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Aaron Kasmin’s matchbook-inspired artworks shed new light on American consumer culture

The Chef © Aaron Kasmin

The Chef © Aaron Kasmin

London-based contemporary artist Aaron Kasmin is returning to Sims Reed Gallery with his fifth solo exhibition, Strike a Light. Featuring works inspired by his beloved collection of vintage matchbooks, the paintings on display will hark back to a bygone era and present American consumer culture in a whole new light.

From 9 June to 20 July, Strike a Light represents Aaron’s biggest show. Featuring over 30 new pieces of large-scale work that evoke the charm and nostalgia of the 1920s, the detailed and diverse artworks are a bold and captivating echo of the heyday of matchbook advertising.

Viewers familiar with Aaron’s work will immediately recognise his signature format, which sees vibrantly coloured images made to look like they are painted on a set of lined-up matchsticks. Representing a stark contrast to the small and ephemeral nature of old matchbooks, these big and permanent pieces make their presence known as they play with themes of food, travel, fashion and sports.

Coleman House Bar © Aaron Kasmin

Coleman House Bar © Aaron Kasmin

Vogue © Aaron Kasmin

Vogue © Aaron Kasmin

Aiming to inject some “much-needed fun into our everyday lives”, Strike a Light revels in the imagery of the post-prohibition era. Think flappers, the Great Gatsby, and glasses overflowing with champagne, all depicted through the lens of chalk pencil drawings lifted from retro matchbooks.

“Having acquired his first matchbook in 2012, Kasmin became an avid collector of Lion Match Company’s matchbooks and was inspired by their lively and inventive images that reflect the rise of America’s consumer culture, originally mass-produced for advertising purposes,” says the gallery. “In the early 1920s, the humble matchbook soon became the most effective advertising medium and was embraced by almost every industry. Its broad range of subjects is colourfully reflected in this exhibition.”

Speaking of vintage matchbooks, this source material will be on display too. Aaron’s very own personal collection will be featured alongside his artwork, meaning they finally get the prominence they deserve. Visitors can follow the through line of their stencil-like quality from matchstick to the gallery wall and reflect on the rise of America’s consumer culture.

And that’s not the only way the gallery space will be transformed. Sims Reed Gallery will also capture the dynamism of 1920s America by setting the “opulent party scene”, allowing viewers to venture back to the glamour of the States as it was one hundred years ago.

Budeke's Paint © Aaron Kasmin

Budeke’s Paint © Aaron Kasmin

The Palette © Aaron Kasmin

The Palette © Aaron Kasmin

Standout artworks in the exhibition include Bubbles, a new piece featuring a model taken straight out of a film noir that encapsulates the era’s nightlife. This hangs alongside The Palette, which cleverly turns a paintbrush into the striking part of a match. Meanwhile, in The Chef, the refined style of Roy Lichtenstein is echoed through the expert use of dots, simple forms and primary colours.

“Matchbooks are wonderful pieces of cultural and social history that mark the rise of America’s consumer culture when advertising was still a fairly modern and exciting construction,” says Aaron. “My work draws attention to these forgotten ephemeral masterworks of art.”

Chloe Christian, Director at Sims Reed Gallery, adds, ‘We are thrilled to partner with Aaron for his fifth exhibition with us, Strike a Light. This wonderful work series invokes energy, dynamism and fun, exporting us to new and exciting places. The works are beautifully and painstakingly rendered with so much depth, detail and colour, lighting up the gallery walls.”

Bubbles © Aaron Kasmin

Bubbles © Aaron Kasmin

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