Matthew: Primarily I work with oil, actually the mixed media part is how I affect the texture , I use paper , I use tape , I use a lot of different things to score the surface . Essentially it is oil on surface; I also use industrial oil.
Mimi: Which is from where?
Matthew: It is an industrial paint that you can buy, it is a commercial product. I use the top portion, the unmixed portion to finish my work off with and it is coloring but it really has a varnish effect.
Mimi: The paintings are very glossy
Mimi: How long do they take to dry?
Matthew:: You know they set , it takes anywhere from about a week to two or three weeks to settle or dry off , in a couple of days they are tacky , in fact I can look at them and see . Once I put my coating on it is the finished part of the piece, so right when the painting looks finished I do the other process that finishes the work.
Mimi: Your drawings have kind of a jittery quality that sets you off balance, a little bit edgy, so how did you arrive at this style?
Matthew: You know, I have been drawing since I was a child. That is a good question. I have always been moved , kind of free association , I just draw , I have drawn since I was a kid so I continued to develop this style . I bring in these ideas of the world into my drawings, like houses that are tilted and flooding. I am enamored by situations that are going on in the world. Very much stream of consciousness. I start drawing and it kind of takes me along, I never know where the drawing is going.
Mimi: How long does it take for you to do a drawing?
Matthew: The smaller daily drawings , I nurture those , they probably take around an hour to two hours ,sometimes I will go back and add some things , I think a good half hour to an hour .
Mimi: So you don’t know where they are going, they start at one place and end up in another
Matthew: Exactly , which is really exciting it is like going into a place that I don’t know where I am really excited and I am finding what I am going to find . Sometimes I will use people as vehicles in these drawings with animals or people, I will put costumes or close them in a house, and I am interested in architectural structures and buildings.
Mimi: Did you go to school for architecture?
Matthew: No, I didn’t but I did go to school at the museum art school which is now the Pacific Northwest College of Arts.
Mimi: You're from Portland?
Matthew: Portland, Oregon. The museum art school was connected to the Portland art museum for eighty five years and then it broke off and became the Pacific Northwest College of Arts , when I went there it was still connected to the museum so that was a nice resource . I went there briefly not very long, I had been painting since I was twelve in oils. My parents bought me oil set when I was twelve, so I have been drawing since I was a kid.
Mimi: You also seem to have a mathematical proclivity
Matthew: You know, it’s interesting, I’m terrible at math! In an abstract free association way I like to find my way out of shapes and organic things, I like to thread these things through structures, I like to build things. Numbers throw me off almost like dyslexia.
Mimi: Well you really have a very clear sense of proportion and structure
Matthew: Interesting , it kind of feeds off my interest , I kind of want to take a building or person and take it somewhere else , literally and metaphorically , so I say “what if this tree was processed through this building ?” I involve different elements into things, so that is fascinating to me.
Mimi: Have you always had this style?
Matthew: Yes it is kind of neutered , it has always been this loopy strange networking of things and as I have gone through the years , I have contained it into this narrative , it was always representational work not for any particular reason . Some of my buildings can go very abstract but I always try to put a foundation to what I am doing, I have always drawn these imaginary people and for lack of a better word kind of a free association to use that term again and it is very stream of consciousness, so I kind of find things as I go. I write too , I write a lot of poems that I contribute to my work , all kind of works together , I come up with words for myself , my myself and I , new things so to speak .
Mimi: Who have you been influenced by?
Matthew: That is a good question, you know I like a lot of different artists. I like some real formal work , I like a lot of the fifteenth century , Botticelli , I like the German Gerhard Richter , I like the fact that he goes from abstract to representational , I kind of admire that I like a lot of , oh gosh just a whole range of work . I like Robert Motherwell who is an abstract artist of course, I like representational and I like abstract.
Mimi: You look at a lot of work don’t you?
Matthew: Yes, I really do, I really do. I am really interested in the way people approach different things. I like some of the Chicago artists , the one that builds the furniture , different artists in Chicago that were interesting , just a whole range of artists that I like, some very formal but there are so many artists that I like.
Mimi: It runs the gamut. Your paintings tell stories, are some of these from real life observed?
