Interview with the Saatchi Gallery. March 2013.
What themes do you pursue?
Human beings looking at screens, contemporary reality mirroring abstraction, winter trees and meat. Generally speaking: the life of forms, opposites, beauty, purgatory.
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
How many years as an artist?
Most of them
Where is your studio?
Northumberland, UK. In a small village in the countryside north of Hadrian's wall.
Art school or self-taught?
I have a degree from the School of Visual Arts, New York City. Living in the world has been enough of an art school ever since.
Prefer to work with music or in silence?
Some music, some silence, and the Howard Stern show.
What’s around the corner from your place?
the North Tyne ( a river ), a 3 pubs, a butcher and a post office.
Where can we find you outside the studio?
Teaching. Observing. Teaching people how to observe. Observing people teaching.
If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?
Musician or chef. Something like that, where at the end there's either something to eat or tap your foot to. I don't think anyone lies on their deathbed wishing they were less productive.
Creating art, teaching Art and managing teachers.
What do you collect?
Art books, music. stray animal bones
Favorite contemporary artist?
JS Sargent, Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Chuck Close, Robert Crumb. Milton Glaser.
I could go on and on...
If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
Goya's dog. Failing that, I'd take a late Rembrandt self portrait, a Sargent watercolor, or a Bruegel. There's quite a few pieces that I could look at every day in the flesh and never tire of them.
Who are your favorite writers?
David Foster Wallace, Twain, Philip K Dick. HP Lovecraft, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Roberto Bolano, William Blake. Walt Whitman. Robert Hughes. Bukowski. Adam Gopnik.
Use anything other than paint?
Whatever the muse dictates.
Is painting dead?
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? Sorry, I thought we were having a rhetorical question contest. If we are, Shakespeare trumps Delaroche. Although for someone so highly skilled he was awfully short sighted. Maybe he was kidding.
Honestly though, what a question. If painting is.. in fact...dead, then I've really enjoyed wasting my life
Rosemary & Co Masters choice long filbert, round or flat.
Wouldn't mix without them, although the idea of a palette sword kind of rules.
Monet or Manet?
Manet, although Monet really knew how to live, and had the resources to have had a nicer life, Manet had better work.
American Artist Magazine.
American Artist Magazine. December 2003/January 2004
Loganlea Press, Australia, April 2003
Interview with Matthew Hickey
By Lana Osbourne
Your work has a very striking realistic quality. How did it develop over the years?
I played with different styles since I was a kid. I eventually settled into figurative realism after spending my childhood drawing dinosaurs and my teenage years painting the backs of denim jackets. Album covers, fire and skulls... lots of skulls.
How long have you been painting?
Since I was a boy. First with watercolor, then acrylic, I started in oil when I was about 13.
Do you come from an artistic family?
Thank you. My father was a fireman who drew and painted and scrimshawed the teeth of Sperm Whales. My brothers and my mother were musicians. I drew all of the time when I was a child. All children do, I think. I never stopped though.
How do you come up with ideas for your paintings?
I don’t know. Something strikes your eye, you get an image in your head, next thing you know the ole' gum spirits of turpentine are eating through your flesh and your pushing paint around like a numbskull. Then your in the zone, or something.
What is your favorite media to work in?
Oil on canvas or belgian linen. Also charcoal, pastel, pencil. Oil’s the best though. High quality oil paint. Just pigment cut with a little linseed oil. No extenders. No bullshit. No worries.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
Valesquez, Da Vinci, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Sargent, Gerome, Whistler, Pouisson. There’s quite a few that I admire. There’s quite a few more who I do not. It’s pretty subjective. Like trying to explain why you love your favorite meal. I’m partial to art that doesn’t require explanation from some fool using made-up pronouns and adjectives in an attempt to justify the fact that some people would rather call themselves artists instead of actually learning how to draw. But that’s just me. Whatever blows your skirt up.
How old are you.?
I just turned thirty. When people hear that, they act like your dog just died. I’ll say “Hey I just turned thirty” and they’ll say something like “Whoa, I’m sorry man, how ya doing?” Ridiculous.
Where did you grow up?
Levittown, New York. Birthplace of suburbia. Birthplace of the American middle class. Hear that pride? You can never really escape Levittown. Just ask Billy Joel.
Do you support yourself by only painting or do you have other sources of income?
By day I’m an art director for a promotions company. Kind of like Clark Kent, if he designed ephemera. You know those ribbons that kids get for field day in school? The one’s that everyone gets so everyone feels like a winner? That kind of thing. It pays the rent, there’s lots of winners out there. I usually paint at night. I’ll sell one or two and then nothing for a long time. It’s not exactly a steady income. But it’s all very dramatic and romantic and tortured, so the stereotype remains intact. I also wear lots of black. I also teach other people how to draw, paint, and wear lots of black.
Do you accept commissions?
Yes. Actually... no. Because no one wants to commission an artist who accepts commissions. You lose the air of exclusivity. So the answer is No. Never. Except when I do.
Where is your studio located?
I have a nice space directly above a biker bar with a view of a cemetary. It’s on a main road, so you can always hear the cars hissing by and muffled classic rock blaring through the floor. On weekends you can watch middle age guys with mullets and "moustache rides" shirts vomit in the parking lot. It’s the best studio I’ve had so far.
Two of my favourite pieces are “At Rest” and “Self Portrait after Car Crash”. Can you explain what inspired them?
“At Rest” was inspired by the combination of young men, copious amounts of alcohol, and a comfortable couch. One man is a cynical postal worker who had gotten in a bar fight the night before. He's a keeper. The other one posesses a formidable cranium and keen insight into various bits of esoteric geekery. Another keeper. The last fello is a singer, songwriter who renames himself often and is prone to outift/identity/personality changes worthy of a true diva. A diva with no money. Can't get rid of him. The other piece was inspired by effects of two tons of angry metal on human flesh. I was in a nasty car crash, minding my own. Then BOOM! Nothing but laughs. Seemed like an appropriate piece to do at the time.
How do you handle criticism of your work?
People come up with some very bizarre interpretations of very straightforward images. If you’re gonna get through art school, you have to deal with hundreds of critiques. If your confident in your own abilities and talents it shouldn’t ever really matter what other people think of your work. Unless, of course, your work sucks. I welcome any criticism of my work. If your work gets any attention at all, be it positive or negative, at least it’s attention. You could have far worse problems.
Do you get influenced by any contemporary pop culture?
Defintely. Pop culture has such a short shelf-life though. As soon as you recognize one thing, it’s already passe and there’s something else. Who could keep up with it? Who would want to? I’m influenced by modern subject matter as it pertains to objects, people and all of that. I'm only concerned with how the light hits it.
What made you choose to paint realism instead of abstraction or conceptualism or post-impressionism?
That’s a lot of “isms”. So many "isms". I paint things the way I see them, or at least atttempt to get as close as possible. People are my favorite to see, not just to look at, but to really see them. Flesh, muscles, tendons, fat, it's all an ocular feast. You can’t really appreciate flesh & form in abstraction. Some of it is interesting to look at and sometimes fun to paint, but it doesn’t do it for me. I don’t particularly care for conceptualism. It’s all in the explanation, ya know? Like some elitist secret club where if you know that password you can pretend the work doesn’t suck and your time hasn’t been wasted. If you need someone to explain what you meant in a work of art, then your probably a poor communicator and have no business in a field that is entirely based on non-verbal communication. But if someone’s buying it, more power to you. I don’t imagine that people who naturally lack integrity or originality lose any sleep over that fact.
What advice would you give younger artists or art students?
Keep drawing and you too can live the dream. Thank you.