Matthew Ritchie, The Salt Pit, 2008. Oil and marker on linen, 96 × 149 3/4 inches (243.8 × 380.4 cm). Gift of the artist. © Matthew Ritchie
For painter Matthew Ritchie, “the job of artists is to explore the perimeter of being,” to ask through a work of art, “How do you escape the pattern that’s imposed on you by the physical order of the universe? How do you make the imaginative leap?” His large-scale painting incorporates studies of the artistic gesture and elements of chance in freehand drawing, as well as investigations of postapocalyptic imagery and illustrations of organic matter or information pathways. The Salt Pit is an abstract composition that uses layered mark-making to depict a ceaseless cycle of activity and revelation, as though the very ground of the canvas is undone and remade with each attempt to trace its networked lines. The title refers to the code name of a classified, CIA black site prison in Kabul, Afghanistan, alluding to undertones of violence, interrogation, and force. Ritchie’s energetic brushwork flows across the painting’s surface to mimic the upheaval and frailty inherent in the effort to mine, rationalize, or understand what appears beyond our perception.