Matthew: Absolutely. I am really impacted by the world around me and this new show that I have in Seattle in May is called “Connectivity “ the idea is that we are all connected, we are all connected together and what we do affects the next thing that happens in the world . I am kind of loosely using this as a starting point kind of based on my other idea of encroachment that we are all interconnected and we all end up facing the same outcome. A lot of my work have animals in the work , animals are showing up where they used to not show up ,almost like I am documenting in my mind about what is going on in the world so there is an interconnection between nature and what we are doing in the world I don’t want to say that they are environmental paintings but there is a real connection to what is going on in the world for me and in my work. I use the work to communicate these ideas , it is a way for me to communicate what I feel ,to me the paintings are a visual form of writing , it adds a different element to words that words can do a visual thing like writing ,so it adds a certain element it lets me go further .
Mimi: Do you become consumed with one painting or do you work on several at a time?
Matthew: You know, I work on several at a time in fact I get power from other pieces, other paintings inform other paintings. I will initiate a body of work , this new body of work is called “Connectivity “and I will start the first painting and then I will start another painting because , I get another idea , an idea about this field kind of like an inner city thing , so I will start this field painting and it will intertwine with the other painting , I will work kind of like an orchestra a musical or like an orchestra piece or a symphony where all the pieces come together and they network together, it is really putting all these ideas together and they associate to each other.
Mimi: So you are composing?
Matthew: Exactly , I think it is very similar to that , I mean , I can’t tell my story with one painting , a body of work for me tells a story , it takes you on a journey , one painting is like a piece of the alphabet .
Mimi: Do you know what you are going to do before you start?
Matthew: You know, I have an idea, unlike the drawings that have more of a free association the drawings kind of inform the work too. I will start a painting and kind of have an idea and then , it is interesting it kind of has the reverse of the drawings , where I don’t know where exactly the drawings are going and with the paintings I know where the painting is going and then I lose it. It kind of takes me somewhere else in the painting.
Mimi: So they don’t end up how you envision them at the beginning bf the process?
Matthew: Exactly. I have an idea of what I want to accomplish in the painting, I definitely have this idea and so I start the work out, nothing is carved in stone so I have a lot of flexibility and the concept is very elastic, it can change like the climate and some things will come into the work and other things will not but I definitely, I will have three to four paintings going at once.
Mimi: you really have to because they are oils, you can only do so much at a time.
Matthew: That is true and I work through the pieces and some pieces will have dried and I go back and I use sandpaper.
Mimi:Can you work on them after they have been varnished?
Matthew: I have been, I am starting to do that more, where I can go in and I can sand and re-approach the surface.
Mimi: Oh, so you sand it down and re-work it?
Matthew: not completely I just score it, give it texture and I can go in, and I used to not do that. Now I started to go in and re work paintings that did have that surface, in some cases if I want to go back in and rework and re approach that piece.
Mimi: That is interesting, sometimes that can be very scary.
Matthew: It is! Exactly
Mimi: Because if you've got something you like, it is a bit frightening to go back and start altering.
Matthew: Exactly, I used to think closure was closure and then it was done but now I realized you could actually re approach a piece. I would say most of the time the piece is done , unless it has run its course ,been seen , it’s done what it is supposed to do , it gets put away and I still don’t want to let it go , I can bring it back . What I have been doing lately is cutting the painting off of the stretcher bar and gluing it to a wood surface and then re approaching it that way and so the paintings are actually on a surface, I attach the canvas to a backer board, which I really like, they have kind of a raw quality when they hang that way.
Mimi: Being an artist is a very solitary thing, do you enjoy that? Do you listen to music or do you like it quiet?
Matthew:: I do enjoy it . It’s my priority . I miss out on things .. I am not much of a social butterfly. I have too much work to do and I am an early bird and I get up early
Mimi: How early?
Matthew: I get up about six o'clock every day or five o'clock
Mimi: Even on the weekend?
Matthew: Yes, oh gosh! I draw , I do my coffee thing , it is kind of my ritual , I am very ritual oriented , especially when I get these ideas going , it is all about getting this concept going . What else did you ask?
Mimi: I asked if you listen to music or do you work in silence?
Matthew: Yes, I will listen to some music, I also listen to the news, I will listen to the BBC, I listen to what is going on, I listen to interviews on the radio, sometimes I won’t but I will go out and do something in the day and come back and continue painting and I will take off and do some other task and then come back and paint.
