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13 Questions With Mat Cahill

Posted in In the Studio by Isabel Larner on 19th August 2015

Mat Cahill is an artist who draws attention to the variety of human personalities, anonymity and a person's place in society. We catch up with Mat to learn a bit about his work, background and time as Damien Hirst's studio assistant.
 
Q1: What's the most important thing to know about you?
I like to make drawings.
 
Q2: How did you get into Art?
Creativity has been in my life since a very young age as my father was an Art teacher and my mother was an English teacher. My dad’s enthusiasm for making and creating infected me, giving me endless opportunities to create my own worlds and stories as child. I believe that if my father was a builder or a hairdresser, I would have followed his footsteps into his chosen profession as it was his enthusiasm for the subject rather the subject itself that first got me hooked on the need to express myself visually. My earliest memory of creativity was making clay goblins with my father as a child. We would read stories about goblins and trolls before bed time and then at the weekend or summer holiday, we would make our own characters in clay and then I would play with them in the garden. I guess art has always been in my life but I never saw it as getting into art it was just being raised by creative people who had the ability to facilitate mine and my sisters imagination.
 
Q3: What part does anonymity play in your work?
Being anonymous can be seen as a positive or negative thing, depending on whether the individual chooses to be anonymous or not. When people look at my work, I want them to be able to discern what characters they believe do not choose to be anonymous. 
 
Q4: What semblance does anonymity play in London, and is it more poignant here than in other places that you've lived?
When I lived in smaller towns or villages, people cared about my business whether it be; my family background, sexuality, ethnicity, culture or class. The cosmopolitan nature of a Capital city such as London allows people to be who they want as there is no such thing as the norm. The flip side is that due to the amount of people, the individuals who need recognition sometimes don't receive it. London can be a lonely place if you don't choose to be anonymous but find yourself being so. 
3 works by mat Cahill

Colin?
Chris?
Head shot (peach)

 

How was your time as a studio assistant for Damien Hirst and what did it consist off?
I consider myself very lucky to have worked for Damien in a period of dramatic change for the art world. I supported him with his practice in 2008 when he had his record breaking sale at Sothebys. I worked in his Devonshire studio which was in a picturesque area of the world with a small group of assistants visualising and fabricating his ideas. I got to see how the art world works at the highest level, I see similarities in the role I played to a young musician being a roadie for some one like Prince. 
 
How did you get into it, and how has that experience affected your current practice?
I got the position by simply applying for it through an advert in an art journal. I am proud to tell people that I believe that it breaks the myth that you can only go far in the art world if you know the right people. Due to this experience I have learnt how to present and promote myself and my work in a professional manner. I have learnt that to survive in the art world you need to understand that both your personality or persona and what you produce are a product for consumption. I am now proud to say I am my work and my work is me and they come together.
 
Thank God I found you - Mat Cahill

Thank God I Found You
Mat Cahill

 
You use the theme of crowds and an individual's place in society often in your work. Would you agree that the concept of being undistinguishable within a crowd, whether that be a physical crowd or metaphorically via stereotyping, instead of forfeiting your individuality is rather about welcoming the opportunity as a chance for connection? 
I dont see the idea of a uniform mass as a negative thing. I like it when people come together due to a shared belief or interest. However what my work strives to do is create opportunities for the viewer to look closely at the unique individual units within the mass. Although my characters may look similar at a skimming glance, each one is unique, so ultimately I am asking the viewer to invest the time to see the slight differences and quirks each one encompasses, through the basic marks I use. I purposely try not to make it easy for the viewer to see the differences and individuality in each character. In life each individual contains many different possibilities and when juxtaposed with another individual, like an equation, the outcome can produce many physical, emotional or genetic results. What I am ultimately trying to say in my work is that we as members of a society or a community have a responsibility to acknowledge/support/celebrate the individuals as we are only as strong as the most vulnerable in the flock though each individual needs to take responsibility for this to work. 
 
What kind of room do you imagine your art in?
A room where life is taking part. I like the idea of my work being a back drop or set design to real life.
 
How long does it take to complete a piece?
Some of the larger crowd scenes can take anything up to 500 hours.
 
What kind of world are you trying to depict through your art?
A world that creates more questions than answers
 
What advice would you give to someone just coming out of art school?
The one thing I always remind myself is that I am only as good as my last drawing. This helps me move on from past successes and stay in the now, allowing me time to create and capture the moment, the place and society I live in. I believe that if a young graduate follows this, they will continue to make relevant and current work.
 
Thank God I Found You Part 8

Thank God I Found You Part 8
Mat Cahill

 
How has the internet affected you in terms of gaining visibility for your work?
I hate interacting with galleries and collectors because I believe myself to be a bit socially awkward and find it difficult to promote myself but websites such as Rise Art have supported me in this process. I now can spend more time producing work and less time needing to send off c.v's and portfolios to galleries and collectors who didn't always look at them.
 
VIEW MORE FROM MAT HERE