An Interview with Matthew Coleman by Jason Michel
What inspires you?
I am pretty new to photography, I picked it up only a few years back, but have now become completely consumed by it. I have photographers that inspire me (William Eggleston, Nadav Kander, Edward Burtynsky, Bresson to name a few), though none that have a direct, conscious influence upon me. I just go out walking, moving and shooting.
The world around me is what inspires me. Everything is teeming all around us at every moment of our lives, it really is. All it takes is for one to be open, to be aware (which is the most important thing). I went through a lot of darkness and depression these last few years, which smashed me to pieces and sunk me into a dark abyss I never knew could exist. But after a while, when out with a camera, my eyes would go searching, hunting, outside of the fallen self and into the ever present now. It gave me some very transformative moments free from the negative grip of the ‘self’. It has taken me a long time of inner searching, of wrestling and fighting with my own demons, but it seems so true, so right that we are all alive. We are all formed from the same cosmic birth; of clouds of gases that came together like a tornado, swirling into a funnel where our sun ignited into being. We are all part of the universe, all linked. We are all stars and planets, protons and neutrons, atoms of a miraculous nature; all of it evolving and breathing, a beatific manifestation from the same substance that made everything.
I’m fascinated by what makes people want to create.
On your website you say: “I create from the inside out. To direct the intensity of feeling outside of me, to release them in great bursts.”
It seems that for you, expression is something explosive, almost violent.
Which emotions precede & are released by this outburst?
Art has given me a platform, it has given me light and has helped me express what I could not express through words. It became my form of release, something that kept me alive and focused in times of extreme mental hardship. Through art I’ve been lucky enough to turn anxiety and depression into a positive, constructive thing, to take different states of being and transform them into vivid pieces; each one rich with primary colour, shape and texture, as I took the need to self-harm into the constructive pantheon of art.
The physical works themselves are about heightened states of feeling captured as impressions on a variety of surfaces. They are casts of moments, fingerprints of form left behind me. What is created is not Outsider Art, more instinctive art, pushed out with my hands. It is a kind of emotionalism that is directed unconsciously by what is felt in the moment of its creation, an action painting of the heart. I repeat each of the processes, though each piece is as different as every swell of the ocean. The art, then, is a remainder of my struggles, but it does not represent them. It does not speak about them directly.
The large oil paintings, from the series FROZEN MOMENTS OF TEXTURE, were built up with large quantities of paint before being thrust and hacked and smeared at with a palette knife. Each piece was a very physical experience, a violent one, an intense focusing to channel out the insides. The canvas acted as a battleground, a kind of arena were I fought my demons. The palette knife could then be seen as the sword to fight with. But after each piece I would momentarily conquer them; carving texture, shape and feeling through the paint. These pieces were very much action paintings, high charged and filled with an extremity of feeling.
Your pieces seem to show great contrasts between frenetic activity & deep calm – for example your riotous Indian Dancers & (to me) the vacuum of your Amerika pieces.
Why do you tend to dance between these two extremes?
It seems to sum up the essence of who I am. I’m a man of extremes. There is often this intensity within me, something which I have yet to be able to control, to get a handle on. It just ‘is’. And so, when it strikes, I try to ride along with it, even if only for short periods of time for there is an underlying fear of falling, of crashing. But on the other side of the spectrum there is a quieter, more meditative self. For many years I’ve had a strong interest in nature and Eastern mysticism, in the ancient Chinese and Japanese poets, in Taoism. There are moments in my life when I experience periods of stillness, like a lake without the ripple of water from the wind.
At times I can feel such euphoria, I can literally feel my soul singing as everything around me shines, dazzling in the magnificence of its clarity. I can laugh with tears in my eyes. I can howl and smile so goddamn wide for so long that my face begins to ache. But it is such a fine line as fear can kick in, and everything is wiped out as ego takes over. Is there a kind of true beauty inside us all, past the layers of self, of fear, worry and anxiety, of obsession and blindness. I think that there is. And perhaps it can indeed be found here, now, in the moment, that ever-present moment which is perpetually with us for as long as we breathe. The great thinkers and seers and prophets and poets of the past have all felt it, have experienced it and put words to it, mantras to it, poems and stories and even religions to it. They have woven it into a picture so staggering for anyone to look in its direction.
So for you, your “art” is a “spiritual” quest? (Yes, yes, I know that word reeks of New Age-isms but it’s the only one that fits)
It is interesting that you mention Eastern religions as they have attracted Western artists since the Romantics.
I’ve read Basho, Rumi et al, & I think Blake, both his writing & his visual art, was the greatest artist our small island has ever produced.
