Matthew Feyld

Matthew Feyld in dialogue with Steven Cox 

Steven Cox: Can you tell me a little about yourself, your background, and how/when you first started working full-time as an artist?

Matthew Feyld: I was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and have been living in Montreal, Quebec since 2011. Besides the occasional odd job, working in the studio has been my primary occupation for the last few years.

SC: Can you tell me about your current studio and working routine? Do you have any morning rituals or habits that contribute towards a productive day within the studio?

MF: I was lucky to find a studio in an old factory building, that is only a couple of blocks away from where I live. It’s important for me to live close to where I work, so that I can come and go as I please. If it’s late, and I’m at home and feel the need to go to the studio, I can be there within a couple of minutes.

Lately, I wake up, get a coffee, take care of emails, and walk to the studio. I usually spend some time looking over the paintings that I’ve been working on. I make sure my work tables are clean and organized, and put away the brushes that I left out to dry from the previous day. Then I usually leave for a few hours. I take a walk, and come back to the studio in the afternoon and work into the night.

SC: I am interested to know how you plan your works. Do you begin with preparatory sketches of some form, or do you prefer to work directly onto the canvas in an improvised manner? Do you spend time exploring new colours and expanding your palette?

MF: I fill up a lot of sketchbooks. Sometimes the drawings find their way into the paintings, but more often than not they remain as sketches. They function more as exercises. I do however keep an index of different colour combinations, mixtures, and colour relationships. Those notes are more likely to find their way into a finished painting. I spend a lot of time in the studio mixing colour and grinding pigment. Colour advances rather slowly for me, but I’ve recently added a few new colours to my palette that I never thought I’d use, which is exciting.

SC: I am also curious about the documentation of an artworks creation. Within my own studio I regularly take images of paintings in progress so I can note specific points in the works creation. How regularly do you document the progression of your works? Is it important for you to take note of a works evolution? 

MF: I do take photos of paintings that are in progress. Photos provide a different kind of distance from the work, that I find to be beneficial in resolving problems that I otherwise have a hard time seeing right away.

SC: Your works involve layering colour over a prolonged period of time, when do you realize that a work is finished? Can you discuss the process and intricacies surrounding your work that are not only important to you, but also the of which the viewer should focus on?

MF: I start with a gesso ground. Either clear, white, or black gesso. I apply between ten to fifteen coats of very thin gesso, sanding between each coat. I then start layering colours that are chromatically similar to the colour of the gesso used. Sometimes I have a rough idea of a colour that I’d like the final painting to be. For instance, if I wanted a darker blue painting in the end, I might start layering a series of very light blues and greys to the canvas, sanding between the first few coats, and alternating between long, unbroken vertical and horizontal brush strokes. It is around this stage that I isolate the dot(s) by carefully applying a succession of darker colours around the dot(s) - eventually leaving the dot(s) recessed into the surface.

Sometimes I arrive at a colour that I’m happy with rather quickly, but often the surface doesn't feel right. It hasn’t been built up enough, or it doesn’t have the physical characteristics that I look for in a surface. So, I will continue to layer paint until no signs of the original support are evident any longer and until I’m happy with the resulting surface quality. There needs to be a balance between the colour and structure in order for me to consider a painting finished. There can be anywhere from thirty to sixty layers of paint on my more recent paintings.

SC: Your paintings tend to have a series of dots present, each painting contains between one and four white dots within a field of subdued colour. These dots encourage the viewer to look around and over the canvas, and encourage ones eye to pay closer attention to the subtle delicate surface qualities of the canvas. Perhaps you could discuss the monochromatic colours that you choose to explore, and the function of the dots within your works?  How do you wish for your works to be examined?

MF: I have a very hard time using a colour straight from the tube, or pigments straight from the jar. I tend to mix colours that are somewhat impure, or subdued, as you mentioned. I think that this aids in the slowing of the viewing experience, making it harder to draw quick and simple conclusions about what is happening in the painting, or what colour it is that you are seeing.

The dots (though they are very rarely actually white), encourage the viewer to move across the surfaces of the work. I want the viewer to get in close and examine the subtle structural qualities of the paintings themselves.

SC: I am interested in the notion of preciousness and at what stage a painting becomes discarded in the studio. Do you have a tendency to destroy failed paintings? For you, what determines if a work is failed?

MF: Destroying failed paintings has become an integral part of my studio practice. A painting might be considered a failure for many different reasons. I take great joy in cutting the canvas off of the stretchers, or in sanding them down. Sometimes it’s obvious right away, and sometimes it takes weeks, months or even years to see the failures. I try to not get too sentimental about my work. If it has to go, it has to go.

SC: Focusing on the titling of your paintings, is there a reason why you choose to leave them Untitled? For you, what is the role of an artworks title? Do you feel that titles are unimportant when viewing/interpreting your work?

MF: I’ve personally never felt it necessary to title my paintings. I don’t want my work to allude to a place, feeling, or thought that I may have had. I want them to be left as open ended as possible. I make the work, and then I try to move out of the way; I want the experience to be that of the viewer’s.

SC: What projects/works are currently in progress in your studio? Are you currently preparing for any specific future shows?

MF: I have a solo exhibition planned for December in Mexico, at FIFI Projects, which I’m starting to think about. Also preparing a few paintings to be shipped to Koki Arts in Japan. After that, I don’t have anything coming up until 2018, which is great. I love having the time to work, to experiment, and to allow the paintings to advance much more slowly.

SC: To what extent do you consider Montreal as being an influential factor in the shaping of your work? Do you feel that your surroundings have influenced you in one way or another?

MF: Montreal is a great city for artists. The pace is slower here. There are a lot of artists, but not a lot of people knocking down your door. It’s a great city to get work done, and have the time and space to reflect on what it is that you’re working on.

SC: Also, as I have never been to Montreal, so therefore rather unknowledgeable about what Montreal offers, perhaps you could tell me about the cities art scene? Would you encourage others to visit?

MF: Montreal has a fairly small art scene, but there are a number of great galleries, and a couple of good museums. In the past few years there have also been a number of artist run spaces popping up, which has provided an alternative art viewing experience that I feel was missing when I moved here. Montreal is also a very beautiful place, with a nice balance of city and nature.

SC: In relation to social media and more specifically Instagram, what are your thoughts on this as a platform to engage with other artists and new audiences? Do you have a love/hate relationship with Instagram or other online social media platforms?

MF: Instagram is a great place for people to engage with one another, and for artists to reach new audiences. I think it can be a great tool, depending on how you use it. I’ve met a lot of people in the real world through Instagram, and have gotten exhibitions as a result. I do however think that it is necessary to realize its shortcomings when it comes to the visual arts. Viewing a photo of something on Instagram will never replace experiencing the actual object.

SC: Do you have any dream projects in mind that you would like to do in the future? 

MF: I have a few ideas for large scale installations that I would like the opportunity to realize at some point. It would also be fun to curate a couple of group exhibitions again in the future.

SC: Any last points or thoughts you would like to share?

MF: Thank you!

Matthew Feyld

Images courtesy of Matthew Feyld, Grey Contemporary, Sunday-S Gallery, 57w57 Arts & Lauren Coleman.