A book about death – Matthew Rose

We interviewed Matthew Rose recently and here is his latest contribution.

A Book About Death Omaha’s live stream for the opening on July 31, 2010.  Another chapter in this global exhibition:

Please follow this link for the live feed URL: http://abookaboutdeatharchive.blogspot.com/2010/07/abad-omaha-live-web-stream-97.html
Matthew Rose

Kathryn Ryan – Artist

Are you currently represented by a gallery?

Yes I am currently represented by Tim Olsen Gallery in Sydney, since 2006, and by Flinders Lane Gallery in Melbourne since 2000.


What are you currently working on?

I am about to have a solo exhibition at Tim Olsen Gallery, so I have just completed all the work for this show. In this exhibition I have worked on a new series of large oil paintings inspired by the Scottish Highlands, Glencoe region in the snow. It is the first time I have attempted to paint landscapes in snow and also the first time I have diverged from painting the Australian landscape. Painting snow landscapes was a bit daunting at first and required some trial & error and change in the painting techniques that I have been used to. So currently I am in the pre exhibition phase of having the paintings photographed/ organising the invitations/ mailing list/artist statement, advertising and publicity with the gallery.

Once the exhibition opens, I will be starting another body of work for my next solo show in Melbourne in 11 months time.


Did the place where you grew up have an influence?

Absolutely. I grew up on a dairy farm in Western Victoria, constantly surrounded by the landscape. Huge skies, vast space and distances, directly affected by the changing seasons and weather conditions. Farm life, repetition and ritual, isolation, the space and light of always being surrounded by nature has had an enduring effect on me as a person and how I approach my artwork and its subject matter.


What can you tell us about your planning and making process for making art, and has that altered over the years?

In more recent years, my approach to my studio practice has become fairly structured. I have always been methodical in my approach, however in earlier years, there was probably a lot more searching and investigation of processes and ideas and exploring concerns. Over time, my ideas and knowledge of my painting process has been refined and focused on more concise ways of working.

I am always looking, thinking and photographing. I tend to work in a yearly cycle for my solo exhibitions, which means I usually focus on work for one exhibition at a time. This body of work may contain 12 – 20 paintings, depending on size, and will take most of the year to complete. I like to spend time brewing the ideas for this work in the beginning, often sifting back through my library of relevant photos, to consolidate ideas.

I work out the feel/concerns/ objectives of the work first, then decide on the imagery for the paintings and work out sizes & scale of the work, usually to fit the particular gallery space. So a lot is worked out before hand, the overall feel of the exhibition…. then it is a matter of organising my time and  planning the workload for the year in time for the exhibition.


Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?

It is a very big task, but no longer daunting. I work on one solo exhibition each year, so I am usually planning my workload in a 12 month cycle. I usually spend time in the beginning working out how I see the paintings for the upcoming show. Once I have arrived at a ‘theme’ or visual idea/feel for the paintings I want to do, then I set about planning out the size and amount of paintings in relation to the gallery size. I then usually plan out my workload spread out over the year or time frame I have to complete the work, ie I may work on 5 paintings in a 3 month period. So really there is a lot of planning in the beginning, then it is just get on with the work!


Tell us about your connection to your subject matter, way of working, concepts etc

For some time now, I have been referencing the landscapes of Western Victoria. I decided it was crucial for me to go back to my source/ my personal background, of growing up on a dairy farm, to paint about something I knew so well. How it felt to be living on the land, surrounded by all that space and changing light and weather conditions. It was something I had an intimate personal knowledge of and connection to. Even though I am now living it the city, I feel my farm upbringing is instilled strongly in my memory source and with my family still on our farm, I have regular visits back there.

I am always photographing, carrying my camera everywhere, recording ideas and what I see, building a library of reference photos to draw upon. In the past I used to do more studies and exploring of ideas and processes on paper before I worked on large canvases. However, in recent years I tend to work only on my big canvases, straight to finished works for exhibition. This is mostly due to time constraints, I don’t seem to have the time to just ‘play’ or experiment in the studio, but I am also not sure I always want to anyway. I find when I work solely on big pieces for exhibitions, you are forced to resolve issues, technical and ideas, so that the painting works out, there is not a lot of room for error. This can be a pressure, but also a good pressure to bring out the best results.


Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?

Yes I have always kept an art journal since my first day at art school, so that is going back 26 years now! I have kept them all, and often refer  back to previous ones . Initially they were full of sketches and ideas and articles or pictures that had inspired me. Over the years they became more analytical, writing about the concerns in my work and investigating various themes. In recent years, they are more a practical diary of my studio days…listing what paintings I work on each day, their progress, sometimes which colours I mix, and planning my workload.


Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?

I do at times struggle with staying motivated. Often this is after working on a large body of work, and I am most likely very drained and tired. I am a big believer in taking breaks from the studio when possible. For many years, I worked without breaks, but now I try and schedule a break in after each exhibition to recharge before the next onslaught of yearly work on an exhibition. For the times that come up during the year when I feel less motivated, often it is a matter of needing a day off and do something different, or watch some art docos and browse through art books or art magazines, often to see how other artists work in their studios.

Tell us about your studio environment (too big, too small, enough storage or not, the light, the position, how you found it etc)?

I have had many studios over the years, from garages, spare rooms, stables, to open warehouses. My current studio is the best I have had. It is my own private space in an old building in the heart of the city. It is large with several windows of indirect light and a much needed sink. I have an area for painting, a desk/clean area and a large work table area. It could probably do with more storage area and natural light, but really it is a great space in the middle of the city. It is very quiet and private; I lock myself away there all day apart from my morning coffee in the bustling laneways below and sometimes out for lunch.


From your early beginnings at art school to now, how have things altered for you?

In the beginning there was a lot more struggle with the work, both with ideas and technically in exploring different ways of working. A lot of soul searching went into the concerns behind and in the work…. This has now given way to a more assured feeling of knowledge of both what I am trying to achieve in my work and also technically how I go about achieving it.

There was more isolation in the beginning, leaving art school, looking for studios, trying to find a gallery and entering art prizes. Not knowing a lot of artists in a new city, not being part of any ‘art scene’… It seemed a long way away to be an exhibiting artist, let alone painting full-time.

So a lot has changed, but it has been over a 24 year period of working in the studio… it took a long time for anything significant to happen. The first 14 years out of art school were very slow in terms of exhibiting or selling work. However, when it did start to fall in to place, it happened quickly and escalated at a good pace. Since then, I have had solo shows most years and have sold everything I do, which enabled me to paint fulltime.


What is your working routine? Do you listen to music while you work, or stay up late for instance?

I tend to work Mon-Fri business hours. Painting fulltime, I find it is crucial to have a structure and routine in place to help keep me motivated and also to monitor my energy levels. I find if I work back too late it only leaves me with less energy and exhausted the next day to paint. So I find it is better to leave the studio about 6pm or so… home to eat and rest for the next day!

After a morning coffee in a nearby cafe, I am upstairs to my own locked away studio. I tend to start painting almost immediately. After changing into my paint clothes, a quick check of emails, I make a quick decision on which painting to work on for the day… quick decisions on what needs to be done to the painting that day… then it is just painting time. Mostly I play music on my I-Pod speakers… depending on my mood what type of music, sometimes I just want it quiet. The odd cup of tea while I am working.. but I try and stay at the easel until I have achieved what I set out to do for the day.


Did you intend to become a professional artist?

Yes , from my late teen years I knew I was driven and inspired to be an artist. My intention was to strive to be an exhibiting artist. Although it was a long road to be represented by a commercial gallery, I always believed it would happen and that I just had to work hard and concentrate on making the best work I could and developing it to a higher standard.


Was there a point where you decided : Ok I can live off my art?

Yes. My 2003 solo exhibition had sold out and with the prices having gradually increased I took the plunge to live fulltime off my artwork. Prior to this I had already reduced my part time working hours, with the sales of my art work supplementing my income. My previous shows in the last few years had all sold out, so I felt more confident to take the risk. I hoped that by being able to give all my time to my studio practice I would also be able to produce more work and give it all my full attention and energy.