Mimi: Around how many hours of the day do you think you work?
Matthew: Probably half the day easily, I will work at night, my working process is really layered and weaved into my day so I might run an errand after I have been painting and then come back and I will continue my painting so it is really networked into my day, a version of it is time for lunch, it is time for painting
Mimi: Do you work on the weekends as well?
Mimi: So seven days a week?
Matthew: Yes, it is a daily ritual and I am always taking notes and writing things down.
Mimi: Many of your drawings and paintings seem like they are on the verge of disaster, did something happen to you that set you on this course?
Matthew: You know not so much me except what I see in the world around me and what is going on in the world that we have no control of. The painting allows me a chance to communicate this lack of control, it is the one thing that art allows us to do is to gain control of our environment, it is my way of controlling the outcome, whether it is the problem with animals that are on the edge of extinction in Africa or issues here with wildlife or the world, the environment, the weather. The weather is really fascinating to me too. Too me it is fascinating what is going on , I see it more as a fascinating thing , it is not good but it is a problem , more like a good problem , it is my way to get a handle and bring these things to discussion . I want people to say why are these houses flooded, why is there water pouring out of this building? This comes back to this thing that we are all connected to our environment and we are all set up with the outcome.
Mimi: Do you know when a drawing or painting will affect the viewer’s emotion? Or do you know in what way they will affect their emotions?
Matthew: No always , it’s funny , once you have something done it is still in its infancy but when you open it up and people see it , it has become fully bloomed and then part of the information comes from people that are seeing the work because they bring information , the work forms how people see things and often people will see things in the work that I didn’t necessarily mean , like people will see a bear or another animal in a painting and it can just be like a painting of a bear but to me it was about a bear that was on a dam . There was a bear that was on Bonneville Dam that they had to shoot and it was the only bear in all the years on the Columbia river that a bear got on top of a dam, they had to shoot this bear off for protection but when you see the painting it is just a bear, but to me it was a homage to this bear. People see different things in the work and that is kind of interesting. I am always happy to talk about the piece but I also want people to bring themselves to it.
Matthew: Exactly, it definitely is a set meaning but it also has this kind of ambiguous quality too.
Mimi: Tell me about the faces in your paintings, in some ways they have emotion but in some ways they have this stoic quality about them and I know something is brewing .Are these faces you in some aspects?
Matthew: You know , I think they are , they're very much a version of myself , it is kind of a way I channel my information and I am interested in things like figures and dolls, I like the depiction of emotion on the faces and I think the faces kind of are the receptors of a body of work; they give the work an extra meaning, for me. I use the images to channel the communication through the painting, a composite of a lot of faces but in a lot of ways they are self-portraits. Each face is different, I don’t know exactly why but they all have a different meaning.
Mimi: They have a particular stillness about them.
Matthew: I am interested in the look too; I like the sense of mystery, what is going to happen next? There is a little bit of the unknown and I always want to know what the next thing is. I think that is kind of what my work is about, one particular painting is always geared toward the next piece, no matter what painting you see that I do, there is always the one that precedes the next painting.
Mimi: So, are you always a step ahead?
Matthew: I am always going to the next thing! Like this work is going to inform the next body of work and my last body of work which was really about encroachment , it really informed the new work about connectivity but each painting is really going toward the next piece for me .
Mimi: The work also seem like it is from another time, so what era do you relate to the most?
Matthew: Wow! That is really interesting. I am interested in memories, personal histories, I do kind of look back in order to look ahead, and I want to make sure that what happened before us is not wasted.
Mimi: They have a historical aspect to them.
Matthew: Absolutely and I am drawn towards the ethereal images of past, things like old toys and old artifacts
Mimi: Like what era?
Matthew: Probably the thirties or forties are really a big interest to me and I also like the seventeenth century, some of the old iconic images of the northern European work, it is a real hodgepodge of information that I draw from. I love photography, I like looking at photography, so there is a lot of different things that I am looking at.
Mimi: There is a mix, because they look old in a way but also they look very modern, I think they have a very good balance.
Matthew: I know I am really thinking about the past in one sense but I am also thinking about the future in what the ramifications are by what we do.
