This is a thrill and to be sure seen by a lot of people! This is the text of the feature article in Simply Saratoga, Spring 2019, by Dan Lundquist, photos by Marisa Scirocco!
“...inspired by watching the world”
For local artist Matt Chinian, painting is a somewhat focused, “intentional” way of paying attention to things, thinking about them, and then presenting/sharing/translating them through words and images to try and share a vision and values.
When I asked Matt how he came to his art, became gripped by it, he replied: “I observed the world and had to paint it.”
When I visited Matt's comfortable, well-used studio (a spacious converted garage with lots of natural light and a crackling pot-belly wood stove at his house in Cambridge), we had a wide- ranging conversation as I browsed the "walk-in album" of hundreds of his plein air works.
The space is rustic and comfortable. What might appear to be an “easy chaos” is Matt’s carefully-outfitted studio. When he walked me around the property Matt explained how he had renovated the barn across from the studio. Impressed, I asked him about that; he was a carpenter specializing in traditional window restoration, but he wanted to show the world what he fascinated, as places, as compositions of shape and color and as a record of how things looked while he was there. Painting allows him to do that far better than restoration carpentry, as fulfilling as that was.
“It was not easy to make a living in Cambridge New York with an M.F.A. degree, so in my early thirties I hired myself out at first as a general handyman carpenter. It was humbling. I learned a lot about human nature and I enjoyed living and working in my newly-adopted home. Over time I did a lot carpentry jobs for people, mostly as a one-man operation or with carpenter friends. It suited my disposition and fit perfectly into small town life.”
After about an hour -- and a cup of great, strong coffee -- I had to go, but a few thoughts crystallized.
1) Here is a guy who lives in a stunning rural setting alongside a peaceful creek. 2) He doesn't just see things, he observes and (I think) muses and "curates" the images and
what they evoke for him. 3) He gets a blank canvas (stacks sit on his tables). 4) He picks up a brush. 5) After pausing, he selects colors from piles of tubes of oil paint.
Then the magic begins to happen: the brush becomes an extension of his eye and imagination and the paint is the medium that he uses to describe or translate his vision.
“I love paint. The pigment, the oil, the smell and feel of it. Color is not theoretical but a substance with properties. I love building pictures using shapes, values, color and texture. Painting is direct, there are no intermediary steps no mechanical technologies and it needs no electricity to make or view. When the paint dries, my brush strokes freeze in time, they reveal the process, the action and intent with which they were made.
“When I factor in considerations for light and weather, I've invested half my effort before the first stroke of the brush. Having said that, the rewards for working from life are irreplaceable, the world is living, breathing, the light the air; always changing, always moving. My eyes, my mind engaged in discovery over time, they journey, and often play tricks, the results are unpredictable. As a realist painter I am dependent on the visual environment: I choose the scene, with its inherent nature, its history, its metaphor. I record it in paint.”
The process itself — the “being in life” and digesting it, then putting a record, a story out there — is fun and fulfilling. Whether through the gift of painting or composing music or using words to tell stories.
“My process begins with wandering. I go out, drive around in search of a scene, a place, a play of light. My search is as much of a finding within me and asking: how I can express what’s in me, by focusing something that’s outside of me.
“There is an endless cycle of practical tasks and. Hours making panels, cleaning brushes. Lots of time on social media, managing photos, documenting the work, installing shows. There is discovery, always learning, always asking questions, navigating relevance, fighting sentiment.
“The main event — the actual painting — is as meditative as it is pell mell. At times it’s draining in every way, and I can’t paint a fence.”
But when the creative serendipity (and focused effort) work and people get something out of it — find inspiration in images, are moved by music, enjoy and learn from stories, are intrigued, or best yet remember all or parts of it and possibly receive some inspiration — well, that’s the best.
In Matt’s words, “I want to create a commentary about the world I live in, what I see and what I focus my attention on.”
And the funny thing about that part (the artist’s intent) is that one often has no idea when that second part (audiences’ engagement) really works. Or what its impact is.
But that’s okay. Some will engage, learn, and be moved... and in that is Matt Chinian’s fulfillment.
Matt will participate in the Open Studios of Washington County, July 19-21, and a One day only Pop-up open studio, March Sunday, March 31, 10-5 visit mattchinian.com.
Thanks for reading my blog!