Want to see more Artist Interviews the day they are posted? Subscribe and we automatically send you the latest post via email, it’s easy… click here to subscribe.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/stevegray58

Check out our other Art Site http://artstuff.net.au Loaded with creativity boosters, professional development strategies, investing/collecting art and activities for Artists and Students…

Matthew Rose – Artist

Matthew Rose is in Paris France and is represented by

Janet Miller (Soma Art Gallery), Cape May, NJ;  – Keep Calm Gallery, London, UK; – Orange Dot Gallery, London, UK.

An active web person here are his web addresses





Matthew With Second Hand Clock Paris France.

Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?

I am an art and culture writer – The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, theartblog.org, entrée magazine, Art & Antiques magazine among many others; I’ve also written a black comic novel, PLAN B. And I occasionally write music.  My song, I HAVE A CAR, is currently on YouTube (arranged and performed by Hens Breet, Monosopace).


HOW TO FALL IN LOVE FOREVER, 2009. Collage on canvas, 50 x 50 cm.

What are the main medium/s you work in…

Collage, text, unusual objects. I slap paint around too.


BREATHLESS, 2010. Collage on canvas, 50 x 50 cm.

Artist’s statement…

I mainly spell with scissors. My installations, massive 1000-piece wall-to-wall displays of individual collage works attempt to reinvent the process of reading. The all-over exhibitions such as Planting Cut Flowers, Spelling With Scissors, The Whole Truth and Confessions – bring together the immense visual and textural vocabulary I find about me in what several critics cited as a “dadaist exploration of sense and nonsense.” While another critic added, my “works are secrets wrapped in riddles that are visually exhaustive and often French-fried.”  These installations and individual works are my theory of everything…a handbook for the 21st century.

I’ve launched a brand of surrealism and touches upon text works, needlepoints, altered objects, silkscreen and glicée prints and books. My next exhibition, Scared But Fresh, takes place at Orange Dot Gallery, London, from October 6 thru October 31. And the project I launched in early 2009, the ongoing global exhibition, A Book About Death, is in the collections of MoMA New York and LACMA. My prints, PAINTINGS, are on permanent exhibition at The Boca Raton Museum of Fine Art, Boca Raton, Florida


IMMACULATE PERCEPTION, 2009. 80 cm x 60 cm (31.5 x 23.75 in).
Giclée print; edition: 50.

How do you describe your work?

My work is often described as surreal, dada, strange, funny, expensive.


LES AFFAIRES, 2009. Collage on board, 1.3 x 1.5 meters.

Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?

My works concern the end of the world, which as one might imagine, includes all of the above. I’m mainly interested in consciousness and its aesthetic, ethical and moral dimensions, but also its innate abilities and weaknesses.


Je n’aime que toi, poster, 2009. Photo: Danielle Voirin

What are you currently working on?

For the last few weeks I’ve produced two series for Keep Calm Gallery’s ORIGINALS series.  Small collage works (9 x 12 inches).  One is called: A Strange Meeting and the other America.  I’ve also completed some larger collage works like Breathless and How To Fall In Love Forever and Null-Null You Can’t See (50 x 50 cm square on canvas) concern the impossibility of remembering everything that’s ever happened.


Spelling With Scissors, 2006, Installation, Capsule Gallery, Denver, Colorado.

What did your prices start off at?

I sold my first piece for $50; the last piece was sold for $5000. I’m relatively inexpensive considering today’s market.


A Book About Death, 2009, Installation,
Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery, New York City, NY .

How many artworks do you work on at the same time?

About a dozen at once, but sometimes more.


A Perfect Friend, 2003. Giclée print (after collage, from the book, A Perfect Friend).
76 x 56 cm. Edition: 3.

Do you have difficulties getting into galleries?

More and more galleries approach me to exhibit with them, but I find myself saying no to galleries that do not have a strong vision or worse, don’t even attempt to engage me or my work on an intellectual level. Communication is key to any collaboration with a dealer and if I find they are dishonest, lie, and/or don’t make an effort to get to know me, I’ll say no. I’m always working – 24 hours a day – and I expect dealers to be at least aware of this.  Better if they too are working like me.

What fascinates you?

