Sayra Reyes

Walking past the black curtain into the unlit hookah lounge at Cloud 9 in San Luis Obispo, the paintings on the wall matched the dark atmosphere of the room. The pieces were wild and colorful, yet displayed a darker theme that coincides with the festive Halloween season.

Artist Chris Matthews, who describes his art as a mixture of urban, street and surrealism, is displaying his work at Cloud 9 throughout the month of October.

“The general art is just my own personal expression. Everyone has a dark side and most of my art shows this dark side,” said Matthews, 32, of Paso Robles.

Matthews began painting in the late ’80s when he was in junior high school and eventually went out with his cousins to learn the art of graffiti. Throughout the ’90s Matthews painted on the boardwalk in Venice Beach and would sell his artwork throughout the day.

“I rode the bus for two hours every day and would leave to go and to come home when it was dark, but I loved it,” Matthews said.

Since then Matthews has been painting, selling and collecting his pieces for display at various art shows.

His style has some common elements with street graffiti in that the pieces have overlapping images and all seem to blend into each other. Many of the pieces look like they are bleeding paint or are washed out in places, but each has a distinct, though interpretive theme.

“It’s a bunch of things piled on top of each other like graffiti on a wall. I’m trying to capture that look where you can’t really read it, but it gets the point across,” Matthews said.

Some of his art currently on display is representative of Japanese ghost stories that he read out of a book from the 1800s.

“I was taken by it because of all the beauty of the culture and the stories,” Matthews said.

Pieces from Matthews’ collection are priced between $25 and $300. Most pieces, however, range between $100 and $150. These prices include prints of works and even originals.

Matthews names all of his work to represent the theme. Some of his works include “Radio Head,” “Microphone Man” and “Art is not a Crime.”

Co-owner of Cloud 9 Adam Meinke said, “We’ve known him for a while and we have a place for him to display his work. Its got a real dark connection, which is a good theme for the Halloween season.”

Matthews’ work can be viewed when the hookah lounge is open. The lounge opens Tuesday through Sunday at 3 p.m. and closes at midnight Tuesday and Wednesday, and at 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and 8 p.m. on Sunday. Cloud 9 is located in the shopping center on the corner of California Boulevard and Taft Street.

“It’s meant to reach out to other people so they can make their own connections. I paint to get the reactions from other people,” Matthews said.

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