Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Art Space Talk: Matthew Dennison

Matthew Dennison states that he joins ideas and information in order to explore meanings and associations. His Paintings map these ideas together in order to create another way of seeing the moment. Combining images makes new information…as if his images were words. Matthew's goal is to bring remote elements to the surface of each painting; highlighting sections in a larger text. He combines current histories and personal events together in order to create a new type of dialogue. You can view some of Matthew's art at the Melanee Cooper Gallery in Chicago.

Brian Sherwin: Matthew, you are known for the painterly elegance of your vibrant figurative paintings. In you work you explore the interplay between animals, people, and their environment. This cast of imaginary characters live in a surreal world where they are thrown into ordinary surroundings that are not always what they seem... yet there is a connection to our reality. Can you go into further detail about your work... what you are attempting to do... and where you feel your work is taking you?

Matthew Dennison: We are a product of our times. I am interested in translating what I see into a visual narrative. I am exploring and connecting what is happening in our world and filtering it through my personal experience I think we are interpreting what we see. I'm interested in creating another place where information gathers by attaching myself to world events. I am documenting the impact we have on the Earth, through War, Machine and Environment. I believe that painting is a form of writing and a way for me to navigate what I see and deal with issues around us...

BS: Matthew, can you recall any early memories in regards to wanting to become a painter? When did you decide that painting was going to be an important part of your life?

MD: As a Child I was drawn to my Mothers art books. I remember looking at John Singleton Copley's painting called "Watson and the Shark." It drew me in. I was about 4 or 5 years old . I was always drawing. I started painting in oil's when I was 12 years old. That is when I knew that painting was my mission.

BS: Matthew, you have stated the following about your work, "I tie current histories and personal events together and create a new type of dialogue.". Do you care to share any personal events that have had an impact on your painting? Or would you say that national events have more of an impact on your work? What are the social implications of your art?

MD: I believe we gather are perception of social issues in childhood. Those connections help shape who we are. I have always been impacted by what we do as a society. I never had someone to share thoughts with. As a way to share my ideas I would write, draw and paint. I think the last five years have changed my approach. Before my work was very secular. It had a covert and ambiguous quality about it. I am now responding more directly to the events of the world. The paintings are more literal. I have always felt this urgency to record what I see and feel.

BS: What about artistic influences... I'm assuming that you are influenced by several German painters. Have certain artists or art movements of the past influenced you?

MD: I can't say I'm influenced by any one artist. I am always looking. I have been interested in many types of art. 15th Century, Rothko, Twombly, I am interested in what people are saying. I have been guided by my past work. I use my past work to navigate forward.

BS: Many contemporary painters create flat painting... as in, no texture. Surfaces are often smooth and void of true expressive work. I must ask, why do you enjoy the physicality of paint? Why do you embrace texture and bold strokes of the brush?

MD: Surface and Texture are important to me. Texture and strokes breath life into painting, like wind and rain. I use industrial colored washed on my paintings and I choose where light and shape remain.

BS: Matthew, how do you plan your paintings... or do you just paint as you go, so to speak? Do you make sketches or do you work entirely from your mind?

MD: I plan my paintings by collecting information. I draw every day and write poems. Poems are word paintings. I am constantly taking in newspapers and information. I'm interested in what people see verses what they hear. Hearing is also a way of seeing. Our society is assaulted by information. It is my job to filter out this information and compose it visually. All these process's go onto creating my paintings.

BS: Matthew, you were recently featured in Southwest Art Magazine as an 'Artist to Watch'. You were listed as one of ten painters on the rise. Can you recall how you felt upon learning that you had been included in this list? Also, what other publications have you been in?

MD: I was honored to be included on that list. We are all measures on the barometer. We are all part of the puzzle. I have been reviewed in the Oregonian in December 2006. Also Art Access in Seattle in September 2005. I try to do the best I can and hope for the best.

BS: Matthew, you have been involved with several benefit exhibitions- specifically the Cascade AIDS project. Why have been so involved with benefit exhibitions? Do you feel that is vital for visual artists to use their talent in order to help others? Or do you see it more as a personal choice?

MD: Number one, it is a good cause. It can also be a way to reach people who would not otherwise go to a gallery. It is important as a artist that your work be seen. I believe it is a personal choice.

BS: Younger artists are always concerned with expanding their resume. Would you suggest that they submit art to benefit exhibitions in order to 'flesh out' their resume? Is that a good starting point for an artist with a 'boney' resume, so to speak?

MD: Benefit shows might be one way to create interest in your work. One must be careful. Determine also what your expect from your involvement? Gallery shows help create a dialog and can inform people. Ask your self, "what am I trying to do or what do I want to accomplish?"

BS: Do you have other advice or suggestions for artists who are just starting out?

MD: Keep creating and finding methods to reach the public. Be persistent. It is important to contribute and shape ideas. All who think a like don't think at all.

BS: Matthew, you are represented by Melanee Cooper Gallery in Chicago. Are you represented by other galleries at this time? Also, where else can our readers observe you art?

MD: I am also represented by Froelick Gallery in Portland, Oregon...and Friesen Gallery in Seattle...and Hiddle Brooks in Charlotte North Carolina. Also...

BS: Matthew, what projects are you working on at this time?

MD: I show in Seattle this December 2007...and I will be included in a show at Hiddle Brooks in June of 2008. I will have some film work on youtube soon, about my painting.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the artworld?

MD: Attach your self to the world and respond to that. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence and determination. Talent alone will not: Nothing is more common then unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not: Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not: The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are supreme.
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Matthew Dennison. You can learn more about Matthew and his art by visiting his website:
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

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