Piece of the Week: Optic Wolf by Matthew Dibble, An Optic Wolfing

The intrigue of Optic Wolf  (52”x46”) by Matthew Dibble begins with the words, optic wolf.

While a painting’s title is sometimes easy to skim over – it is not uncommon for a painting to even be untitled— Optic Wolf’s title enriches and invigorates the intellectual claims of the painting.

The title, Optic Wolf, is intended to jar and jolt the viewer out of preconceived ideas about the nature of art.

Optic Wolf 

Individually the words seem too only relate through a weak grammatical chemistry: adjectives bind to nouns or verbs. The adjective, “optic,” evokes scientific assessment of vision a process of light waves and retinal bouncing. However, the complexities multiply with the word “wolf.”

If interpreted as a noun “wolf,” evokes the animal and connotes its carnivorous ferocity. However, if interpreted as a verb (as in, to wolf something down), the title retains its connotations but adds a self-referential dimension, as the painting if it knows the viewer is there.

Oddly enough, this combination of both the rational with animal and mind with physical body eerily echoes the human condition.

“My title Optic Wolf is designed to wake up the viewer, shaking out any old idea’s about what art is and allowing them to take a fresh look maybe discovering something new in the process,” says Dibble.

The title’s rich ambiguity opens the composition for a rich mental gnawing, (or, shall we say, optic wolfing).

Where the title combines abstract and concrete verbally, the objects of the composition, the figure(s) and a chair, combine those same elements visually. If the body is abstractly figurative, then the chair is figuratively abstract. Meaning that while, when compared to the figure, the chair is more recognizable and less precariously postured, its shared texture lends itself to the painting’s overall abstracting impulse.   

“I’m trying to create an impression, as simply as possible that describes my two natures: one grasping and one allowing,” says the artist.

The figure (or, figures) is a compilation of four different drawings – an amalgamated tangle of anatomy. The posture (which, surpasses the achievement of even the most elaborately pretzeling yoga pose) bends the body into abstraction.

Dibble describes the figures of Optic Wolf as a domineering gaggle of children saying, “They emerge like rebellious children seeking attention from their elders.”

Dibble is often inspired by other artists and exhibitions.

Recently and particularly, he was influenced by the Philip Guston exhibition at Hauser and Wirth.

While critics and contemporaries censured Guston, he remained fearless and constant in his pursuit of the “real” in painting – a story that has resonated with Dibble.

Dive Colossus

“I was always fascinated by the big change he made from abstraction to figurative in the 1970’s,” says Dibble.

Before he began to branch into figurative work, he often asked himself, “If I did figurative work, what would it look like?”

He realized that figures had figured in his work for many years as the omnipresent human unifier.


See more of Matthew Dibble’s work on UGallery, and be sure to follow him on Instagram