Frame 61

Matthew Allen

Frame 61
Matthew Allen

About/background: I was really introduced to art in my last year of high school when my teacher leant me a huge book on Mark Rothko and I was intrigued by the use of both expansiveness and subtle nuance in his works. After high school I applied to art school in Sydney and spent the next six years there graduating in 2007. I consider my professional practice as starting in 2010, after a period of travel I got a studio and started to make and show work on a consistent basis.

Ghostly layers/tonal shifts: The top layers in these works are extremely diluted oil paint mixed into a resin. You can't really tell in the finished works but the layers are applied with a large brush so the surface is completely covered and then it is allowed to flow down the paper to create various ripples and striations. I usually work with quite bright base colours which act as the light source of the painting; these bright colours then get toned down by the more pastel or greyed out glazes. I am always looking for a certain dynamic tonal shift within the works which lends itself to a spatial reading.

Being expressive and the Colour Field: I don't paint to be expressive, but rather to bring to expression. What I mean by that is I am not looking to express a certain feeling and pass that on to the viewer, I see the paintings as offering a space for repose where the viewer can explore their own response to the work, be that expressive, intellectual or perceptual. My most successful works generate an atmospheric pictorial space which somehow seems larger than the physical boundaries of the painting. For me this is interesting conceptually as how this form of spatiality relates to figurative perspective and ideas of scale, but also perceptually as there is something vital about existing in a colour suffused space.

Titles: I see my artistic practice as made up of different projects, each project bracketing certain ideas or material explorations as areas of research. The Spectral Variations are an ongoing investigation into the relativity and spatial potential of colour and the material working of fluid paint. So the works bear the name of the project or series with either a numbering or colour based naming system. Rarely a certain work will earn a personal or more poetic reference.

Paper and its effect: The shift to working on paper is a recent one. Previously I had been making these fluid glaze paintings on traditional stretched canvases and had arrived at a point where the flat surface of a stretched canvas seemed to limit the possibilities of what could be achieved. Paper is a more malleable and reactive support: during the painting process my working of the paper becomes in a sense sculptural, as I bend and form it to alter the flow of the applied glazes and let them settle in different densities across the painting. The resulting effect is more evidence of the process and the fluid nature of the glazes are brought to the fore.

Studio/routine: I am in the studio everyday, the time is split between considering and experimenting with colour relations on small scale tests, preparing supports to be painted on, mixing undercoat colours and dealing with the oil and resin glazes. I tend to work in cycles of about 10-15 works based on the same or similar colour relations: I find that working through a number of works in the same tonal range teaches me more about colour and how it operates rather than jumping between different colours for each new work. 

Art heros and heroines: There really are too many! A very incomplete list would look like this: Pat Stier, Giorgio Morandi, Tomma Abts, Joseph Albers, Susan York, Gunter Umberg, Liz Deschenes, Ingo Meller, Bridget Rielly, Giorgio Griffa. 

What is next: I have always been attracted to artists that have pursued a continued exploration of what could be seen as a restrictive format - projects such as Joseph Albers' Homage to the Square, or Ad Reinhardt's ten years of painting only black paintings. There is paradoxically a certain freedom in setting restraints. The various projects I set myself all have certain boundaries which limit the area of investigation, but there is still space for refinement and a breadth of experience.

Future shows: I have a solo show this year at PS Projectspace here in Amsterdam which will feature my most recent Spectral Variations that I am really looking forward to. I am also working with a designer on the first of a number of publications related to the Spectral Variations, which eventually will become a complete recording of the series and allow one to see the evolution and relations between the works as a whole.

Artist website

Publishing date of this interview 08/03/16