Sims Reed Gallery is delighted to present Strike a Light by British artist Aaron Kasmin, 9th June – 20th July 2023.
We are thrilled to be collaborating with Aaron for his fifth show at the gallery and his largest in scale with over 32 new drawings. Inspired by his own collection of mid-twentieth century original feature matchbooks, Kasmin brings new life to these ephemeral objects with his striking, detailed, diverse bold, dynamic and captivating drawings. While the matchbooks are small, ephemeral and almost forgotten, this exhibition brings to life themes from food and travel to fashion and sports as it aims to inject a bit of much-needed fun into our everyday lives.
Strike A Light pays homage to the glitz and glamour of the post-prohibition era through a myriad of nostalgic chalk pencil drawings drawn from the artist’s own treasured vintage matchbook collection. Motivated by his ever-growing collection, some of which are on display, Kasmin decided to turn them into an art form in their own right. Each highly evocative work reproduces a three dimensional scene or object that reflect the rise of American’s consumer culture. With a wide range of themes from travel to fashion, food to sports, these bold and dynamic works are as captivating as they are beautiful.
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. In the early 1920s, the humble matchbook soon became the most effective advertising medium and embraced by almost every industry. Its broad range of subjects are colourfully reflected in this exhibition.
‘These works offer an enticing glimpse into the Romantic world of America in the era of F Scott Fitzgerald and Humphrey Bogart. They are small ephemeral vestiges of Americana’.
– Aaron Kasmin
The rich variety of material is an endless source of inspiration for Kasmin. The matchbooks give us a fascinating piece of social history, transporting us back to an exciting bygone era. The restaurants and nightclubs of the time all used matchbooks to entice the city habitants Lauer Sisters’ Restaurant in Chicago was one such dwelling, a popular haunt for men and women of all ages enjoying food in a vibrant and beautiful setting and captured endlessly in postcards of the time as well as matchbooks.
Heinie’s no doubt lured many a nightclub fanatic with their more risqué and alluring matchbook graphics. Despite the subject matter as interesting or simple as it may be, Budeke’s Paint for example, the humble matchbook bought together the genius artistry and marketing prowess of the times. From the exhilarating subject matter to the very mundane, each matchbook was carefully rendered with clever and stunning graphics to entice their audience. Kasmin, with each drawing, pays homage to their beauty and brings them back to life on our walls.
Kasmin takes several days to create these incredibly detailed unique works on paper, building up A4 sized drawings using a broad palette of colours. The chalky and matt quality of Carbothello pencils, render a texture similar to that of the matchbooks, allowing for a stencil-like quality that incorporates the matches into the images.
‘I try to keep the images at A4 because the reproduced image on the matches is quite defined but if you blow it up to too larger scale it loses its intimacy. I use the chalk Carbothello pencils to replicate the same quality and chalkiness of the matchbook which gives the work a nostalgic quality’.
– Aaron Kasmin
The matchbooks are small, ephemeral and almost forgotten; the ingenuity of the imagery in what must be the golden age of graphic design is here in minute form. To Kasmin, they conjure up nostalgic imagery of an exciting moment in history
“Having discovered the matchbooks I set about trying to make a collection which has taken a long time, I thought they were so brilliant and also almost completely unknown, especially in England.
I used to get them out and show them occasionally to friends and it was one of them who said I should draw them and I haven’t stopped since. I decided to make drawings of them as I thought that they were such wonderful pieces of cultural and social history”.
– Aaron Kasmin
This wonderful series of works invoke 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.
Aaron Kasmin on BBC Radio London
Aaron gave a brilliant and insightful interview to BBC Radio London’s Robert Elms about his Strike a Light exhibition. He discusses his passion for matchbooks, where it all began and his inspiration for these wonderful and detailed drawings.
BBC Radio London – interview with Aaron Kasmin available here from 2 hours 12 mins in.
Aaron Kasmin (b. 1963) is a British contemporary artist based in London. He studied at the Chelsea School of Art in London and has exhibited in New York, Paris and London. He works with watercolour, oil paint and chalk pencils, preferring pencils for these drawings, “as with paint it would all be too fussy – drawing is a much more immediate medium,” says Kasmin.