Pedro Matos

Pedro Matos in dialogue with Steven Cox

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

Pedro Matos: I was fortunate to have quite a rich upbringing, I was able to participate not only in the traditional academic education in school and university, but also travelled, got exposed to the world and participated in different cultures and activities. From graffiti to skateboarding, music and so on, all of it was very important and still informs my work today somehow. The “professionalization” came naturally over time, with the first exhibitions and studio hours whilst still studying until it eventually became my main focus.

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?

PM: I don't have many set routines, or the ones that I do are always flexible to be changed and adapted according to each week's challenges. I try to get other things done first in the morning, gym, e-mails, shipping, management, and errands, whatever...once I am free of all that I am able to focus on the work without as much mental clutter.

SC: Has there been a particular moment in time that is significant to you artistically? 

PM: Becoming an artist happened very organically over time with each milestone being very significant. I learned from my mistakes and tried not to repeat them, so I think those were the most significant moments, the bad ones..

SC: You have just opened an exhibition at Eduardo Secci Contemporary. Can you tell me about this exhibition? What are the key aspects of this exhibition that are important to you?

PM: It is a solo presentation titled “At Once Familiar and Completely Alien” that is happening during “Studio Visit” - a proposal of 4 solo presentations simultaneously happening at the gallery. I think its a natural evolution of my work and also the first time that I am combining different series of paintings and sculptures in the same room and in dialogue with each other instead of a cohesive single series.

SC: Your newest series of paintings ‘Subliminal Gestures’ own a similarity to rock walls, can you tell me about this series of paintings and how they relate to your previous series of paintings?

PM: The reference comes from a pattern that is used to make really cheap floor. It is made with scraps and left-overs of more precious stones (like marble and so on), and to avoid waste, the workers make these compositions with the broken bits. It is usually seen in older houses, suburbs, and so on.. it has a very kitsch and poor feel to it. What I am interested particularly is the subconscious way of mark making and composition made by people filling some other role that is nor making art.

SC: Focusing on the titles that you give your works, I am curious about the way you choose these titles. Such as ‘You Can Get It For The Rest Of Your Life’ 2016, ‘Accidents, Failures And Something Else’ 2016, ‘The Sudden Hungering For A Second Chance’ 2015. For you, what is the role of an artworks title? Also, do you feel that titles can alter a works interpretation?

PM: Titles are as important as any other aspect of the work (If given or considered). I like to title works when I am working on a project (like a solo exhibition for example) and the titles become part of the bigger picture and relate to the subjects that I am interested in for that project. They can happen in different ways, usually they are some sort of “quote” stolen from somewhere else. A music, lyric, text, book, movie, etc etc.. But when taken out of context and cut and pasted into a work's title, it becomes something else. Maybe they don't alter the interpretation but add to it, like on more layer of meaning.

SC: Do you have a set process in how you plan your works? Do you begin with preparatory sketches of some form, or do you prefer to work in an improvised manner?

PM: There is always some small room for improvisation as the mediums have their own singularities that one must respond to. But I do start with research and thought that then leads to some digital work and experimentation with photography and photoshop. Once I have made the most important decisions, it is then translated to the final medium, whether it is painting or sculpture or something else.

SC: Now that you have opened your exhibition at Eduardo Secci Contemporary, are you back in the studio working on the next project? Or, are you taking some time off?

PM: I am back in the studio working so I can take some time off when the summer really kicks in.

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? Or, do you aim to be aim to be as efficient as possible when planning a work so to avoid destroying anything?

PM: I aim for the efficiency yes, but not necessarily to avoid destruction.. (It's just a better use of time and resources I guess.. and you don't really start something thinking about failure..) It does occur sometimes. If I am really unhappy I might destroy it right then, others times they just hang in the studio until I can't see them anymore and put them away somewhere else, hidden from day light..

SC: What are some of the key art materials within your studio that you always need to have close to hand?

PM: On a daily basis just the painting materials (Paint, brushes, canvas, etc), Wi-Fi, Laptop, projector.. If I work on something else more specific I will have other things, for sculpture for example.