The streets, walls, decay and printed paper blowing in the wind. People who drop things as they walk; radio programs from the 1940s.

One word or statement to describe your current works?

How everything and nothing often seem to be the same thing.

Why are you an artist?

I like the hours. Every since I studied semiotics at Brown University, I’ve taken advantage of my obsession with the visual in a larger more formal way as a way to organize and make sense out of my impossible life.

Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?

Several things, actually – books, publications, major purchases – but the launch of the global project, A Book About Death in New York at the Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery marked a distinct change in my orientation towards the world, art and art making.  See: http://abookaboutdeath.blogspot.com/.  In addition, the inclusion of my work in MASTERS: COLLAGE, a large book recently published by Sterling Publishing/Lark Books has generated enormous interest in my work.

I’ve won an extremely big award at the MUFI stamp art museum in Mexico for my stamp art sheet Rubens Rounding Third.  Taking first prize and a large cash award enabled me to print up 1000 large format stamp sheets and, after signing and numbering the works, put them onto Keep Calm Gallery where we’ve been very successful in creating a buzz and finding an interesting market of stamp art folks, baseball fans and art collectors interested in this very sexually provocative work.  Winning the prize was a complete shock to me (and my father) but … I was pleased the folks down in Mexico liked it enough to give it top honors in the global competition.

Was there a big turning point in your art journey that caused you to think that “it’s all worthwhile”, or “oh yeah I get it…”?

I’ve always worked in collage and paint, but meeting (and writing about) Ray Johnson had a distinct effect on my work.  I “got” my own work. It made sense to me; I understood that making art was a highly focused way of thinking.  A kind of aesthetic breathing.

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

I realized that with collage I could steal bits of the universe and make them my own; each tear or cut of a piece of paper became my signature.  The combinations, often surreal, became not just my way of seeing the world but seeing the world.  Plus, I’m very good with scissors and glue. And I’m able to work my vision rapidly, and this speed enables me to work more coherently with the incoherence of my own consciousness.  It’s truer, in a way.

You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…

People you’ve never met come over to your house and buy your art work for whatever price you say.  Or they try to steal little pieces of paper I’ve scribbled on.

Creative streaks do they come in waves for you?

I often make work in series of a dozen, 50, or 100 works at a time.  Once I sit down with a stack of paper or old magazines, I work like a  machine (with heart) until all the paper is consumed.  It’s more like a tornado than a tsunami (wave).  Then I sweep up and start again.

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?

I don’t worry about clarity.  I trust myself. The whole point of making art is to see how I think; the process of making something is the process of thinking, reading, writing and understanding.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?

Craft is in the end, subjective.  Poorly crafted work is now a craft in-itself.  But you can tell what is conscious and what is not; editing is more important, in my opinion, than craft alone.

Does the sale of your work support you?

Now yes.  I sell my prints at Keep Calm Gallery in London, and collage works with a number of galleries as well as directly to collectors (even over the internet).  People e mail me all the time and come to visit my studio here in Paris to see and purchase my work.

Do you have much contact with other artists?

Through the global project, A Book About Death, and its subsequent restagings around the world, I’ve come in contact with artists in about 100 countries – about 2000 artists in the last year and a half.

Any upcoming or completely new projects you want to talk about?

As part of the recent book publication of MASTERS: COLLAGE (Sterling Publishing/Lark Books; 2010), Randel Plowman has organized a massive exhibition at Northern Kentucky University of the artists’ works.  I’m very happy to participate in the show that opens August 23 and runs thru September, 2010.

My solo show, SCARED BUT FRESH, at London’s Orange Dot Gallery is scheduled to open on October 6, 2010. My first one person exhibition in London.  I am preparing several prints for this show, including a hand pulled silkscreen print (edition: 100) of You-Me, with Michel Hosszù, and a large edition of my enormous collage work, Les Affaires; the latter will be a giclée print produced here in Paris through Burning Boy Press (http://burningboypress.blogspot.com/)

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?

Well, I’ve hung several exhibitions with more than 1000 pieces, so yes, it is daunting and time consuming – roughly three to four days to hang the entire exhibition – but almost as much a part of the works as making them in the first place.

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?

