We had a chance to get in touch with our winner from the most recent EVAs, Oberlin graduate Matthew Gallagher, and ask him a few questions about his experience in our competition and as an artist, check it out!
Be sure to also check out his Tumblr and Facebook page if you like his work.
AICUO: Your backstory into art is very interesting as well as your specific style. How did you come into the arts?
Matthew: First of all--thanks so much to AICUO for giving me this opportunity to talk about my work, It’s a privilege to have a chance to express myself in casual writing. I have a lot to say
I took my first painting class in 2011 which was completely new for me--I’d never painted in any capacity before then and only taken a handful of Visual Art classes before that in 2010. Before, I’d been a serious musician for about 15 years. Music has always been my #1 which made me feel a little strange when I started getting attention for the visual art stuff. In fact, I felt that I was undeserving of the nomination for AICUO 2013 because there were lots of people in my class who have been visual artists all their lives. Luckily my professors were really gentle and eloquent about making me realize that I should be a little more confident.
AICUO: And from there how did you determine your style?
Matthew: Well--music has always been a huge deal for me. After spending a couple months with the brush and paints I realized that painterly tradition wasn’t working out super well for me. I did a lot of thinking about the nature of painting and realized that paint represented potential energy to me. The brush in the case, being the catalyst to convert potential energy into kinetic energy so that the artists mind could move onto the canvas. I thought using the kineticism of an oscillating string or elastic would be a good replacement for the brush and I’ve been painting with sound-making objects such as nylon ropes, elastic bands and speakers ever since. Its of the utmost importance that I treat myself as a facilitator for reactions rather than some grand artist creator god-head thing.
AICUO: Did going to a smaller liberal independent school help you in finding yourself as an artist?
Matthew: Definitely. The cool thing about Oberlin is that you have a ton of creative freedom to think. Assignments are given in class, but theres always room to experiment and interpret things for yourself. The facilities at Oberlin are limited, but I actually think that that forces students to be more creative and resourceful with the materials they are given. We have a grand slam group of art professors here, but I’ve also learned as much from classmates as the faculty. Oberlin is blessed with a community of profound thinkers and passionate artists who support each other wholeheartedly. I’m so lucky to have made it my home.
AICUO: What did participating/winning the EVAs do for you as an artist?
Matthew: The EVAs were a next level boon to my career. I honestly didn’t have any idea of the impact receiving the award would mean to my career. The value of my paintings rose immediately by around 500% and I was met with a deluge of commissions and gallery propositions. I’m so lucky to have met Tim Friar from Grid Furnishings in Columbus. I was so hyped on the fact that he liked my work and was willing to host my solo show on the short north for three months. Huge shoutout to Tim. He’s any artists best ally. The EVAs also let people from my past in Boston into my new life as a visual artist in Ohio. I was a difficult kid in highschool so I think it was cool for my mom to show people who knew me then that I’m having success and having fun as a young adult.
AICUO: What advice do you have for students wanting to pursue the arts as a profession?
1. Make lots of work and develop a system for easy duplication of work. Its super important to not get attached to your work or its intended value. Its great to spend years on an oil and canvas masterpiece but chances are 99.9% of interested art buyers won’t be willing to spend the money to justify its worth. Because my process happens so quickly, I can charge clients on a sliding scale. A lot of students like my work, but most of them don’t have $500 to drop on a painting. The most important thing is that the work has a home and isn’t collecting dust in my portfolio, so if someone needs financial aid, I’m happy to work with them.
2. Use a wide variety of social media outlets to let people know what’s going on in your studio. I’m on tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, soundcloud etc. People genuinely want to know about artists accomplishments and goings on in the studio. Now its easier than ever to clue people into what’s going on in YOUR life. I have an awesome following on facebook. It feels great to have positive reinforcement and encouragement from friends as I work.
3. Get a DSLR Camera and learn how to use it. This relates to my second point, too. Having high quality and frequent documentation of artworks is paramount. This is especially important for gallery portfolio reviews and grad school apps etc. It was also a great thing for me to have a portfolio ready so that I could apply to the EVAs with low stress levels.
4. Please don’t move to New York City to “make it.” Its where artists go to die. I’m a strong believer in being a big fish in a small pond. Your local community/following is your greatest asset.
5. Don’t think too much. I’d always rather make a 1000 images from one idea than one image containing a thousand ideas. Too much thought and not enough action can paralyze the flow of art making and meaningful experimentation.
AICUO: What are your plans for the future?
Matthew: Well… Immediately after I graduated from Oberlin, I moved into a local studio called 3 Door Studios as their new artist in residence. We have a stellar crew working here and it gives me a good outlet to book house shows (another passion of mine). I’ve been in here a lot making as much art as I can. I just started working for a pair of local artists Audra Skuodas and her husband John Pearson as their photographer and studio assistant. John has actually been a huge influence on my work:
fig 3 (john pearson from the mondrian series)
Its a huge privilege to work for such talented and venerable pillars of the Cleveland art scene. I’ll probably try to stay with them for as long as they need me. Photography has been a big part of my new work and I’ve been experimenting with a new technique I call “Broken Time-lapse Panorama.” It involves taking panoramic shots of objects in motion instead of traditional panoramic subjects such as mountains and beaches and stuff. It always seems to yield something interesting.
fig 5 (broken time-lapse panorama)
I’ve also been taking lots of photos of my iPhone. It has this beautiful double resolution screen and with the help of some magnifying lenses and water droplets I’ve gotten some pretty good photos of what’s going on under the hood. Its beautiful.