SC: Can you please tell me about your studio set up? Would you say that your current studio is ideal, or are you seeking a new/better space?

PM: I moved to a new studio last November, so I still feel like I am settling in. I had been in an invitation-based residency studio in Cascais for the past two years, and in London for the previous three, so it feels nice to be back in Lisbon. My current studio is not huge or as big as I would like, but one of the advantages that made me go for it is that it has two floors, so I can keep separate working spaces for production, office, storage and lounge.

SC: Being based in Lisbon, what do you feel the city offers to you as an artist that other cities don’t? Alternatively, what do you wish that Lisbon would offer you but currently doesn’t? Do you see yourself continuing to live in Lisbon for the foreseeable future?

PM: I have never felt better anywhere else. There is a perfect balance of city, nature, beach, weather, friends, family, etc for me. I have lived in London and traveled a lot, and of course Lisbon is nothing like London, LA, Paris and so on in terms of cultural offer, diversity, economy, evolution, growth, and so on. I do miss some of it sometimes, but the pros of living in Lisbon still outweigh the cons.

SC: To what extent do you consider Lisbon 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?

PM: I think one's environment deeply influences everything. I have lived in different places before, and it does feel different on many levels. However, I am not able to tell specifically what those changes are or how different my practice would be if I lived somewhere else.

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

PM: As you said, it is a platform to engage with new audiences, to be informed, to participate in the conversation on a daily basis, no matter where you are in the world. It brings people together and keeps the conversations going in a fluid manner. I don't hate it, and I choose how to use each platform in a way that best suits me. However, I am aware of its limitations and dangers, more specifically for contemporary art, it is very tempting for one to think that he has seen or experienced something just because it was seen on Instagram. But, I don't believe it is the same thing to see a digital reproduction of a material object or event…at least just yet.

SC: What do you feel are the pros and cons of Instagram, and do you consider Instagram important for artists working today?

PM: It is a tool, and like any tool, it can be used in good and productive ways or not. It is great in the sense that it is free and anyone can use it to reach an audience and maintain a relationship with several people at distance and so on. Artists can get discovered without living in London or New York. But I also understand and respect people who choose not to use it or don't even need to, as those needs can be met in other ways.

SC: As well as painting, I am aware that you also co-manage Aujourd’hui, which is an independent editorial and curatorial platform. How did Aujourd’hui begin and how do you all know each other within the team? Is this a project that began in Lisbon?

PM: It began in Lisbon with 5 friends (Ricardo Passaporte, Alexandre Couto, Maria Pereira, Maria Rita and I) very spontaneously and at a time where no one was connecting the portuguese art world with the international scene in this way. We wanted to help to open up the dialogue with the other communities. Now things have changed a little in the past few years, we have more people helping out (Joana Portela and Teresa Braula Reis) and collaborators from all over the world who send us and create us content. Also, now that the connections are being made, with new international galleries in Portugal, instagrams, blogs, the rise of tourism, arco lisboa, maat museum, and so on, we focus less on being a magazine and reporting everything and more on creating our own content.

SC: Can you tell me your views on painting today? Also, how do you envision the future of the art world when there seems to be so many galleries closing?

PM: I don't buy into that story completely.. Yes, some important galleries have closed (maybe they had too big overheads, too many art fairs, or something else). Also, a lot of new galleries have opened. I think there are more galleries, more fairs, more artists, more collectors, more curators, etc etc than ever before. With growth comes adjustment, and some galleries will close and suffer from those adjustments. Of course, the world is in constant change and evolution, and so will be art and the art world. We have new means of consumption, new means of distribution, new means of documentation, and so on. Everything tends to go towards the “digital” in one form or another.. It will be a big challenge for painting indeed.. but painting has been said to be dead for decades and always finds a way to come back stronger. I think we had a very strong decade for painting in the last years, and after all the hypes and market talks settle down, we will have the legacy of great painters that have been pushing the medium forward and bringing the new contemporary phenomenon’s (globalization, digital, internet, social media, algorithms, etc) into the conversation.

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

PM: Thank you!

Pedro Matos

Images courtesy of Pedro Matos, Eduardo Secci Contemporary, Underdogs Gallery