works of a visionary …
Although this is the style of art that Mati is best known for, it is also the hardest to classify. Even though these paintings contain many surrealist elements, and Mati was close enough to Salvador Dali to talk about “acting as each other’s pimps and cultural spies”, Mati would not call himself a surrealist. He’s clearly a visionary artist in the broadest sense of the term: someone with a unique and distinctive vision of the world about us that expresses that vision through his art – but there are elements of the ‘visionary art’ genre that Mati would not align himself with.
Although considered a psychedelic artist by some, when asked in an interview “How do you feel about being classified as a psychedelic painter?” his response was:
I think it’s subjective. Anybody can classify me as they wish. In the fifties I was classified as an illustrator, even though my work consisted of paintings. And in the sixties my work was classified as psychedelic. So I took psychedelics to find out what it was all about. I found out I couldn’t paint on them. I’ll tell you about a funny episode. Jean Houston and Robert Masters put together a book called Psychedelic Art in the sixties, and they came to me. They did an interview with me, like we’re doing now, to include me in their book. And they asked me, “What kind of psychedelics do you take when you’re painting?” And I said, “I don’t take anything when I’m painting. When I take psychedelics I get very horny, and I start going out to nightclubs and cruising.” (laughter)
So they said, “Well, we can’t put you in the book.” I freaked out, because I wasn’t in any book yet (laughter), and I said, “But I get my ideas when I’m high.” And they said, “Alright, we’ll put you in the book.” Next they asked me for the names of other psychedelic painters, and I gave them a whole list, including Fuchs. I called them all up right away, and I told them, “Tell them that you’re taking psychedelics!” And they all got in the book. (laughter)
No doubt Mati had his share of the mind-altering substances that were so much a part of the scene that he moved in in the sixties and seventies, but ultimately his extraordinary vision of the world about us came, not from chemical enhancement – but from looking harder!
Mati studied with Ernst Fuchs, one of the founders of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, and is strongly allied with that movement, especially in terms of technique.
The Society for Art of Imagination has an excellent explanation of the collective style that they call art of imagination, which includes magic realism, fantastic realism, surrealism, visionary and inspirational art. Their site is a great starting point if you wish to explore this genre further.