If you’ve ever used Google Earth to zoom from a bird’s eye view of the planet down to a close-up look at rooftops, streets, backyards and rivers, Matthew Picton’s wall-mounted sculptures of urban environments will seem instantly familiar. They reconstruct in paper and vellum the kinds of aerial views long used by urban planners. Unlike street maps, which show how things connect in a single dimension, Picton’s representations are at once cartographic, topographical and cultural. Incorporating period-specific texts and musical scores, sometimes from different eras in a single work, they present multi-layered views of urban history at cataclysmic junctures: wars, political upheavals and natural disasters. They represent the urban experience as a physical place and a state of mind whose contours, physical and mental, shift according to circumstance.
Fire also figures prominently in Picton’s depiction of Moscow in 1812, set ablaze by Napoleon’s army. In it, a quote from War and Peace (“The comet which was said to portend all manner of horrors and the end of the world”) appears prominently at the bottom, winding in red letters around the contours of a wide boulevard.