Coffee & Conversation is pleased to share this interview with visual artist Matthew Schofield. Matthew has an impressive resume; he has exhibited in Paris, Brussels, Florence, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Brooklyn, Chicago, Miami, Provincetown and Toronto. It was sincerely a treat to interview Matthew in his private studio space and talk about his artistic roots, current projects and continuous growth as an artist.
1. Tell me a little bit about your background and how you became an artist?
I was always interested in art. From an early age my parents recognized in me an aptitude for art, which they encouraged by taking me on trips to art galleries and always finding creative activities for me to do. Neither of them were artists – they were teachers – but they had the ability to recognize interests more than recognize talents, which was good. If you recognize the interest early on, it becomes something that you don’t give up because you want to do it. I was always drawn to visual art more than anything else. Although as I grew up, I became drawn to all forms of art. I was also very good at math in high school, so I went to a guidance counselor to find a career path that could incorporate both math and art. Architecture was the obvious pick. I went to architecture school for a bit, but it didn’t fit. I left and went to Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) where I studied drawing and painting. Once I graduated from OCAD, I went to McMaster University to study printmaking and sculpture and get a university degree because I wanted to make sure I finished what I had started. My studies at McMaster influenced me as an artist; they helped to expand my discipline and taught me how to think differently.
Image: Matthew in his studio
2. What motivates you on a Monday morning here at Artscape Youngplace?
I have been working in film and television for 17 years and have negotiated a four-day work week. I come here Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and try to do as much as I can in those three days. Booking a show is highly motivating; I like working towards a deadline because you nail down the type of work you’re going to do and it cements your ideas very quickly. I enjoy my time here; it’s selfish time. I’ll come in, put on an audiobook and I know that for the rest of the day I get to paint and do something that’s completely self-indulgent. I don’t think many people get that opportunity when they take on a discipline in a job.
3. What are you currently working on?
Currently, I have three series on the go. One of them is called “Gemini” series. It’s something did for Nicholas Metivier Gallery. I have an ongoing exploration of these images of my father that he took when he was young. It’s my interest to find what interests people. Basically the more pictures I paint of his slides, the broader the portrait is; captivated in his interests and idiosyncrasies. It’s a little cheeky because my father is a Gemini and also a twin. I paint both sides of the slide image and end up with one of each side so you can’t tell which is the original. I’ve done about 20 of them so far – he’s [father] taken about 3000 photos so I could potentially explore this for the rest of my life. The other two series are a little too early to talk about because I’m in the process of finishing the piece.
Image: Paired image on the left hand side is from the “Gemini” series. At the front of the church (2015) Oil on Mylar on wood. The three images on the right hand side are from “The Good Thief” series. Top image: Cathy McGonigle, Toronto, 1949 (2016) Oil on Mylar on wood. Bottom left: 17 (2016) Oil on Mylar on wood. Bottom right: Daisy Nisbet, Galt, 1948 (2016) Oil on Mylar on wood.
4. Can you describe your creative process?
I’d say I’m a reactionary person. The work I’m doing now is all snapshot based; very precise moments that are one tenth of a second and can never exist again. I find the process very meditative. You look at that image [photograph], study it, and when you paint it, you begin to see people’s relationships to each other, their body language and gestures. You can choose to exaggerate that or not. But when it becomes paint, you study it in a different way by going through that process. The study becomes very absolute. By doing multiples of those [paintings], you not only reinforce the idiosyncrasy of what that person has done but also my curatorial interest in why they did that.
5. Any advice for aspiring artists?
That’s tough because I don’t think it’s easy. I do think there is a level of encouragement that should happen at the right time for you to keep going. Sometimes in Canada, the value of art and artists is not as high as in other countries, so you might not get that encouragement at the right time, which can become really heartbreaking and perhaps lead you to pick another field. However, art does prepare you for a lot things like creative problem solving in other industries. I think there are ways to survive and thrive in art, but monetarily, you always need to figure out what else you need to do. Money alone isn’t going to make you happy, but not having money does make you unhappy. The job satisfaction of working creatively is so rewarding and you have a different outlook on life. Another issue is obstacles. Whether it be a poor critique of your work or a space that’s inadequate for the type of work you are doing, those hurdles present opportunities for you to figure things out on your own and to grow.
6. Fondest memory at Artscape Youngplace?
I’m very grateful that this place exists because it’s so difficult to find a space in the city to work. Whenever I hear about friends getting kicked out of their art studios, I’m just so thankful that this place exists. It’s also a general feeling. It’s rejuvenating to walk outside of my studio and see new shows happening throughout the building. It makes me feel validated as an artist to continue to do new work and move forward. My partner Gillian Iles and I have participated in a few events to raise money for Artscape. We’ve taught drawing to people who have never drawn before and that was a very rewarding experience. It’s always nice to expose people to something they haven’t done before.
7. What’s your hidden talent? Or just a random fact about yourself?
I have a good sense of direction and have been told that I have perfect pitch (we laugh). Gillian and I used to do 24 hour relay races for mountain biking. It was fun and we won a few prizes here and there. H.G Wells once said, “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” Being physically active is an important counterbalance to what you do in your art practice because as a painter, I’m basically standing in one spot all day. I’ve also never owned a car because I bike everywhere in the city.
For more information about Matthew, visit his website http://matthewschofield.com/
About the Interviewer
Elaina Pawelka is completing her final year at Ryerson University studying the Creative Industries. Elaina started this series to learn more about the artistically diverse tenants working in the building, and offer inspiration to those interested in creativity or anyone looking for an insightful read.