Image Above: Matt Talbert, Going to Pieces without Falling Apart, oil on aluminum, 25" x 30"
PoetsArtists will feature interviews of a few artists included in Issue #81, as well as in the upcoming exhibition at Abend Gallery in Denver, CO titled SIGHT UNSEEN. Here, curator Alia El-Bermani speaks with artist Matt Talbert.
AE: Could you please introduce yourself? Where do you currently live? Where did you grow up? Did you attend an art school or are you self taught? How did you find yourself an artist?
MT: I’ll get the basics out of the way first, my name is Matt Talbert, I’m a contemporary figurative oil painter living in Tustin, California with my wife Ashley, three year old son Luke, and a grumpy old cat named Jamie.
Growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles I was exposed to an immense amount of art and art education that I couldn’t be more grateful for. I attended the Orange County High School of the Arts, took Saturday figure drawing at Art Center in Pasadena and summer classes at the Laguna College of Art and Design, before earning a BFA from LCAD. A whirlwind of art education from the ages of twelve to twenty-two left me highly trained, but it would take years for me to truly come into my own creatively. One of the pivotal moments came when I moved to New York City a few months after graduating college.
“The Only Living Boy in New York” was my self-proclaimed theme song while living in Manhattan. I was a California kid in love with the gritty, beautiful metropolis and every day I was filled with intense inspiration. It was the best thing I could have done for my art and it had zero to do with technical skills or training. It taught me how to be independent, confident, and understand how to express the feelings of true inspiration. When I wasn’t working at Pearl Paint on Canal Street, I would paint cityscapes of people going about their daily lives.
AE: Do you have any kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals that help your production?
MT: I’m in a constant quest for finding the best routine to fit my busy schedule. Having a three year old son means that a lot of the time I have a “paint when you can” attitude. If you were to pop into my studio you almost certainly would hear either a podcast or music playing. When I’m doing busy work like laying in the drawing of a painting, a podcast suits me just fine. If I’m getting into the heavy paint flinging and texture building I need music because in this mode I want to basically shut down my thinking brain. To deal with the stresses of life and art I have taken up the practice of meditating. I find that mediating energizes my creative mind and allows me to be more open to new ideas. I also deal with some anxiety that seems to be kept at bay the more I meditate.
AE: Can you describe your work(s) included in Sight Unseen? How did the ideas for these works come about? How do you see them tying into the theme of Sight Unseen?
MT: My painting “Going to Pieces without Falling Apart” is something of a breakthrough for me. I have been working all year on a new series that explores the principals of trusting my intuition, embracing spontaneity and doing so with confidence. This piece highlighted each of those goals to its fullest and is a testament to the idea of not overworking a painting. I have heard it called the technical narrative of a painting when the process is as much a part of the story as the subject being painted.
Beyond the act of painting, I have been consumed with the idea of boundaries. Both science and spiritual teachings seem to be pointing in the direction that what we experience as separateness is actually an illusion. Being everything and nothing at the same time can be both an exciting and difficult idea to grasp.
In “Going to Pieces” you see a woman who is one with the universe, going in and out of existence. The underpainting peeking through makes her somewhat hollow, while the heavy impasto leaps around her with a violent energy. The thick paint above her head and expression on her face suggest the burden of her awakening. I see this piece as an expression of the ego death that must take place in order to realize the insignificance of the self and the power of the whole.
AE: As artists, we often go through a sort of series of mini-epiphanies while we work. What has been a most touching or profound moment you've experienced as an artist either in the studio or in dealing with the public?
MT: That is a timely question for me because this year has been filled with these mini-epiphanies. Doing mostly commissions for a few years left me feeling a bit stuck, both in terms of my career and creativity. I decided 2016 was a make or break year for me and something clicked when I truly began to let go. No more rules, anything goes, paint your heart out and don’t look back. For example I started using anything at all to apply paint. This may seem obvious to some, but I spent literally 20 years painting with brushes and a palette knife. It finally dawned on me that I can use tools from the hardware store to create interesting textures or the back of a pencil to paint polka dots.
AE: Is there anything else you would like to share?
MT: You’ve heard it many times before, “don’t be precious with your painting,” but I’m going to take it a step further. Be cruel to your painting, abuse your painting, make it so unprecious that it is no longer a painting, but a series of emotional marks. In every successful painting I have done this year there is an act of destruction that must take place before it can be built back up into something much greater. Scrape it out, throw around large piles of paint, let it dry and sand it down. I’ll admit that this is not something I could have done years ago, but if you are confident in your ability, deconstruction will be a liberating way to expand your painting horizons.
To view more of Matt Talbert's work visit: http://www.talbertart.com/