The art of matte painting has been around since the beginnings of cinema. This technique enables filmmakers to add objects and surroundings to create the illusion of an environment that is not present at the filming location.
In order to explain what matte painting is, we need to understand the use of the word “matte,” which in visual effects terminology is just a synonym for the word “mask.”
Artists that made matte paintings used paints or pastels on a large sheet of glass that was placed between the camera and the live action. Pioneer filmmaker and visual effects inventor, Norman Dawn, is known as the father of the painted matte composite. He used glass paintings in his 1907 film Missions of California.
This early filmmaking technique was an inspiration for the talented British artist Suzanne Moxhay to create intriguing and complex photomontage images. She combines matte painting, fragments of old photos, photography and digital manipulation in order to create this captivating artwork. As Jessica Stewart wrote for My Modern Met, Moxhay’s landscapes are views into apocalyptic worlds made through photomontage.
Moxhay builds up the image in her studio using cutout fragments of a source material, which she makes into small stage sets on glass panels. Then, she re-photographs the sets and manipulates the images digitally, an act of reprocessing which takes them further away from their original context and broadens the narrative potential.
…I look for interesting connections between details in photographs of rooms that I’ve either collected or photographed myself and then I use points of connection to build up a larger picture. I’m never quite sure where it’s gonna go initially, but I’d just look for things that can work together, which often is things like the way light could appear to be moving from one image through into another or the way a corner of a room could appear to match with a corner of another room.
When all these things are put together they create spaces that don’t really make sense… The more you look, the more you realize that it kinda falls apart, said Moxhay.
Moxhay traveled a lot in the past and her work is inspired by images of places she’s seen in old travel magazines. “I think I just follow what I’m interested in and I just like the idea that it’s left to the interpretation of the viewer,” the artist says.
She has exhibited widely, both nationally and internationally since 2002 and her work is held in several significant public and private collections.