Meet a NYFA Artist: Matthew Fisher
Where Does the Sun Set in Bogotá? 17 x 14 inches. Acrylic on canvas. 2013. Credit: Matthew Fisher.
NYFA speaks with 2010 Painting Fellow Matthew Fisher.
NYFA: Hi Matthew! What are some of the ideas or questions which most inspire you at the moment?
MF: This is a tough question to honestly answer as I have a solo show with Heskin Contemporary through January 22. I am still in the process of digesting those works and thinking about what is next for me. I do know that the new work will remain close to some of the themes from this show: still life, animals, landscape and stacking of objects and of course a twisted sense of historical period(s). The one painting I want to do next is the one thing I didn’t do for that show: that is to simply place the horizon line dead center of the canvas. I like to challenge myself this way, find what I am not doing and do it. Allow for that formal decision to dictate the composition and then figure out what goes where. I also found a book of lesser known Aesop’s Fables, and love how simple his titles to these are: Two Crabs. That, the titles first and then the image, could also be the bases for a new body of work.
NYFA: What do you most need as an artist right now?
MF: That answer is always time. Time to be in and around the work, to get lost in the making of the work and not just the looking. Allowing the world outside you, complex and simple to enter the work through your making it. In the studio, the paintings paint themselves, you just got to stand in front them.
NYFA: Can you describe your workspace or studio?
MF: For the first time in awhile I am sharing the studio with a good friend, Matt Mahler. We each have half the space. In the past when I had more space, several finished works would be up at once as I worked. Constantly looking at them and thinking about them as I worked on the new piece. Now, the works are stored away in the racks so as not to get paint on them. Instead I have print outs of the finished paintings taped up to help me not repeat myself too much. I work almost always on one painting at a time; because it’s an acrylic paint I don’t have to worry about drying times and I can layer, layer, layer. At the start of the day, I will give myself a mental finishing line for the day, paint the back ground, or this animal, that key, and then your day will be over. In a good day, Market Place acts as the wind down to a long day of painting.
NYFA: What does the concept of “nature” mean to you?
MF: Because I use so many animals and plants set in a landscape, that term is both a noun and verb. I grew up in rural Michigan and spent many days outside in the woods and cornfields, fishing and watching birds. Nature to me is collecting those thoughts, of warm sunshine and distant worlds and experiencing them at once. It’s also another way to tell a story, one that takes place outside, in a world. Interiors, with their right angles and hard edges are very hard for me to get excited about. They don’t function as back grounds, rather as empty stages. And that’s very sad.
NYFA: Are you aware of future viewers of your work while you are working? Do you have expectations for their experience(s) in viewing the work?
MF: It’s hard, if not impossible to stay unaware. There was a time, before someone said “I like that” or “I’ll buy these” that those thoughts aren’t even in your head. You’re just doing what you want to do, what you like, because you like it. But once those words are said to you, how can you forget them? What made this piece more attractive then the others? Why did this sell and not those? If you think about these too long, or try to chase them, you’ll drown. For me, I just try to make myself laugh, at least once with each piece. And if you do the same, then I have touched a nerve or passion that can’t be explained in words, just sounds.
NYFA: How would you say symbolism operates within your work, if at all?
MF: In 2007 I made a conscience choice to select a few objects at first and use them over and over again. By doing so, these objects would start to mean something else entirely. No longer would they just be a stein or a candle, but they would be become an exact object. I wanted to let them do the talking, not me. That being said, there’s times and objects that have built in meanings for me. The animals would often be stands in for my cat and soldiers for myself. An unspoken relationship between the two, unspoken because we didn’t speak the language. But we knew what we were saying. A stein is a stein, but the more I use it, the more it can means.
NYFA: What other artists or other individuals most influence you?
MF: I tend to stay on this side of the pond, the Hudson River School and luminist painters of the 1860’s are always special to me. Their world was so new, to them, this land so vast and fresh, how to capture that feeling blows my mind. I am also deeply attracted to the paintings of Philip Guston, Brian Calvin and Bendrix Harms among others. Not for how they paint, but for what they paint: stories. One thing all these painters have in common is that use of paint to convey a narrative, one that at times is as universal as it is banal.
NYFA: How has receiving a Fellowship this year (2010) affected you?
MF: It’s a huge honor. I heard the term NYFA as soon as stepped foot here in 2000. Not fully knowing what it means or what they did, I knew enough to apply for it each year. “Send it and forget it” one artist told me, “Until you get your rejection letter and resend it again the next year. Just keeping doing that each year.” That was the best advice I got about the process and that’s what I did each year. Never did I expect to be noticed, but I had to keep trying. Thank you.
For more information on Matthew Fisher, visit his website.