One of University of Montana professor Matt Hamon’s drawings

A computer image of one of University of Montana professor Matt Hamon’s drawings. He designs the drawings using computer software, and then prints them onto bristol board or Mylar using a vinyl cutter that’s he modified with a ballpoint pen.

Courtesy image

There’s no official theme to a group show at the Brunswick Gallery on Railroad Street this Friday. But Matt Hamon, Tim Thornton and Matt Duguid all take a somewhat unorthodox approach to 2-D work.

Hamon, a University of Montana art professor, uses some newer technology to push his drawings further out.

He employs a computerized vinyl cutter, the same kind used to make the precise lettering you see in store windows. He removed the machine’s Exacto blade and rigged a ballpoint pen. That allows him to print software-generated drawings onto frosted Mylar or bristol board with extremely precise curves that a human hand couldn’t produce.

The results can look like architectural blueprints, diagrams of organisms, maps of urban sprawl or almost anything the viewer brings to it. That’s partially the point – he doesn’t like pure abstraction, and likes to find narrative content during the work process.

His original source imagery could be a photograph, or a drawing made with a stylus or mouse. Or he might write computer code with specific instructions – say, draw a point this far from the previous point. Then he inserts a random generator into the code that shifts those instructions and creates an unexpected result.

For some recent drawings, he loosely sketched in the 3-D program, and then forced the software to extrude the object, or apply “impossible references to perspective.” That usually “explodes” the drawing beyond the working space in the program, so he goes back and edits and deletes lines until he has a form that he’s interested in.

It takes a lot of tinkering and deliberate use of “mistakes” in the software, but they’re sometimes “gorgeous mistakes,” he said.

“It comes also from this process of experimentation and stepping back and thinking about what narrative content emerges,” he said.

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Thornton’s work is easy to spot around Missoula because of his ongoing “movie icons” series, in which he takes screenshots from films and builds collages into Photoshop before producing the final, sometimes quite large, screenprints.

He’s moving away from it a little in his new work, but there’s still some iconic figures.

“House Rules” is a house of cards assembled from oversized deck of his own design. In lieu of kings and queens, there will be dictators and strongmen – Bashar al-Assad, Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Kim Jong Il, Pol Pot, Slobodan Milosevic and more.

“That’s the Way It Is,” is a reminiscence on the ’60s, centered on an image of the late Walter Cronkite. Thornton works in images of Martin Luther King Jr., Lee Harvey Oswald and others. Thornton was only 5 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, but the events of the ’60s still left a strong impression on him, including the mandatory nightly news with his father.

There will be a few more of his “movie icons” series. He said he identified with many of the protagonists in classic films.

Movies, he said, have taken the place of myths in our society.

Rounding out the show, architect Duguid will present drawings that, like Hamon’s, tinker with the borders between organic and abstract forms.

Entertainer editor Cory Walsh can be reached at 523-5261 or at cory.walsh@lee.net.

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