On the three-year anniversary of his death, Matthew Brinston opened an art show of nearly 50 pieces of his original paintings, drawings and clothing at BREDA Studio, the sleek offices of a watch manufacturing company in Deep Ellum.
Brinston was there that night, in the flesh, which would be impossible under more regular circumstances.
He was a student at the time of the accident, studying marketing and studio art, and he was riding on the back of a motorcycle in Exposition Park when the driver hit a curb. Neither Brinston nor the driver were wearing helmets, and his ensuing collision with the DART rail platform left him with a traumatic brain injury. After being in a coma for two days, he died for several minutes on the operating table while his brain was being worked on, and in those minutes he left his body and saw Jesus.
“He was looking down and gave me a smirk. It was timeless, it was more of a presence — a really calming, loving experience,” he says.
Brinston says he’s a Christian although not particularly religious, but that didn’t matter. It was enough to spur him to focus on painting. Aside from seeing Jesus, confirmation also came in the form of a friend of his brother-in-law who had been praying for him. The man said God told him that Brinston was going to influence people with his art.
“The doctors said there was no physical explanation for why I was alive,” says Brinston. “The experience made me realize how it was possible I was alive, and what the guy said made me realize why.”
His story is all the more interesting considering that in the two years since going professional with his painting, he’s become one of the most interactive and recognizable artists in Dallas, and at a young age (he’s 24). He’s represented by Brandy Adams, who owns Level Gallery in Dallas and WAAS Gallery in Los Angeles and counts nationally recognized artists in her roster. In fact, an exhibit of Brinston’s work is on display at WAAS, and Brinston has collectors in both cities.
He attributes his success to being in the right place at the right time; it’s something he’s thought a lot about. Give it Time is the title of his show at BREDA, which closes today.
“Timing is how everything works. It's the way all the opportunities I’ve had in the past few years have worked out — meeting the right people at a certain time or things happening at a certain time,” says Brinston.
He’s also marketed himself well — no doubt where his schooling came in handy. Whether intentional or not, he’s his own walking brand, and instantly recognizable. Two weekends ago he was wearing acid-washed jeans and a red leather fringed jacket, topped by his signature wild, curly blonde mane, which is shaved on the side that bears the scar from his brain surgery. His appearance is counter-balanced by his personality. He’s peaceful and reserved — almost serene. He’s like a rebel angel who fell from the sky after encountering Jesus.
Brinston’s work is instantly recognizable as well. Most pieces feature a central figure that’s symbolic of something he’s been thinking about or working through in his life — a nude woman with an alligator head is one of his recurring motifs. He throws out words like “grace," “knowledge” and “mercy” when describing the symbolism in his work.
“The alligator symbolizes knowledge. Knowledge is something that comes with time. It was an interesting way for me to fit that kind of imagery into the show,” Brinston says. There’s a horse in one of his pieces at BREDA Studio and it symbolizes “unbinding yourself, unrestricting yourself from something, like becoming free from yourself. That is another thing that happens over time and also something that I can relate to.”
His paintings are bright and saturated — dare we say, cheerful, but with an edge. Multi-headed figures peer frenetically from the canvas in what look to be hastily painted marks. Forms emerge from jagged lines, and he oftentimes assembles figures from geometric shapes in a downright Picasso-esque way.
“You want your brand or your product to be consistent. I feel like my stuff changes a lot, but people say they can always tell it's the same person,” he says.
Besides having a consistent look collectors can count on, Brinston is known for being interactive, making use of his social network. He leaves free artwork around town, sometimes pieces as big as 4-foot canvases, and he lets his Instagram followers know where they can find each piece.
“I learned about some things that grab people's attention, and I thought of ways to stick out. You don't usually see pieces of fine art on the sidewalk,” he says.
He also does live painting or drawings at events. He was on stage at Club Dada during a musical performance this summer, painting an alligator-headed woman on a large canvas. And he does live drawings during yoga classes, sketching each person in the class in a yoga pose, which they get to take home.
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Brinston will have more art shows coming up. His work will be at Ascension Coffee and Set & Co. through the holidays and Neighborhood Store in Oak Cliff in January. And his next project involves more clothing. At BREDA, he was showing reclaimed jackets that he had picked up at thrift stores and painted on. He’s now working on collaborating with brands for future work – he won’t say with whom or what it involves as it’s in the beginning stages.
Part of Brinston’s appeal is that he doesn’t take all the credit for his success. It’s not to say he hasn’t worked for it, but he says a lot was timing, maybe some was luck. And he turned a very unlucky, near-permanent-death situation into a successful career at a young age — painting is his day job.
"I really don't know what I’ve done that's so special," he says. "It's really just being a nice person to other people, using social media to my advantage, and getting the word out. I try and be as interactive as I can, and cool to people I meet. When you put yourself out there, which I try and do, people just gravitate.”
For inquiries, contact Matthew Brinston at firstname.lastname@example.org