“I am beginning to figure out why I am painting what I am painting,” explains Matthew. “I talk all the time about finding home.This longing to find where to live. I spent a great part of my childhood moving and traveling. I have seen this country backwards and forwards… I have bothered countless real estate agents to show me houses. Many beautiful things. Every town my wife and I travel through we look at homes and imagine what our lives would be like living there. All of this has been the search for home.”


Lions in Winter

Home before Dark

Matthew’s work has been exhibited across the United States and he has won numerous awards, including first prize in painting at Winter Park Art Festival in 2008 and 2009. His latest exhibition, Pilgrimage, will be opening in March 2016 at the Arcadia Contemporary in NYC.

To learn more about Matthew and his work, please visit his website.

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