Mimi: Yes, that is clear in the work. Do you feel like it is important for people to view the work or is it enough just to do the work?
Matthew: I think it is important; the finish of the work is the showing of the work because that is when I can actually say this is done. I think it is important that work be seen, especially if you are trying to tell a story. I am trying to tell a story , trying to communicate my ideas and part of the pleasure of doing my work is to show the work and more and more I realize that it is important to me , I used to be kind of guarded . I wanted to show the work but I realized you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you are going to do the work you need to push the work forward and you need to inform as much as you need to learn. Part of the visual art for me is a template for information , I am interested in communicating and the ultimate , when the work is finished to me , when it reaches the different plateau , either a low plateau or a high plateau is when it is hung up in the gallery , that is when the information is at its full embodiment .
Mimi: Do people come up and talk to you about the work? Do they ask you questions?
Matthew: Yes people will ask me questions about it , it is interesting and some people won’t ,one time somebody said their husband or their wife didn’t talk about their work and a lot of people don’t talk about their work but I think eventually you will be asked to talk about your work . I think ultimately you are accountable for your actions, you have to be. A lot of people say , I don’t say what my work is about and I respect that and I think it is important , I also think that if you are asked and you are able to and it is a part of what you do , you should share that information , we learn from that information . I think giving information helps me move forward. I used to think holding back what I do was giving something away ,now I realized that when you talk about what you do it enables you to move forward and it informs what you do so sharing knowledge and what you find moves you forward .
I used to think , oh I can’t give away my secrets ,know I realize we should share what we do , it might help somebody else go in this direction , I know it helps me move forward .
Mimi: Also to understand the work.
Matthew: Exactly, absolutely. It is important that people bring themselves to the work and that goes without saying, my work isn’t decorative, it has a meaning, it can be seen sometimes as decorative but generally it is narrative work.
Mimi: So I would be a miss if I didn’t ask you about the food portion of this interview, it is called “Eye of The Feast” after all, so I traveled from Seattle to Portland I brought you a cake which was the easiest thing to transport in one piece and you requested a white cake with chocolate frosting, so, why did you request this cake?
Matthew: You know it is funny Mimi, when you said “what would you like as far as a cake?” I just about fell out of my chair , I thought , Wow , how sweet , no pun intended , my mom used to make me cakes , she used to say “what kind of cake do you want?” it had a double meaning which you had no idea of , it goes back a long way.
Mimi: So it is a comfort thing
Matthew: Yes! a comfort thing , absolutely , I thought it was very sweet , kind of almost like an offering , I am really excited to do this interview , when you asked me if I wanted to do this , I thought that would be great and I say what you have been doing . I am responding to people that are interested in what I am doing , I am certainly interested in what other people are doing , I want to make sure that I acknowledge that and I see the cake as an offering too , I am looking forward to that!
Mimi: I hope it is good! If you had a chance to make your own mysterious crop circle, what would be the theme or shape?
Matthew: I think if I were to make a crop circle
Mimi: which is mysterious in itself?
Matthew:: Exactly! I would probably do a figure , embracing going somewhere , I would do this giant figure in an imaginary outfit in movement , it would almost be like someone enroute, like walking ,going somewhere and they would be carrying a bag and they would be going forward and they would have these really high boots on
Mimi: There was no hesitation in that answer! Matthew, thank you so much, it was a complete pleasure interviewing you!
Matthew: Oh thank you, thank you so much Mimi, I appreciate what you are doing and I think it is great and you are helping inform people and thank you for asking all these really good questions.
Matthew: Thank you so much.
3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups melted butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla ( I prefer the flavor of Mexican vanilla )
4 large eggs
Heat oven to 350 degrees, coat two nine inch rounds with butter and wax paper
Mix cake flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda and set aside
Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
Beat in flour mixture, milk, eggs and vanilla (do not over mix at this point)
Spread batter into pans
Cool and frost
Chocolate Butter Cream
Whip butter until soft and fluffy
Add powdered sugar ,milk , vanilla ,cocoa powder and fresh lemon
I poked holes in the cake and poured in raw honey and fresh orange and lemon juice in the middle layer and the top
Spread frosting onto the center of the cake
Frost the top with chocolate frosting