Name: Matt Neuman
College: Boston University (MFA)
How would you define yourself as an artist? I’m a process guy.
Why art? How did you get involved with art? I’ve been making things forever. Creativity has always been the most natural outlet for my energy. Even as a child I wanted to be an artist long before I had any real understanding of what that meant.
What art do you most identify with? Most of my major influences come from the Post Painterly Abstractionists of the 50’s and 60’s. They championed a “pure” abstraction that favored clarity and order over the gesture and chaos of the Abstract Expressionists that were dominating that era in painting.
What does “being creative” mean to you? It’s a tricky thing. And not. I guess it’s become a character type or label for me. “Being creative” is not necessarily something I strive for or try to force. I just need to set the stage and remove obstacles from the making process.
What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative? “Inspiration will find you working”. I think somebody said it while quoting Picasso. The concept is that ideas are born from creative action. You can’t wait around for the light bulb to click of Good ideas are the left overs from troves of unsuccessful attempts thrown away. Also, be obsessive.
What are you trying to communicate with your art? My goal is to create a full and rich visual experience that allows the viewer to become aware of his or her own perceptive sensitivities. By avoiding recognizable and representative imagery I aim to keep the viewers mental experience fully present with the artwork (as opposed to the thought and memory triggers that lead cognition away from the artwork like politics, pop, landscape… etc.
What themes do you pursue? Geometry and color are at the center of my practice. I have identified geometry as human beings most fundamental organizing principle. We use it constantly to make sense of space in almost every respect. It is, therefore a very logical and intuitive way for me to organize information.
I am fascinated by the Infinite. Coming to terms with endlessness is incredibly humbling and powerful. Many of my compositions imply the continuation of pattern or radiating concentric forms infinitely beyond the borders of the work.
What inspires you to work? Knowing that I have yet to accomplish anything of lasting importance.
Book: All the light we cannot see. Anthony Doerr
Quote: You can never make what you want. You can only make what you would have wanted if you had thought of it before. – Richard Deibenkorn.
Can we talk a bit about your process at the beginning of a project? How do you conceive of it? How do you build it in your mind before you start? I am printmaker. I work most often in series of works that share a compositional core and differ through color placement and surface treatment. Since my works is largely process based I don’t need to have a fully conceived idea of the finished product. This is a great benefit in that it allows me to discover a final product within the framework I’ve designed for the series. I usually make works in a modular manner. I am printing sections of the composition that are later combined together to form the whole. As I work I am a resolving unit of the artwork within its own isolated context as if it were a small finished piece. When I have accumulated enough units I can explore a range of possibilities while assembling the larger, finished work. I think all art-making should involve exploration and discovery. This process allows me to create unique works within a medium that is typically more ridged in use and usually does not support the fluidity of decision-making that I have come to rely on.
What Role does the artist have in society? In most cases being an artist is a very solitary role where society only gets a small glace at an outcome of the artist’s obsessions. Many people put the artist on a pedestal since we look back on history through the eyes of artists in the contemporary. My belief, though, is that the artist’s only responsibility is to his/her materials. The artist does not have to tackle “big” ideas to have an impact on society or art itself.
Do you suffer for your art? “Suffer” sounds too dramatic. It consumes me. It hurts sometimes. It makes me angry or depressed sometimes. It’s hard to make good art- but very rewarding when it does happen.
What do you think about the art community and market? The two things are different but intertwined. The art community shapes cities and towns and culture. It is where artists are cultivated and art-making happens. The art market can enable artists to have a profession. It wasn’t always that way. Before the art market an artist could not survive without a patron. The market though, is responsible for so much bad artwork that it makes me cringe. I do believe that deserving work will float to the top but the market does have a way of rewarding those who cater to it.
Should art be funded? Why? Art should be funded- particularly public art. The private sector doesn’t really bring art to the people. Contemporary art doesn’t reach that many people without public funding support.
What famous artists have influenced you, and how? Robert Irwin has given me a lot to think about. While I admire his work and the relentless evolving trajectory of his career, it is a book written about him called “seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees”, that really got into my head. It follows Irwin through his early career in 60’s California. He gets totally obsessed by his own curiosity and follows it faithfully without compromise. It totally changed the way I think about perception and object-making.
What other interests do you have outside of art? Woodcraft, skiing, soccer, tech, the outdoors, travel.
You seem to be very aware of the history of works. Where do you see films, photo exhibitions, art perfomances today? I do the gallery opening thing. I try and catch the major museum exhibits. Broadway is great when I have the opportunity.
How would your life change if you were no longer allowed to create art? I’m a craftsman and builder in addition to artist. I get great satisfaction from making things of all types. It would be sad if I couldn’t make art any longer, but my obsession with making things cant be curbed.
Define Klassik Magazine for the audience? Very interesting, magnificent and formidable.