Artist Feature ://
Posted August 2018
Matt Congdon’s work currently examines our relationship to signs and symbols, challenging structures of individual and collective perception and mapping the between space opened through our fragmented existence in a techno-capitalist society.
‘3/4’, Matt Congdon. Acrylic emulsion and powder on canvas, 2018.
The following interview is transcribed from a visit to Matt’s studio.
See the studio post here.
See the studio post here.
Float.: Tell us a bit about your approach to your practice:
Matt: A big part of it is still experimentation, but I'm on something now that I feel more free with, and I think that’s the most important thing. Staying open, it's about creating a set of parameters but keeping them multiple, never letting them become restrictive. And of course that’s something that can be kind of hard to do, but when you sacrifice the multiple the work just ends up becoming its parameters and sort of drying up. I think the art always has to happen alongside something else, so I guess up until recently I never really thought about my artistic practice much as an independent thing because it kind of isn’t. It happens around other things just as other things happen around it. Although it sounds kind of boring I think the main thing that’s changed recently is just that since finishing my undergrad I’ve had more time to paint, meaning the paintings feel as if they have this new sense of consistency - although I don't like using the word consistency to describe it because that can feel quite limiting.
Float.: I get the idea of what you mean about limiting consistency so would you prefer to use the term rhythm?
Matt: Yeah I think that makes sense. Making work just naturally entails a sort of change, so you have to embrace that more as something productive in itself.
‘9999’, Matt Congdon. Acrylic and emulsion on canvas, 2018.
Float.: I had a look at your website earlier on today and I was really interested in the process behind your work in the sense that it feels very much Internet-based in that your work primarily exists as an online entity. So with that perspective can you tell me if the Internet plays a role in your process?
Matt: I think now on a level you always need to factor the Internet because it's the main way work is distributed. Before having a studio I would continuously paint over or destroy my work so it was never really fully there if you know what I mean, both in terms of single pieces and as a collective thing. Digital documentary was the only way of archiving my work as a plural. This was partly because I didn't have much space or money to keep or buy materials but I also liked the idea of having this kind of literal flux between virtual and actual. Posting work online always gives it a sense of like otherworldly permanence. It’s another way for it to exist. As a physical thing it can always be changed and is in some ways always already changing, and this is especially true of painting. It exists in the same kind of impermanence and entropy as the rest of the physical world. Online spaces immediately present you with this alternative temporality, so even though the physical work is obviously important there’s always this other virtual dimension. It’s something that kind of looms over the physical work all the time. I guess this is why I often combine elements of the physical and digital, always staying somewhere between the two. It’s about trying to achieve this sense of juxtaposition. For example, one balance I think sums this idea up well is between what you could call maybe perfection and imperfection. I try to portray a sense of both digital and physical spontaneity in the work by juxtaposing artificial and organic marks, and the temporal differences between them create this kind of harmonious push pull interplay. I mean, perfection and imperfection don’t really exist, they’re relative and kind of arbitrary, but it’s a relation that can only really be explored first hand through art.
‘0111’, Matt Congdon. Acrylic on canvas, 2018.
Float.: In other artists’ work process often comes second to the concept whereas with your work it seems the opposite way around, where you are more interested in process than outcome. The way that you work juxtaposing perfection and imperfection and the way that you're thinking about an online space as a space for you to showcase work - all these things are processes. What’s the overall concept that you are working towards?
Matt: I'm very interested in the idea of a symbol as a thing, like the life of tropes as they exist in collective consciousness, both in a graphic sense and a more linguistic sense. There are connections, fragments of objects or phrases but I don’t think there’s ever anything really whole. Maybe that’s it. There are no wholes, only fragments and juxtapositions. So for example, in painting especially I think language and image exist on the same plane, meaning another juxtaposition I use often is this ambiguity between a letter and a shape. When framed as an image these shapes that look kind of like letters but not really become these sort of floating malleable signifiers, open and closed at the same time. The kind of questions like when does reading become looking or hearing become listening or whatever that this brings up fits in the same kind of space as the one between the letter and the shape.
‘YYYYYY‘, Matt Congdon. Digital: acrylic and powder, oil pastel and pencil on paper, 2017.
Float.: That point leads onto my next question which is about the use of wingdings on your website, could you tell me a little bit more about that?
Matt: *laughs* That's actually one of the Russian Futurist manifestos. Got some good lines in it. So yeah, I mean futurist language is about breaking with predetermined meaning, like abandoning the shapes of letters and the way words are put together. It’s the same kind of vibe. But yeah, I guess I thought it would be funny. Is it funny? I dunno.
Float.: Do you think the way we experience art is moving into a more digital sphere?
Matt: I personally have never really known anything different because we were the first group to really be immersed in that sort of environment. So yeah, definitely it is. But I wouldn't think of it like that, as a current movement - I would say it's already moved there.
‘Mike’, Matt Congdon. Digital: pencil and marker on paper, 2017.
Float.: Why do you do what you do?
Matt: Okay, why do I do what I do? I guess there’s always this kind of abstract apocalyptic drive to it, I mean, in the way that ideas of some kind of utopia are always next to ideas of some kind of apocalypse. I don’t know, I just do what I can. I mean why do you do what you do? Because you do? It's just so hard to say anything other than ‘because I do’, so can you put ‘because I do’?
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Studio Feature :// The Warehouse