Matthew Bourbon “Making art as it unfolds”
When thinking of art centers some of the first places that come to mind are New York City, France, Vienna, Rome and even Shanghai as of late. One place that gets overlooked is the art scene happening where everything is bigger: Texas. This humble art scene has an artist churning out work that can be described as half abstract-half representational. There may even be an influence of collage-making thrown in the mix. Why is that? Keep reading.
Matthew Bourbon is Californian grown from just outside of San Jose. He went to UC Davis with the intention of spending a year there then moving to UCLA to study film. He played around with video in high school which was his main creative outlet at that point which prompted him to take film in the Art Department at Davis. While there he decided to try his hand at painting since his mother and uncle always spent time painting.
Matthew reflects about his change in artistic pace, “I kind of stumbled into an amazing painting program at UC Davis. The seriousness with which each professor took their art and their teaching was a bit of a revelation.” He continues, “I was always into art as a kid, but never saw it, until my time at Davis, as a viable option for my life”.
So, with that being said, Matthew soon changed his major to Art and then doubled in Art History. This began a future of being submerged in his passion of art.
After a year or two of substitute teaching in and around San Francisco and painting to prep for grad school he applied to the School of Visual Arts in New York City. This became a turning point for his career and passion, “My time in New York City was very important. The whole city became my school”.
And, was that ever true. Bourbon went to every show and spent time in Chelsea. While in the city he also had artist walk-throughs in his 5th story, rat infested, walk-up studio. At one point “I remember Matthew Ritchie coming and really understanding my work at that time. I was making flat, almost cartoonish paintings from film stills that had a noir-ish mood.” Matthew found side-work writing reviews for New York Arts Magazine while in his MFA program. The reviews were usually short but they kept him seeing everything around the city…and away from the art appreciative rats.
Collecting stockpiles of images from film stills, illustrations, newspaper clippings, erotica, and fabric designs is an obsession of his. Though this may sound like an episode of ‘Hoarders’ he uses said images to begin building vignettes “where I imagine myself as a kind of latter day collagist—manipulating a range of images until I feel like I have set up a series of problems for myself”. It is like he builds the stone in which the statue will be carved out of and then carves the statue from the stone he just built. Though this sounds counterproductive it obviously is not for him. This way he knows his work with problems and how to go about removing those same problems. I would not apply this tactic to life situations. Enough problems can arise on their own.
People watching, while just interesting in its own sense, is Matthew’s source of inspiration and ideas. He is intrigued by the nuance of human behavior and psychology. What people do to one another, don’t do to one another, or any other variation of those is what it is about for him. Psychology and a general understanding of it is important as an artist. Body language and how that body language is shaped by emotional responses helps an artist develop a character and Matthew seems to know all about that trick. He exploits that character development, (see painting “The Pyschologist” (above) as a great example of body language yelling how it feels at the top of its lungs) by utilizing the same technique fiction writers use for characters: he lets the character(s)/art/situation(s) tell him where to go next and because of this his work is never planned out.,
When asked what artists influence him he humbly makes it obvious that there are many greats out there. Some he mentioned are Euan Uglow, Jorge Queiroz, Django Reinhardt, and Glenn Gould. He even shows some local love by supporting Fort Worth artist, Kirk Hayes.Since 2000, Matthew has been teaching at the University of North Texas. Teaching is a fire fueled by his teachers in the past. This inspiration came from seeing and learning from their passion and dedication to art. His most respected teachers set a standard by always thinking art which is encouraging to students.
Whether it be art, teaching, or hoarding images and whatnot his approach appears the same: Nothing planned out to begin with but then finding what is next depending on the situation presented. Not every class, minute or day is the same so letting circumstances shape an approach or technique, while maintaining personal boundaries, is what the evolution of art is all about.