Matthew Curtis-Knight – Artist of the Month
March’s Artist of the Month is artist Matthew Curtis-Knight. Matthew lives and works in Essex. He graduated with a BA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins in 2004.
Matthews’ practice is ultimately concerned with questioning and analysing the modern human condition and our ever evolving relationship with technology. Through his various ongoing series, exploring themes from the microscopic world of the electronic to the modern urban environment he looks at how our constructed world affects on us both individually and societally. Matthew creates works through a highly process driven approach to the abstraction, manipulation, digitisation and sometimes direct destruction of media to question who we are today and where and why we go from here.
His stunning work can be found across various ARTIQ workplace projects including Citrix and Drinker Biddle & Reath.
We sat down with Matthew to talk about his impressive work and to find out more about his inspirations. Read the full interview below. Matthew has also taken over our Instagram from 8th – 15th March to showcase his work and process. Follow us on @Artiqgram to see his posts.
Explore Matthew’s work this Spring at the Beecroft Gallery, Southend in ‘Disrupting the Archive’ 26th February – 8th April 2017 as part of his 1 year Alternative MA course at Metal Art School
How has your work developed over time?
It has focused and refined, I think as you slowly build up a body of work this is inevitable. You are finding out who you are and what you work is about. Over time this picture becomes clearer and it reinforces itself with each new work. I said to my wife recently that even though as an artist you don’t know the path you are on exactly you can make out a direction from your past work. It helps to guide you or at least it is a comfort when you are faced with the unknown ahead of you. I waste less time now, or at least it takes less time to get to the idea and get it into production. I felt when I was younger I was investing a lot of time and energy without always a lot to show for it. I was finding out ways in how not to do my practice I guess and that is still incredibly valuable. I feel just as hungry to make work but less on edge about how I am going to make it as I have the previous work as evidence that I will find a way.
What artists have influenced your practice?
I always find this question quite difficult to answer as I have never felt a direct affinity to any one particular artist or creative. I take inspiration and influence from the places, people and my experiences of the world around me. Perhaps not just from individuals directly. I think growing up with the internet and being interested in technology from an early age has affected how I approach my search for influence and ideas.
What would you do if you weren’t an artist?
Electronic musician or technology evangelist and educator – I’ve been thinking recently of setting up a YouTube channel dedicated to technology with but a focus on inventive / maker / experimental angles. Inspire people to make, experiment and to see things differently. The same way I see the outcomes of my art practice really.
How do you see your art as a part of our society?
I think with my more recent work if you were to strip it back to its essence it’s about our relationship with the screen. The all-pervasive nature of this technology and the content we consume from it. If not already this is becoming a universal human – technological interrelationship that I am very much a part of but seek to question at the same time. This is society – projected from billions of glowing devices, I find it fascinating, I have to make work as a response to this. I think this is why having the opportunity to take part in the Artist Takeover of the Artiq Instagram account will be so interesting for me, it’s very related.
Tell us about your dream project.
I have no idea at the moment, I’ll know it when I see it! I think my dream is to keep making and being surprised by what I make, I hope that I will always have the opportunity to keep on exploring and acting on my drive to create. I think if I had to specify something it would be to do a project and one soon that pushed me out of my comfort zone. Something with more scale or scope would certainly do that. I think it’s always about seeing where you can be taken with a work not the other way around.
What’s the last exhibition you saw that made an impact on you?
Well strangely it was the Segram Murals at the Tate Modern but not in the way I was expecting. When I went to see them again recently it was during a very busy lunchtime, I had just popped into the Tate Modern as I was in the area. I had put my headphones on without any music playing simply to cut out as much ambient noise from the people in the gallery as possible. In doing so the soundscape completely changed. I could hear loud echoing booms coming from way below in the gallery that I couldn’t hear before – some building works must have been underway. Those booms and the muffled hum of people really resonated with me and changed how I was experiencing these works. It felt incredibly fetal and safe but also wondrous and my own. I was not expecting that and it reminded me to always challenge how I observe the world around me all it can take sometimes is to turn the volume down.
What is the one thing you cannot live without?
Four things: Camera, Computer, Notebook, Acoustic Guitar. I think if I lost everything else and these remained I would be alright.
What is the most memorable piece of art you have produced?
My first interactive sculpture in 2001. ‘Feedback Generator’ is one my friends and family always mention – they lovingly refer to it as ‘The Doom Organ’. It was wonderfully ridiculous contraption: a hand controlled electronic instrument to produce audio feedback (that hum you hear at gigs when someone puts a microphone too close to a speaker) using lots of speakers, lots of microphones and lots of water pipe. It was loud! I’m currently updating my website with my back catalogue of work. I will have to put the video of it up!
Has any place or environment affected your work?
London, but more specifically the square mile as you can see clearly from my Architetra Series but also the modern urban environment. There is always so many interesting discoveries and things to chance upon. I love the predictable unpredictability of it! And lastly the internet.
What do you do in your spare time?
I think as an artist you don’t always let yourself totally have down time. I find I always make in some way or another but I tend to relax when I channel that need into something that isn’t related to my practice specifically. So you’ll find me out on ambling walks taking photos, adding another component to my growing AV system, doing DIY around the house or helping my friends, family and fellow artists with their technology projects or problems.
Take us through the lifespan of creating a work of art.
My work is very process driven, but how I come about those processes is through experimentation. So it starts with the development of that process. In my studio I am surrounded with a myriad of consumer tech hardware from old cine projectors to computer hardware. I experiment with these until I am surprised by a result, this could be in several forms, still image, video or something leading to an installation work. It’s this surprise that I look for constantly, It’s the sensation of seeing something for the first time, or from a different viewpoint that is so inspirational for me. Once I have that result I look to refine the process so it is repeatable. Input – Process – Output , is the simple rule I follow. I’m not wanting the same result each time just the same process. I create many of my works by changing the input and keeping the process the same. Working with technology allows me to do this as it allows a repeatability difficult to attain manually. I will call an individual piece finished but the series it originates from is continuous. I don’t really finish those as I can always come back to that original process.
What advice would you give a younger you?
What you’re doing is interesting, believe in it, it has a place and people want to see it and talk about it with you. You can get funding and get it out there, there are way less limits than you think there are.