NAME: Matthew Schiavello
LOCATION: I live in Thornbury
IN A SENTENCE EXPLAIN YOUR CRAFT: I am a photographer (specialising in abstract and conceptual), and a mixed media artist .
WHAT’S YOUR PROUDEST PIECE OF ART? This is hard question to answer. I do still have a soft spot for one of my earlier pieces ‘Hometown Untitled #26’. I had returned to where I had grown up, a bleak and tough place. I took this image hastily as I did not want to tempt being robbed and having my camera stolen. I love that I was still able to find beauty in this place. This image was also taken at a time when I felt I had finally mastered my DSLR camera. I no longer had to stop and think when shooting in manual mode, it had become second nature to me.
WHERE DOES YOUR CREATIVITY COME FROM? As a child I had an overactive imagination and I don’t think that has changed. I often have ideas pop into my head, I will think about them (‘how will I do this’, ‘why should I do this, what is the point of it’? etc), and then mentally file the thoughts away to come back to later. Sometimes I will write down (or sketch) ideas in my note book. I have found that the best ideas keep popping up again (and again), in slightly different variations. At some point in the process I realise the time for pondering is done, and now is the time to get to work on bringing the idea to life.
IS THERE A PARTICULAR ODE/MAXIM/PRINCIPLE THAT YOU REFERENCE WHEN CREATING? As I work on my art I like to ask myself the question ‘what if’. What if I did this, or tried that. When I am exploring ideas, I ensure that the fear of ‘ruining’ a piece does not get in the way of the exploration. Maybe the work will be ruined, but so what?
I also reference my feelings as I work. Is this piece exciting me or causing another sort of reaction in me? If I am not feeling anything, then I will consider restarting or moving on to something else.
I also will often ask myself – where is the beauty or the ‘worth’ in this piece? This is particularly relevant to my abstract photographs of urban decay and my work with ‘failed’ 35mm film.
WHAT BOOK HAS INFLUENCED YOU THE MOST? ‘Cyrano De Bergerac’, the play by Edmond Rostand. Similar to the ethos behind a lot of my work, the central character in this play, has a deep beauty that is overshadowed by, or hidden by, a particular feature that others find repulsive.
IF YOU COULD COLLABORATE WITH ANY ARTIST WHO WOULD IT BE? I wish Ellsworth Kelly were still alive. I would love to collaborate and learn from him. He is a master of abstraction, colour, line and form.
DO YOU HAVE ANY STRANGE PRACTICES TO HELP YOU CREATE? If I am out taking photographs, I sometimes challenge myself to work with a lens which I do not commonly use. To ensure I do follow through, I will leave my ‘go to’ lenses at home.
When I am in the studio, there is always music on. I have boxes of cd’s from various genres, to match my mood or to help me create a certain creative mood or energy level.
Another practice I will use in the studio, is to sit down with an item (I sometimes place items aside to use in my mixed media pieces) and just start exploring without any clear direction or intended outcome. I tell myself that this is not about the output, but about freely exploring without expectation. I find this process loosens me up from over thinking. Generally a few ideas will emerge which I can then further explore with more focussed intent.
WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE ABOUT THE INDUSTRY? I would love for there to be more cost effective spaces for people to show their work, as well as more cost effective avenues for exposure and support. I am reminded of Monique Morter from Balkon Art Incubator (which she runs with Sarah Hinds and Loes Verburg), who does a brilliant job of nurturing and supporting artists, especially ones new to exhibiting. We met four or five times as I developed a concept and changed it, and then changed it again, etc. This was all for an exhibition I had at Balkon, of an experimental and confronting series of works (more about the series ‘seminal and non-seminal works’, later). Monique became a wonderful mentor who encouraged me to keep exploring and to stay true to my creative intent. If we can somehow fund people like Monique to continue to mentor, inspire and support creatives, that would be amazing!
DOES DAREBIN HELP YOU BE MORE ARTISTIC? Darebin has a revitalising mix of new and old which is always shifting. There is a tension which arises between the old and the emerging, which seems to create a positive feeling of potential. This draws me in, and I suspect other creatives. The mix of cafes, gallery spaces and musical venues adds to this. As well, you have local businesses run by really nice people who care about the community, Clay from ‘Thornbury Records’ and Joanna from ‘Great Frames’, are a couple that spring to mind. Also, on a practical level, the changing facade of the area, is always providing me with something to capture with my camera.
WHAT ARE YOU STRIVING FOR THE MOST FROM YOUR ART? My abstract work aims to bring the viewer’s attention to the beauty which exists all around them, especially in torn, decayed or damaged transient urban spaces.
My conceptual work is usually an exploration of self in society. Often it is about our expectations and prejudices, with a hope that by becoming aware of our prejudices and how we developed them, we can explore their relevance and whether they are actually helpful.
A few years ago, I had completed a project which included a meta-review of the impact of body prejudice. The project’s aim was to create an opportunity for the viewer to gain an awareness of their own prejudices and explore them. https://www.braveorbeautiful.com/
IF YOU COULD EXHIBIT ANYWHERE IN MELBOURNE WHERE WOULD IT BE? NGV
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR LATEST PROJECT: My last project was ‘seminal and non-seminal works’.
I layered various items (including watercolour and ink) which I digitally scanned and made into a print. Certain items were intentionally used to provoke a reaction in each viewer. It was suggested that the art works initially be viewed with an innocence of not knowing what used in the works. The viewer was then encouraged to revisit the artworks after they were made aware of what items/materials were used. The aim of viewing the artworks this way was to bring to the forefront how the emotional value we attach to certain words and items can affect our experiences. The viewer was asked if they reacted differently to the artworks because of what they now knew was used in the creation of certain pieces? They were then invited to consider, in a broader sense, how the emotional meaning that they attach to (imbue in) items or words, affects their everyday interactions and experiences. An example of this may be meeting someone where the words ‘Muslim’, or ’Trans’ or ‘Christian’ or ‘Liberal’ etc may come to mind and cause an emotional reaction that gets in the way of their interaction with this person. Perhaps the reaction is a positive one, perhaps it is negative, the question that follows from this awareness is – does this process (or reaction) benefit me?
I am currently (very) slowly working on a project on how we create personal identity.
WAS THERE A PARTICULAR INSPIRATION BEHIND IT? I am always fascinated by how we can make long lasting judgements on another person from just a few pieces of information. Sometimes this information may only be the visual information we collect upon seeing them. I am curious as to how this process both benefits us, and how it fails us, both on an individual level and one a societal one. I am also curious as to why we continue to do this, seemingly without question.
WHERE CAN WE SEE YOUR ART: I generally exhibit yearly, and have just recently had a small show. I am working through some new ideas following which I will plan my next exhibition. In the meantime, I have some works for sale at ‘Present Story’ in Coburg and ‘Great Frames’ in Northcote (You can find their address details on my website). I also have a social media presence.