With each exhibition, we will post interviews with the participating artists along with a photo of said artists in their studios and images of their work. In the future, we will post videos of artist interviews.
“Observing Observing (a white cup)” continues through October 31, 2015
Curated by Eric Elliott, Michael Howard & Norman Lundin. More than twenty artists (both gallery artists and not) accepted the invitation to submit work.
Conversation with curators Michael Howard, Norman Lundin & several of the artists: October 15, 7pm.
Artist Interview #32 Matt Klos
1. How did you respond to the idea of the white cup?
I was thrilled to be asked to participate in “The White Cup” exhibition since the idea of whiteness has interested me for many years. Thirteen years ago I titled my thesis project at the University of Maryland “White Paintings” which dealt with a theme of whiteness that has fascinated me ever since.
White can be understood as blank, untarnished, or void. Whiteness as described in David Batchelor’s Chromophobia (Reaktion Books, 2000) has been understood in Western culture and intellectual thought as being without corruption or contamination. Notions of white in this line of thinking hold to a cerebral and technological baseline.
As someone who spends his time looking at visual phenomena and trying to make sense of it in paint I prefer a messier, and decidedly less aloof, notion of white. As an artist I am interested in white’s receptive qualities. Rather than white being impregnable I think of white as a conduit that is deeply sympathetic to its environment. White is the universal reflector and on its surface all color collides. These colors alternately exchange rank and file. One hue emanates strongest at one moment and another at the next. Rather than white being understood as a non-color I see it as an every-color holding congruency with the scientific properties of light.
Colors as seen on the white surface are reflected almost directly akin to a face reflecting in a mirror. When multiple colors are reflected on the white surface, which is often the case, they take on complex intermingled notes. When painting white we ultimately are painting what the white surface is not, or rather, what the white surface is reflecting. The difficulty in painting white is finding equilibrium between the emergence of color on the white surface and the surface as a whole. If reflected color is underplayed for sake of a surface the iridescence of appearance is lost. If the color notes are overplayed the surface ceases to hold together. As it goes with acting, for an optimal effect the artist must play everything on the line.
As I was working on “Perched” and “Diagonal” for this exhibition I tried to maintain a stance of receptivity to color nuances on the white object. During a painting session color nuances ebb and flow from fluctuations in the light source and based on the artists visual path across the object’s surface. In this way the artist becomes attuned to the environmental situation of the white object itself echoing its own environmental awareness.
2. Are you a full time artist, if not how do you support your art?
Yes, I’m a full time artist in the sense that my life really informs my work. But of course, I work to make a living. I teach full time in the Visual Arts at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, MD. I also manage a few properties which couples the enjoyment I find in working with my hands and working with people.
3. When did you consider yourself an artist?
I’ve always considered myself an artist or at least someone who was artistic. It wasn’t really a self-knowledge born of the idea that I was making things that were interesting or well done but rather something that other people would say about what I did. So, after a while you sort of pick that up and it becomes your own.
4. What are your influences?
I put together a show, “A Lineage of American Perceptual Painters” which went on view in the Mitchell Gallery at St. John’s College, Annapolis, MD about a years ago. The exhibition includes a number of my favorite painters and greatest contemporary (or near contemporary) influences.
My work is also really influenced by life in general. I’ll read a book or see a show and it will kind of overwhelm me, like a really catchy song that you want to hear over and over again, and eventually fizzles but is not gone completely. So during the immediate aftermath of exposure I am somewhat possessed by a particular idea and it seeps into everything I do and say. It’s terrible really that I’m so fickle. Right now I’m super obsessed about the Picasso sculpture exhibition at MOMA. The way he married line and form is mind numbing. I mean, I didn’t even think I liked Picasso that much. Nothing was accidental or overlooked and every material he came upon become and artistic statement. I laugh maniacally every time I think about it (which is constantly)!!!
My wife and I love to travel and that always seeps into my work… in the last few years we’ve been with the kids to Barcelona, Athens, Istanbul, Prague, Seattle, and San Diego.
5. How big is your studio, what kind of lighting?
My studio is fairly large. It is the full footprint of my home and in my basement. I guess it’s about 900 sq. feet but it’s fragmented into a “clean room” where I have a cluttered desk and have racks of paintings and a somewhat open space where I have a table saw, drill press, and work tables. Among the “dirty” space I find inspiration for my interior paintings. I work in diffused light during the day which comes in through basement windows and under various artificial lights at night. Paintings occur to me over a long period of time. I’m a quintessential Cezanne painter in the way that good ideas occur to me only after I’ve muddled with ideas that aren’t that good for quite a while. Ideas that come to me which are purely formed bore me or make me extremely wary. I tend to toss them aside.
6. What is a typical day in the studio like for you? Do you listen to music, radio or tv in your studio?
Typically I get down to the studio late at night during the week. It’s 11:27pm now and as soon as I finish this I’m heading down. By 2am or so I’ll need to wrap it up or will pour a glass of Glenfiddich and go back to it for a couple hours (a decision I’ll regret when my alarm goes off at 6am). Tonight will be a later night than usual. On a good night I’m down there by 9pm. On Fridays and weekends I take a large section of the morning and afternoon to paint and am working on a large painting of my bottles in natural light at the moment from Noon-5pm when the light is right. I also head outside to paint the landscape when I’m fatigued of my interiors or if it’s a particularly beautiful day. Some people golf. I’m a big Spotify listener and I tend to listen to guys with guitars… Ryan Adams, Joshua Ritter, etc. I also love drone or trance music… really I don’t even know the name of the genre… but in the Crystal Castles realm. A close friend, Jeremy Jarvis, makes some of his playlists public and I always glean good music from those lists. Oh, and WTMD, a local Towson University radio station.
7. What is your preferred medium? Do you work on one project at a time or several?
I work primarily in oil but will use acrylic, watercolor, gouache, and all manner of drawing media to keep things exciting. More and more lately, as my family and other responsibilities mount, I’ve been working primarily in oil since some of my studio epics move at a glacial pace and I really want to complete several for upcoming exhibitions. I work on many, many projects at once. When I begin a project or am nearing the end I tend to get tunnel vision and hone in on just that. The middle of a painting, the doldrums, are what I dread!
8. Do you have any special or unique tools, devices or process that you use in your art making?
No. Not really. One technique that is quite common and something I use often is scraping down areas of a painting after a session. The palette knife is used to do this and essentially the paint is lifted off the surface but much of the impression of the mark remains. This is done to resuscitate areas of the painting that have calcified or are overwrought and also helps the subsequent layers of paint to adhere in a manner consistent with “fat over lean.” Although this is a common practice in painting it tends to baffle my new painting students each semester.
9. What do you do outside the studio, aside from a job?
I come from a big family and am close to them. My maternal grandmother has 27 grandkids and a steadily growing number of great-grandkids. I spend time making calls, writing letters, and taking trips and would like to do more of all three! My wife and I had our fourth child, Stella, about two months ago. Lately, in the evening after the other kids are in bed asleep, we just sort of hang out with her and try to communicate. She’s generally really quiet and content but is becoming aware and communicates with us. It’s a trip to see her smile and respond to the crazy antics we put on! I’m assistant coach for my oldest son’s soccer team and am on the PTA which is odd, apparently, since I’m a man. I’ve never felt so out of place! But I hope to be a help.
This summer had a workout with the chair of my department, Chris Mona, who is the most buff artist I know. It was fun (and really painful) and I’ve been weight lifting since then. I’m focusing on leg workouts. I tend to be fanatical about exercise and this type of exercise is my latest fascination.
Lastly, I really love to read. My best days always begin with me reading nonfiction and end with me reading fiction!