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Matt Ross | Urban Outfitters

Studio Visits 

Urban Outfitters Visits Matt Ross


Tappan Collective is home to a wide variety and growing number of amazing artists, and one of them is the New York-based painter Matt Ross. Finding the perfect balance between beauty and chaos, Matt strives to paint the world as he sees and feels it—without the use of actual paint brushes. But mostly, Matt's art can speak for itself (as you'll see below). We paid a visit to the painter's studio and study to see how he develops and creates his wonderfully hectic pieces.

Photos by Frankie Marin (@frankie_marin) for @UrbanOutfittersMens

Can you give us some more background on yourself?

I grew up in Laguna Beach, a small beach town in Southern CA. My life there revolved around the ocean, surfing, and making music with my friends. Laguna actually has produced some amazing musical talent. It is an absolute paradise, and having not lived there for almost 10 years now, I can't wait to fly back whenever I can and get away from the city.  

What is your earliest memory of creating art?

My mother is an artist and at a very young age was always encouraged to be creative. She is a brilliant water colorist and some of my early memories are making landscape water color pieces with her. She had me in a rigorous piano school at 5 and founded the art masters program in our town. When I was 8, I won a local art competition but never took painting seriously until much later. I am lucky to have inherited her creative intuition.

 

What were/are your influences?

I would say visually the artist whose work I can most closely connect to is Cy Twombly. In my mind he is the most talented painter. You are seeing the inside of his brain in his art. It is raw expression; pure experience. I am also influenced by graffiti artists and that entire world and culture. Dash Snow and Dan Colen are great influences of mine. I am really into what JIMJOE has been doing lately. Although not as apparent in my style, I am hugely influenced by Baroque painting, with Caravaggio being a genius in my mind. 

 

How would you describe your aesthetic?

I would describe my creative aesthetic as both rooted in chaos but subsequently abiding by my own internal structure, if that makes sense. So in fact I do abide by my own "rules" when I create. I am fascinated with symbols and with the idea of my painting as being a portrait of my brain at the very moment I created it.  

What’s your creative process like?

My creative process is typically 2 steps: I will paint most of the painting very very fast—in an hour or even less. And then the next weeks I will spend solving the puzzle I just created: smudging, adding, erasing, constantly amending, fighting, and repairing until I feel it's either done or I simply can't solve the puzzle. This is why a lot of my paintings are untitled. I like to have tons of subject matter around me—music, other visual art, people talking, noise, etc. Painting is the most natural form of expression for me. Creating a painting is "pure experience." I am in a different state when I am truly in my zone. 

It is a very unique feeling that I don't get from anything else. Sometimes it all comes together like an orchestra would in perfect pitch; my movements and choices will coexist in a very fluid manner. I try not to think too much and have all my materials right in front of me so I can rely on my instinct, especially in the early phases of a painting. I'll reference symbols and letters that have relevance to me, and like anything else, I'll remember something I liked that I used in an older piece and try to incorporate that into a new one. Triangles, geometry, numbers, letters—they seem to tie together a lot of the chaos that spews out onto the canvas. 

 

What are some of the prominent tools and supplies you use to create?

One of my most central techniques is smudging soft pastel because of the obscurity of the result and the unpredictability of the color scheme that will come out of it. White pastel and white paint are my go to materials. I don't paint with brushes, only make-up sponges. I use my hands often. I look at creating as a puzzle—I am constantly trying to achieve balance and power in my paintings and each move I make will influence the next and so on.

Do you have a morning routine that you make sure to do every day?

My morning routine is typically different every day because I rarely am doing the same thing I did the day before. Cold water on the face seems to be something I do every morning no matter what.

Are there any places in NYC that you find inspirational?

I would say around mostly the industrial areas of Brooklyn because of the constant combination of decay and restoration, and the relationship that will in a sense tell a story about that wall or building. I used to take pictures of walls in areas like Bushwick and try to recreate portions of them in my art. Some of the walls you will see are truly beautiful—you'll have a colorful tag coupled with a new paint job that is peeling off and revealing a poster that was on the wall beforehand. I'll see a tag by a guy that I recognize that has been half painted over, and then the concrete is disintegrating, and on the wall there's gum, bird shit, food, and dirt, and all of that creates an idea in my head for a new work. The relationship between decay and restoration is very evident in my creative process.  

What’s the best place you’ve ever traveled to?

I love Berlin—that could be my favorite. I also love the desert. The Owens Valley in California along highway 395 is my favorite drive in the world. The South Island of New Zealand, too. Gorgeous.

What’s in store for the near future?

I'd like to incorporate lights and electrical objects into my paintings. I'm also fascinated with the idea of incorporating magic into art. Metal sculpture, too. Using more resin and maybe incorporating broken glass. As you can see when it comes to ideas for art, my mind is all over the place. I can promise that it will be interesting. I am learning new things everyday.

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