No, I do not see art as a spiritual quest. Spiritualism has been bastardised over the centuries by the organised religions, being moulded into an oppressive control tool which has stunted, rather than freed man. One has to go no further than inwards, which is an ocean so deep and rich for inspiration. And, because of this, I seem to have been heavily drawn towards writers like Basho, Li Po, Wang Wei, Blake, and Hermann Hesse. That stripped down simplicity that can say, at times, more with a few lines than some entire books do.
But to go back to your question I think more in line of what Louise Bourgeois perceived when she stated: “Art is an exorcism, a tool for survival.” And this is exactly how I fell into it; as a means to push out the chaos that was inside me.
What are your feelings about the current state of the art world, with its elitism & cash-centric ways?
Where do you feel you fit in (if at all) in that world?
1997 to 2007 was an insane time for making money. It was a time that created over a thousand billionaires in the world whose wealth was constantly rising. And in that decade the price of contemporary art went through the roof. People were paying preposterous amounts of money for paintings, some of which were too staggering to comprehend. Art became an asset, an incomprehensible game played by the elite. I remember seeing a documentary some time ago where in one scene a wealthy American was walking around his office and past all of his paintings. He reeled off every name of the artist like he was showing off a collection of classic cars. And to this man it seemed that these works of art which he owned were nothing more than a status symbol, something he could croak about to the people who he met and to those that he knew. It showed the ugly side of art and of its collectors, of just a small slice of the rich who ended up fucking us all.
Which other forms of expression float your boat?
Everything, for there is such profound poetry and poetry in every form of expression. I want to be moved, that seems to be what I seek out most in my life, to be gripped and shaken to the very core of my being, which can be found in anything that can be picked up and used with feeling and sincere passion.
So, what does the future hold for Mr Coleman? Exhibitions? Books?
It is a really exciting time right now. My finacee, Nicole, and I set up an art collaborative called nicole&matthew (www.nicole-matthew.org). We have a show coming up in Hoboken, NJ, just across the shimmering waters from Manhattan. It is opening on June 14th, the same day, weirdly, as Lee Rourke’s book launch in New York.
There are a couple of other places we are looking into in Jersey City to show ourMeditations on Nature series, which are photographs and the written word, inspired by moments, memory and the details seen and captured whilst walking within landscapes. Lee Rourke and I are in the early stages of working on a book together and Nicole and myself have been planning to launch a non-profit charity that we aim to launch in the U.S. It will be a case of going into inner city schools and teaching children how to fold origami cranes. On November 20th of every year is World Children’s Day, so we wanted to get the kids out on the streets selling their cranes to raise money for art rooms for their schools as well as the get an art therapy centre up and running. There will be installations in different parts of the cities and maybe one large, huge crane hung up in a public square somewhere. We want to inject colour all over the place, to help children living in difficult situations express themselves through the different mediums of art.
Other than that it is a case of keep pushing on. It has been one hell of a trip these last few years, but one of great learning and understanding also. And for the first time I feel excited about the future, of lighting fires in the skies to inspire, to express, to do and to just be.
Matthew’s personal website is at : http://www.matthew-coleman.co.uk/
The Legend Of Undead Ed
It all started years ago. They say that Ed used to be a renowned pediatric doctor that worked for a children’s hospital. That is, until a terrible tragedy occurred late one autumn night. The children’s ward had been set ablaze and that the children were all locked in their rooms with no means of escape. It wasn’t until after the investigators looked further that they uncovered the grisly truths. It seems that the remains of the children proved that they had been killed just prior to the inferno. Their bodies had been mangled and dismembered. Zombie Hello Kitty Piggy BankVarious parts of their anatomy had been scattered across the rooms. It was too much for anyone to bear witness to, especially Ed.The sight of the horrors made him snap and he was asked to take a vacation and try to recover from the trauma. He once believed himself to be their savior and now he was only their blind witness. He vowed to find a way to avenge their killers.
Ed took absent from his practice and traveled the world in search of answers. He found fascination with a new hobby to keep his mind still. Ed began to collect dolls from all around the world. Not just any sort of dolls but rather ones that seemed tattered and worn. They somehow reminded him of the children he once cared for. He tried to fix them and mend them as best he could. He began thinking that the dolls once had someone who cared about them at some point when they were first created and that by fixing them they would be loved again.
While in Haiti he spent a few months with a group of witch doctors and learning black magic. That is when he-Killer Care Bear Chaos Goddecided to delve into the occult and began searching for a way to bring the dead back to life. Upon returning home he locked himself away to begin reciting the dark incantations and mysterious spells that he learned. He became focused on conjuring the tortured children’s spirits to him.
That is most of the legend as far as most know it. But there is more to the story then most people care to know. Some even say that if you find one of these dolls and adopt them into your hearts then the curse will be lifted and the child’s soul will finally be at peace.
But that’s just a legend…or is it?*
Rot Tot Orlaut Demon Child
My Little Demon Pony ooak
Hello Kitty Friday 13th Jason
You can find Undead Ed’s lovable little balls of puss here: