If you know me at all, you know that I have a strong affinity for arts of all kinds. Hell, I even tried my hand at a year of art school (clearly it didn’t work out for me). Thankfully though, I’ve had the joy of getting to know Austin-local Matt Black, and acquire a piece of his. It’s about time y’all got to know him too.
Working in numerous forms, Black is becoming well known for his ‘pixelated’ acrylic on canvas pieces. With repetitive brushstrokes in grids that carry enormous depth of color, he creates paintings that seem to encapsulate the organic within a rigid, inorganic construct. Inspired by other artists and the environment around him, his pieces and color pallete call to mind works like Nymphéas by Monet and Starry Night by van Gogh, but in reinvisioned ways. Want a real treat? Take a look at a custom work done for a friend that is based off the waveform of her speaking (further down).
I had a chance to catch up with Black and ask him some questions about his work, life, and how you can capture some of his work for your own.
CC – ClevrCat
MB – Matt Black
CC: Where did you grow up? Did this have any impact on your art? (If not Austin, how long have you been here?)
MB: I grew up in Amarillo, TX; Home of the 72oz steak and all those Cadillacs sticking out of the ground. I lived there for 23 years before escaping in dramatic fashion to the wilds of the Big City (Dallas). Spent 5 raucous years there going to school and getting into as much trouble as I could. This is also where I first encountered a real, live art scene.
Growing up I was very much a loner; homeschooled until 9th grade, preferring books and computers to peers I never felt a connection with. Once I could drive I spent my nights sneaking out to punk shows in derelict buildings which were inevitably raided by the cops, shut down, and moved to another venue a month later. I was drawn to the bombastic, violent energy surrounding that scene and everything it stood for. I felt very much alone in that city and I loved them because no one wanted *them*, either. Looking back I can see where that ‘fuck you, we’ll do what we want with whatever we have’ attitude helped shape my life and art. It made me a fighter and it taught me about comradery. It also taught me that often the most beautiful things are hiding in the cracks of what you think you know.
I’ve been in Austin for a little over two years now, with a stint in Los Angeles squeezed in the middle of that.
CC: How did you get into art? Is it something you’ve always done, or did you have an epiphany of sorts?
MB: I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember and have always loved creating little worlds. Making and consuming art was, and is, very much an escape for me; a way of coping with existence. I did it because it felt simultaneously more magical and more real than the world around me.
The painting came much later, in college, while binging on Chuck Close and Rothko. I did the first of the ‘square paintings’ in 2008, but it would be several more years before I came back to them in any serious way.
CC: Do you have a favorite medium? Does that change? (Ex: seasonally? emotionally?)
MB: I go back and forth between photography and painting. I love them both for very different reasons, and they each satisfy a different part of me. Photography (if we want to play with metaphors; I love a good metaphor) is like inhaling. Drinking in the world. Painting is an exhale.* Putting something out that did not exist before. It’s a very cyclical process, and each influences the other.
*Emphasis by CC.
CC: Do you ever teach classes?
MB: I’ve done some photography tutoring, but I would be the worst painting teacher. I took a watercolor class when I was…12? That’s the extent of my formal training. I have no idea what “proper” technique is, or how to use different brushes or paints. I know how to make what I make, because it’s what I make.
Lesson learned: fucking around pays off. ..So maybe I’d be the best painting teacher.
CC: Favorite piece? Favorite commission?
MB: Oh god, that’s like asking me to pick a favorite child. I did do one all black painting using various shades of black, mixing acrylic and watercolor, that keeps catching my eye (it hangs in my room currently). I’d love to do more of those. [CC: See above.]
Favorite commission was the triptych I did for Meredith, using a visualized digital waveform of her voice and recreating that pattern on canvas as three distinct words which became the title of the piece: “Our Squirrel Course” (below).
CC: How many times have you taken part in EAST?
MB: This is the first year I took part in EAST and it’s been an absolutely phenomenal ride.
CC: Ideal saturday?
MB: Late spring, open windows, warm breeze, reading in bed until 2pm, motorcycle ride through some canyons, stopping for gas in the middle of nowhere, looking up at the sky like it’s the first time you’ve opened your eyes, 2-minute conversations with passing strangers, 30-minute conversations with passing strangers, flirting with people you’ll never see again just to remind yourself that life is a dance and dancing is fun and fun is *important* and probably the night manager at a motel 6 in BFE New Mexico would appreciate a dance just as much as you would so you start waltzing through the lobby while the biggest storm you’ve ever seen rages outside, grateful for this chance encounter with beauty and life and everything grand about being human in such a crazy world.
If you made it through all that and haven’t fallen in love yet, then I’m sorry. You’re a lost cause.
Black is available for commissions and other projects, with price depending on canvas or print size. Reach him through his website, and start a dialogue!