During his Sponsorship at High Concept Labs, artist Matthew Shelton will work to unite his mbira-based music and his intricate lightbox pieces with explorations into video performance, creating a hybrid art form of Healing Sound & Light Patterns that soothes and entrances. The resulting combination will give the viewer/listener a moment of perspective and detachment from their daily struggles and the world outside, creating an opportunity for reflection and healing.
Traditionally, the mbira songs of Zimbabwe have been used for healing and communion. Shelton began studying Shona mbira songs in 1999, building upon his folk and pop-based musical foundation. He currently is focused on the 90-key Array Mbira, a new and exceedingly rare westernized hybrid instrument.
His work in lightboxes has been his main artistic output for the past ten years. The method for creating these works developed over a long process of trial and error, and consists of thousands of holes poked or drilled into material, creating intricate mandala patterns on the surface of the lightbox.
Shelton’s explorations into the trance-inducing mandala patterns of his lightboxes alongside the soothing patterns of his mbira will combine to create an experience that both stimulates and soothes the viewer with visual and auditory input. The result is an experience that is at once chaotic and multi-layered yet ordered and comforting.
At HCL, Shelton will film and edit video of the lightboxes and compose music specifically for the film. The public will have the opportunity to experience the combination at a Works-in-Progress showing at the end of the Sponsorship.
Matthew Shelton has spent the past 25 years pursuing life as a visual artist and as a musician simultaneously. He has arrived at the current intersection where the intricately patterned designs of his lightboxes inform and further the layered poly-rhythms of his mbira-based songs, resulting in bodies of work in two separate mediums that resonate with a singular vision.
Raised in South Carolina, Shelton graduated from the Art Academy of Cincinnati with a painting degree. While in school, Shelton wrote and recorded dozens of songs using primitive skills and equipment, performing occasionally. Slowly, Shelton’s music evolved into a powerful solo live show and eventually led to chamber groups performing arrangements the artist had written.
Matthew has lived in Chicago for six years, where he exhibits and performs. He currently fronts his band ExtraOcular and maintains a studio in Humboldt Park.