I can’t think of a better word to describe multimedia artist Matt Sheridan’s work than “exuberant.” His paintings and projects are smart yet joyfully unserious, and his vivaciousness comes through in each gestural swoosh or paint or digital movement. Thrilled to chat with him about the relationship between painting and video projections, the benefits of ‘traveling punk,’ as well as current and upcoming projects!
Hey Matt! Where are you from, and where are you based now? When were you first introduced to painting or art-making as something you were interested in pursuing?
I’m a New Yorker who’s lived in Los Angeles on and off for the past decade. I’ve been painting since I was 2 and wanted to be some kind of artist from the age of 8 forward.
Got interested in film when my mom took filmmaking courses at Syracuse University when I was 12. Jean-Michel Basquiat and Prince remain massive inspirations to me.
You paint as well as create video, which you describe as “painting in motion.” How do these two types of media relate in your practice?
I’ve always experienced painting as an entry point into imaginary space. With video I can physicalize that imaginary space using projections, so anybody can step into a space of painting moving all around you — it’s not just for Beyoncé anymore! Abstract action painting is my particular point of departure, so the idea is to extend bodily instinct from objects of painting — where the body is in control — into experiences of painting, where the painting-in-motion is in control. For me, that changes the optics of making a painting, and the resulting problematic challenges and questions help me generate new work.
Do you have a favorite medium, or find that it centers around either painting or video — or are you more interested in combining media and techniques?
My favorite medium is collage. All my paintings and videos come from collages I make using painted marks, folded paper, hand painted textures, etc. When making the marks I write down a set of commands about how I want the marks to look and behave, then I sequentialize as I collect them. From those scanned libraries of marks, I like the immediacy of making digital collages, in that I can play, orchestrate, stretch, squash, etc. The lack of material consequence is economical, very much like musicians making 4-track demos before spending lots of money to record with a full band and lush production in the studio back in the day. Exaggerations of touch and tactility are crucial to the success of my painting and video work, as my digital collages are flat, lossy and compressed.
What is your process like? How much do you plan ahead before starting a new piece?
My process starts with a kind of “sampling” as I describe above, then the next move is to rematerialize my digital collages of handmade marks into larger-scale paintings and / or paintings-in-motion. My plans are the collages, which I grid out to match architecture or supports, and from which I’ll generate sets of paintings AND animations of movements I see in the collages using different color systems. I react as much against the flat collages’ lack of tactility as I work to incorporate their edges and compositional elements into the paintings and videos. In paintings I strive to extend tactility to make a viewer want to touch them with eyes and fingers; in the videos I try to pack as much materiality as possible into every pixel. My process is a kind of constructivist expressionism where discoveries happen at the collage stage and just when the paintings/videos are finished. When I do it right, my final work surprises me even though I worked from a sketch. The meaning and titles of my work always come from its motion, what it does.
What is your studio space or workspace like?
This is my studio!
If you could offer a piece of advice to a young student just beginning a BFA, for example, is there anything you’ve learned so far that you would share?
Travel to experience as much art LIVE as often as possible, really look at what things are and how things are made, then read about who made them, why and how they did it. Instagram, books, magazines are no substitute for standing under the Sistine Chapel Ceiling with your phone in your pocket. Likewise, there’s nothing like seeing the greatest hits of Western sculpture all in one room in the form of plaster casts at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow; that’ll make anybody’s head spin. Contemporary Art Daily is no substitute for a Chelsea, LES, or Bushwick Saturday afternoon gallery death march. Travel is easier and cheaper if you keep it punk, regardless of age; and when done right, with openness, it brings sophistication to one’s work, not just on the surface of things, but in its structure. Most importantly: build friendships while doing all of the above!
Is there any advice you’ve received that you’ve been glad you decided not to follow?
Yeah! When I was nearly finished with my MFA program I was told not to buy my own video projection equipment because venues would provide it for me. I graduated at the start of the Great Recession and that “advice” set off alarm bells for me. In retrospect, without my gear I’d have no career, so I’m glad I listened to the little voice in my head screaming back in opposition to that TERRIBLE piece of advice.
What do you consider “success” to be as an artist?
Agency as a free radical in the world, in no particular order: economic self-sufficiency so one can keep making and growing, getting one’s work seen publicly on the regular, having one’s work acquired into good homes with killer collections, and never running out of questions. I’m grateful to my gallery, TW Fine Art in Brisbane, for collaborating with me regarding this ongoing tightrope gangster stroll.
What do you consider to be the most challenging thing about working as an artist or pursuing art? Alternatively, is there an obstacle that you’ve overcome that you learned from along the way?
Most challenging thing about working as an artist is people’s attitude about it, whether it be judgments about money, lifestyle, or the work itself. Many people tend to categorize in an attempt to show mastery rather than confront a sometimes desperate fear of looking stupid when asking questions. This obstructs the kind of conversations I like to have in life, because I’m a learning junkie. Where this used to make me angry, I‘ve learned to enjoy and grow from this conversationally (and quietly), but I’m still working on it.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects you’re currently working on?
Right now I have paintings in a group show in Miami at Laundromat Art Space — curated by artist Alex Nunez, who also hosts a killer weekly podcast called Sunday Painter. That show is up the entire month of February. The evening of Saturday, February 18th I’ll be in Miami for a live-mixed video performance of my paintings-in-motion.
I have my next two bodies of painting work conceptualized, but right now I’m focusing on a medium- to large-scale multi-channel painting-in-motion projection which involves gravity and synesthesia in its action and presentation. When animated right, it’ll sound like sex and feel like an earthquake with no audio necessary.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for including my work on your badass site to be part of the conversation, much appreciated.
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