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'Inferno' by Matthew Tully Dugan at Lomex, New York

“Hell, described here, not in the centre (for Heaven and Earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly not yet accursed), but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos: here Satan with his angels lying on a the burning lake, thunderstruck and astonished after a certain space recovers, as from confusion, calls up him who next in order and dignity lay by him: they confer of their miserable fall.”

— John Milton, Paradise Lost

Pandæmonium, the capital of Hell, set in a space of infinite brimfire and sunken architecture. Satan himself stands aloft atop a rocky outcrop, hair flung wild in the heat of the flames, spear and shield held outstretched over his army. Compelled by this image, multi-disciplinary artist Matthew Tully Dugan has spent the better part of a year in conversation with John Martin’s 1841 Le Pandæmonium. Martin’s métier was the apocalypse, incessantly painting visions of death, fire, and the wrath of God for a career that spanned over four decades. In his lifetime, Martin saw hell on earth: Napoleon had ravaged the European continent, his nephew Richard took his own life, and his brother Jonathan was committed to an insane asylum for setting fire to York Minster.

Like Martin, Dugan’s own obsession with the gothic and macabre has been driven by personal hardships. Many of the works presented in Inferno come from periods of particular strife for the artist: the death of a friend, the end of a tumultuous romantic relationships, and a proximity to civil unrest. Dugan’s homage to Warhol’s shadow series features a monochromatic depiction of a 50 foot high burning Christmas tree, an image the artist experienced first hand while in Hong Kong during the 2019-2020 protests. The motif is mimicked in a ten foot long banner of Kendall Jenner, lit by showroom spotlights. Jenner, an icon who often operates as an avatar for the artist, takes the shape of a demonic siren here, standing oppressively in front of a flaming forest.

A Spirit Halloween banner hangs like a specter, a ubiquitous sign of franchise death in New York City. Operating as a sort of tombstone, the banner is a reminder that something has died here. You have entered a place of haunted architecture, where spirits linger and blood runs cold. Hung nearby, a blood red tableau simply reads “DEAD”, a splatter of paint reaches the corner of the canvas, bleeding into the room.

A sense of loss and cataclysm is pervasive, Dugan’s work slips out like ectoplasm from the Otherside. Despite operating in a mode of chaos and affliction, Dugan offers one defiant rejection of pain, the omission of Satan from his recreation of Martin’s Pandæmonium. Where Martin depicts the fallen angel as a romantic anti-hero, rallying hell’s armies, Dugan denies the viewer the opportunity to face the inferno. Instead, Jenner, the artist's own chosen avatar, stands in front of the flames, confronting an unwitting audience with a Medusa-like stare.

— Eli Harper

31.10.23 — 11.11.23


'ABSINTHE', Group Show Curated by PLAGUE at Smena, Kazan

'Pupila' by Elizabeth Burmann Littin at Two seven two gallery, Toronto

'Auxiliary Lights' by Kai Philip Trausenegger at Bildraum 07, Vienna

'Inferno' by Matthew Tully Dugan at Lomex, New York

'Зamok', Off-Site Group Project at dentistry Dr. Blumkin, Moscow

'Dog, No Leash', Group Show at Spazio Orr, Brescia

'Syllables in Heart' by Thomas Bremerstent at Salgshallen, Oslo

'Out-of-place artifact', Off-Site Project by Artem Briukhov in Birsk Fortress, Bi

'Gardening' by Daniel Drabek at Toni Areal, Zurich

'HALF TRUTHS', Group Show at Hackney Road, E2 8ET, London

'Unknown Unknowns' by Christian Roncea at West End, The Hague

'Thinking About Things That Are Thinking' by Nicolás Lamas at Meessen De Clercq,

‘Funny / Sad’, Group Show by Ian Bruner, Don Elektro & Halo, curated by Rhizome P

'Don’t Die', Group Show at No Gallery, New York

'Almost Begin' by Bronson Smillie at Afternoon Projects, Vancouver

'I'll Carry Your Heart's Gray Wing with a Trembling Hand to My Old Age', Group Sh

'hapy like a fly' by Clément Courgeon at Colette Mariana, Barcelona

'Fear of the Dark' by Jack Evans at Soup, London

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