Artist Interviews

In Focus: Mat Cahill

We have a chat with Rise Art's own Mat Cahill about his work and his advice to other emerging artists.

By Sophie Nibbs | 22 May 2012

Mat Cahill is an artist who's incredibly detailed and at times intricate work is self described as a 'visualisation of the thought process'. His drawing based work attempts to explore what he sees as the often overlooked possibilities of individuals as they engage in mundane every day tasks. We talked to Mat about his work, what he finds rewarding about working with young artists and why it's the journey, not always the destination, that counts.

Rise Art: You graduated with an MA from Wimbledon  in 2006. As your collector base and practice has grown how has your practice changed? 

Mat Cahill: Since graduating, I have learnt the importance of self motivation and the realisation no one will help anyone who doesn't help them self first. I've seen a lot of my peers disappear creatively over the years as some of them might have found the lack of support outside the education system very difficult. I also feel that artists of my generation have found it a strange transitional period following the success of the YBA's, as a lot of us whilst at art school saw artists picked up and pushed into fame. This delusion affected my original ambitions but I believe that after 6 years away from the education system I am now making honest art work and only think about its message rather than the lifestyle of the profession.


RA: Your work on Rise Art deals with the moments of everyday life that can often be overlooked, such as the daily commute. Could you tell us more about these works?

MC: These works are about our obsession as a society with the idea of the event. This could be the concert on Friday night or the meeting on Monday morning. We are so much about living for the next 'big' moment of significance that we regularly ignore the moments of magic which happen en route to these big events. As an artist I have always talked about my  process being a journey and I guess this attitude is being illustrated through my work. I feel that these little moments shape who we are, be it a setback or a success and I guess I am just asking the viewer to consider their journey and those they meet on it a little bit more.

RA: You have been involved at the Whitworth as a Freelance Creative Practitioner. What do you find rewarding about working with young artists and running workshops?

MC: I believe that art is a tool, a tool that can create awareness, be it social, emotional, physical and in this case educational. Children naturally use creativity as a learning too more freely than grown-ups., this could be the lack of fear to ask unusual questions in relation to the artwork on display or the world around them. I believe the most rewarding element of working with young artists is just being present in this discovery process.

RA: What is the best piece of advice you were given/would give a recent arts graduate?

MC: While at Loughborough University, I was obsessed with trying to be an artist in the traditional sense. I cared way too much about the materials and their context in art history. While making these grand overworked oil paintings I kept a book with me at all times which I used more as a diary than an artistic journal. A tutor once saw this book and advised me to stop painting and pretending to be an artist and start being myself. What I took from this was that my ability for storytelling was more unique and personal when said through basic materials. I believe that this conversation to my interest in drawing and its instantaneous expression of the thought process.

Artist Mat Cahill leading a workshop the Whitworth

RA: Do you see any emerging trends from cutting edge artists now?

MC: I am seeing a lot of exciting artists work concentrating on the handmade and DIY nature of art. This start contrast compared to the overuse of the readymade and mass-produced works which were very popular in the early 00's when I was a student. I believe that this could be due to the financial climate, which isn't a bad thing, as I believe that life should dictate what an artist makes, not the other way round.

RA: You are currently based in London - Which museum / gallery would you send someone to if they had one day in town?

MC: I can be regularly seen in solitude at the National Portrait Gallery, as I enjoy nothing more than creating stories in my head for the characters who adorn the walls. I love this gallery more than any other museum in London because the crammed hanging style teamed with an overactive imagination can lead to a unique day out. In contrast to the history of the NPG, I would advise people to visit my favourite space for contemporary happenings, which is Peckham Space. This socially engaged venue combines respected contemporary artists with the local public and environment. Over the years they have had artists who I adore such as Clegg & Guttmann, Sonia Boyce and more recently Barby Asante. This venue is highly significant because of its understanding of the importance of social engagement within the arts.

RA: What has been your favourite exhibition so far in 2012?

MC: I was really happy to see the mid-career retrospective of Jeremy Deller at the Hayward earlier this year. I have followed his career for a long time and feel that the show illustrated his creative path really well. I feel that it wasn't just by luck that this show was so strong, as I believe that the Hayward has had some highly impressive shows in the past 12 months such as George Condo, David Shrigley and Pipilotti Rist.

Snap Shots (2012), Mat Cahill

RA: What projects and plans do you have lined up for the future?

MC: As I've recently moved back to London, I am just trying to form new networks within the industry. Moving back to London has also re-introduced me to working with my friend and collaborator Justin Virdi on our project 'The Ghandi Lounge' which we hope to exhibit sometime next year. I am still working from my studio in Manchester and myself and the other artists at Mirabel studios will be opening their doors to the public sometime in July this year.

RA: What is your favourite profession or hobby, outside of artistic practice?

MC: Away from art I like to pretend that I'm a DJ, I have done this for a few years and enjoy playing out my selection of rare funk, northern soul and break beats. I enjoying DJing as it is similar to curating and I enjoy expressing myself through other people's words and rhythms for a change, rather than my own.

RA: What's your guilty pleasure?

MC: Cooking to Dolly Parton

For a closer look at Mat's work, check out his Rise Art profile.

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