Matt Bollinger uses narrative structures to create composites of personal experience, first- and second-hand research, and fictional situations. For his last show, The Reservoir, he created a number of paintings that featured figures reading books. Bollinger is interested in books as a gateway to a parallel world that generates associations, invites him to identify with characters and triggers memories of events in his own life. This composite experience creates a mental world where these fictional characters—”Nancy,” “Blake,” and “Mike,” all members of the same community—help him to conceptualize narratives based on personality and relationships rather than a sequence of events.
Like the narratives that he creates, the materials he uses suggest that the work is a reenactment of many different moments pulled together to form a whole. The collaged elements give the work a fragmentary appearance upon close inspection. The bits of painted and collaged paper and more recently fabric announce that the paintings pull from many disparate sources. A paper with a pattern painted a year ago will sit beside marks made today. Because Bollinger is interested in the nature of memory as a mode of compression (the past moment occurs, when remembered, simultaneously in his mind with the present experience), his approach to materials parallels this interest. This is evident in Torn Poster, a work of urban art where the original poster becomes distorted, and patterns, shapes, and typography become interwoven into hanging tapestries of torn images, faded colours and textured backgrounds. Elements of counterculture surface in some works. Melvan features the tour van for the band The Melvins, covered with phrases and images painted by the band and by Kurt Cobain.
The Reservoir and Reading Room are backdrops to the smaller works Bollinger has been creating to imply that all of the narratives in smaller pieces (such as Renovations) could be found in the volumes on these shelves. At the same time the two mural-scale works feature images of libraries, abandoned and ruined, left to the elements, and, in the case of Reading Room, collapsed. This seems to suggest to Bollinger himself, “that the potential for me to rediscover these worlds has an expiration date.”