Ray Johnson, Jasper Johns and all the surrealists.  Not only did I gain a real understanding of materials and execution from both Johnson and Johns, but also a way to think about my work.  Clearly a sense of reading and writing impregnates my work, and these artists, as well as the surrealists, guided me by freeing me from classical perspective.

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?

Titles are very important to me, regardless if I end up changing them over time. There is a distinct literary quality to my work and titles tend to indicate a direction to take in unpacking the visual puzzles. I’ve often taken long walks in the streets of Paris to find the right title for a piece; and those titles sometimes come from an overheard conversation, like “Les Affaires” which I plucked from two people discussing either business or their attire. Many titles are in German or in a kind of clipped English, because, for me words are images in and of themselves.  I just simply have to open myself up to this dimension of language to grasp the phrases that literally pour out of the sky.  Then once home, the titles and visual texts, are fused and cut and glued and applied in some way to the works, another aspect of the collage medium.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?

Early on my career, I showed a series of seven collage works combining Chinese-English flash cards at a friend’s apartment on Lafayette Street.  It was a large group show of sorts, and my friend Russell Steinert who was then working at Leo Castelli managed to co-opt a narrow wooden shelf, I believe from a Richard Serra installation.  The works, aligned on a wall, were simple word/image plays.  A card of a chicken and an an eye yielded : UNTITLED COCK EYE.  Well, that evening some intrepid art critic scribbled on the wall next to my works: C’est pas l’art! Ouch! It was curious that this was in French, and Russell said to me afterwards: Congratulations, Matthew, you had the best response to any of the works all night. From then on, I knew what I was doing was correct in each and every way.

Have you had much connection post sale with purchasers of your works?

Yes, collectors come back again and again and want to see new works, revisit older pieces I’ve sold them and discuss how I’m working.  It’s extremely rewarding because a sale isn’t just a monetary connection but one that’s both intellectual and social.  I’m grateful for those collectors who really have something to say and to teach me about what my work and methods mean to them. It’s a true gift.

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?

The art bio books like those about Pollock, de Kooning and Cornell (Utopia Parkway) are among those I’m always referencing.  But also criticism of all sorts interests me.  Some films like How To Draw A Bunny I’ve seen five – six times.  That film brought Ray Johnson’s work to a greater audience.  I think I learned how to remove surfaces from my work by thinking about these artists’ methods.  Sandpaper, knives, water, steel wool allowed me to scrape; subtraction rather than addition, is often a key way of working.

If someone says to you “Oh your work is decorative and lacks any meaning…” your response would be…?

Well, honey, then I guess it should be more expensive.

Some say a measure of an artwork is the ability for it to hold a persons attention or cause the viewer to come back after an initial glance and become captivated by the work, is that so for your works or an intention of yours?

I rarely find that people are bored by my work, and I think this is because I live full on in an aesthetic frame of mind.  I am intensely visual and creating things for me is a way to see what they look like. I believe that process is for others part of what they experience in my work. The eye reads the various passages – often again and again – and the mind consumes again and again if the pieces are successful. By looking at the piece, I’m trying to create a situation where the viewer “makes” the work and hears its strange song by singing it himself.

What is one thing you need to have in your studio before you work?

My mind. But a piece of paper and my No. 2 Big Ticonderoga pencil helps.

What or how do you respond to the term “Starving Artist”?

I actually get that a lot from people who don’t know me, hate my politics and hate my work without ever having experienced it. I don’t mind it.  If I weren’t starving, I don’t think I’d have much reason to make art.


Want to see more Artist Interviews the day they are posted? Subscribe and we automatically send you the latest post via email, it’s easy… click here to subscribe.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/stevegray58

Check out our other Art Site http://artstuff.net.au Loaded with creativity boosters, professional development strategies, investing/collecting art and activities for Artists and Students…

Art Buyers, who are they?

Ever thought about understanding buyers of art more, well now you can by checking out this article on them at Art Stuff.


Video – Del Kathryn Barton

The celebrated Australian Artist talks about her work.

Video – Diane Savona

Short sharp videos which give us a simple snapshot  into the life of an artist… I like that. This time it’s a textile artist, Diane Savona.