Hug the Gray. By Mat O’Brien, introduction by Brian DeGraw. Seems Books, 2011. 36pp., illustrated throughout, 6,5x9". Edition of 1000 copies.
"The world is crumbling around us. I state this, not out of existential pessism, but rather as fact.
World leaders are bloodthirsty, religions are clashing violently, the rich are getting richer, the globe is warming, and culture is bankrupt. These are violent times and much of the world seems to have very simply given up on the idea of global and spiritual reparation.
Mat O'Brien does not entertain these notions of surrender. His soul is strongly intact.
Although he may not realize it, Mat is a foot soldier in the 'good army'... a member of an unspoken, undefined armed force which chooses brushes, ink, paper, and the strength of spirit and observation as its weapons of choice.
This is not to say that Mat's work is overtly or referentially political. I don't ever recall seeing a drawing by him that assumes a protest-like stance or an opinion that refuses to budge. The strength of his work is quite the opposite.
His drawings are, to me, the personification of the open and curious mind. They are works that scream innocence and wisdom. They are the result of a young boy turned young man who has kept a swift eye peeled to the universe around him throughout his entire journey thus far. I sometimes find it hard to believe that Mat does not, in fact, have multiple sets of eyes because he seems to be able to take in, and retain, far more visual and emotional information than most.
He takes it in, thinks about it over cups of tea or while watering his many plants, and eventually translates it into marks made on paper. The ink of these marks does not flow straight from the bottle...it has traveled through Mats heart, mind and spirit. The humbling effects of looking at these marks, of looking at the many facets of the peripheral life that surrounds this spirited young man, is like none other. Mat O'Brien is quite like a Buddha to me.
He takes deep breaths in the face of the worlds deterioration and does his very best to combat it with honesty, beauty, personality, sense, and inspiration. I cannot help but think that if every living man and woman put forth even a shred of the sincerity that Mat does, and chose to look at their surroundings and to 'just BE', this crumbling world would be saved.
The fly on the wall is more important than we think."