Matthias with 7-1

MATTHIAS LEUTRUM in his studio in Leverett, MA.

Photo by Craig Harbison

Human Cannonball Paintings

In the spring of 2009 I was stopped in my tracks by a newspaper image of two human cannonballs suspended in mid-air. This seemingly contradictory spectacle of figures propelled into space while, at the same time, suspended within a frozen frame was extremely seductive. Prior to this, I had very little traffic with the world of carnivals and fairs in which these human cannonball shows are traditionally staged. The connotations of an explosive, menacing and almost violent event, combined with a frolicsome circus atmosphere, merged to form a slew of potent visual possibilities I asked myself: What is it that inspires performers to participate in an act that muddies the line between playfulness and genuine danger? What is it that compels others to bear witness? Is there a way in which the act of spring boarding someone out of a cannon--creating the illusion of a rocketed piece of ammunition—serves as a metaphor for the act of making art? Finally, is the passive surrender of the protagonists to this strange ritual an apt analogy for the way we might experience our own personal trajectories?


Foreword to Catalog "Human Cannonballs, Paintings In Process", by Craig Harbison It’s the paradox of freezing something dynamic, of imagining something both frightening and liberating, that has led Matthias Leutrum to create a series of paintings of men shot from cannons, human cannonballs.  For the artist, it is a powerful and simple metaphor for much that happens to us in life—plus it is a startling visual image. Stylistically, Leutrum’s thin washes or stains alongside gestural brushwork give his series of cannonball paintings a ghost-like quality.  He seeks a feeling for the body in motion rather than the specific structure of anatomy. The result is human forms that are palpable but mysterious and moving. These paintings also concern the communal experience of an escapade at the edge.  They are autobiographical in the best sense, as the artist develops personal imagery about the exhilaration and fear of being fully alive—self-revelation, public performance, unconscious self-portraits. [view full catalog] [press] 2013  Exhibitions:  Roofing Tar Paintings at APE Gallery in Northampton, MA and The Painting Center  NYC as well as at The Harlem School of The Arts.