Skimming the Internet looking for new artists and inspirations, I'm always looking for something that can not only catch my eye, but sustain my attention. I stumbled onto New York based artist Matt Mignanelli's website a few months ago and got stuck on it; his black, matte and monochromatic paintings having some sort of transmittable information for aesthetic and structural reasons. In researching his earlier work I saw an interesting transition and wondered how it happened. I sent him some questions and this is the result.
Outside of the studio I'm usually going to openings, looking at painting, and going to the bar. My second passion is cooking. It relates to painting for me, I love the hands-on creation, the control, the quick gratification it brings. I use it as my way to decompress; it really relaxes me. I come from a strong Italian-American background where food means family and great friends; I love that aspect of food bringing people together. My brother and brother-in-law both live in and around the East Village, and my wife and I try whenever possible to keep up the tradition of a Sunday dinner. I wouldn't say that my painting takes up more time than I want it to, but it does consume me. I have a very hard time shutting it off. I like to maintain a rigorous studio practice, it feels right to me.
These current works developed out of a gradual process of working through and reexamining my earlier painting. At first I was creating small areas of monochrome, which then slowly developed into monochromatic backgrounds, and finally entire paintings. While I was working on larger scale works, I would always be making smaller works where I felt freer to take risks. These were always much more minimal, and almost magnifications of elements in my larger works. In a lot of ways those smaller works felt more satisfactory to me, which then led to me chasing that simplification. The grid paintings started as I began to concentrate on these smaller areas within the works and use the grid to create a confined space. The works that focus more on figure/ground relationships I arrived at by stripping away distraction from the paintings, I want these to be minimal environments that are still somewhat relatable to the viewer.
I've always made bold paintings, and the black on black is bold yet there is so much subtlety, there is a balance. The black paintings are just as much if not more about the gloss/matte relationship as they are the blackness. As you move around these works they change with the light as it's reflected and absorbed into the surface, this level of engagement has really driven my continuation with this body of work.
All of the work is painted completely free hand including the black works, but is drawn out with a pencil and ruler on the canvas. My paintings are so much about surface and materiality. I use a lot of house paints and enamels so they begin with multiple layers of industrial primer, which is then wet sanded between layers. This allows the painting to start with a very smooth surface.
Drawing has always been very closely linked with my painting, and I make drawings beforehand of the piece. They're never precise, just general but give me enough to go on to calculate the measurements. A lot of times I'll do small mock-ups in paint on paper as well.
There is a rigidity and system I adhere to when painting for my framework, but I'll also adjust decisions directly on the canvas when something isn't working.
These paintings are about environment, light, surface, and the materiality of painting. It is very much about structure, which is informed by the urban landscape around me in New York City. I'm constantly referencing architectural and industrial elements when creating these new environments. I feel that my work is connected to contemporary painting as it speaks very much to the present, while being aware of the past. I'm engaging in discourse with Abstract Expressionism, Geometric Abstraction, and Minimalism all on certain levels. I think it's hard for most contemporary abstract painters not to feel a connection and engage in a certain dialogue with AbEx. The freedom yet intense struggle with painting as the boundaries were pushed during that period is so appealing and romantic. My use of industrial materials and house painting brushes is referential to both my subject matter and the history of modern painting.
I also feel aligned with certain aspects of Geometric Abstraction and Minimalism such as purity and abstract space, but I feel that I have never made the departure to create fully non-representational images. While I do fully embrace the materiality, I try to push for more than the "What you see is what you see" of Stella.
I feel that any success I've achieved is directly related to persistence, organization, and an extreme dedication to painting. As artists I think that it's often easy to get wrapped up and focus strictly on your own work when you're in the studio. I really have made an effort to get out and visit friend's studios and attend openings, have a dialogue about work. I think it's so important because not only does it keep you sharp, but also fosters important relationships.
Of course producing great work is the most important aspect of any career. I constantly strive to try and make that happen and push the work forward. I was recently listening to a conversation between Chuck Close and Carroll Dunham, where Chuck Close said, "Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work." This struck a chord with me, and I think it's a great piece of advice.
I make paintings because it's what feels right to me, it's my way of capturing the here and now. It's an unrestricted space for me to explore ideas that fascinate me.
As to what has made the work prosper, I'm not sure. I don't know if any artist ever really knows. I make work that appeals to me and I'm glad that vision has resonated with some other people as well.
I'll be showing with Marianne Friis Gallery at Art Copenhagen in September.
|< Prev||Next >|