Posted by YSL on June 09, 2009 at 03:27 PM
Paterson, New Jersey. The place William Carlos Williams and Allen Ginsberg wrote poems about. And the place – or more precisely: the area – Matt Leines first saw the light of day and spent his childhood and teenage years in, though mainly seated indoors. Actually, he stayed in Jersey until very recently, relocating to Philly after having left home to study graphic design at the Rhode Island School of Design and then returning to his parents’ house in Paterson. But why not stay in Jersey when your mind’s constantly roaming and creating fictional worlds anyway?
Very much like an epic poem, the intricate drawings of the 28-year-old reveal ageless snapshots, mythological moments in time, events going down in parallel universes, fragments of stories, epic battles between moustachioed fellows, ubiquitous feline predators aka tigers, and humanoid architecture frozen in the two-dimensional. Influenced by anything from He-Man (and Battlecat, of course) to Hulk, pro wrestling to Jersey suburbia, you’ve probably seen some of his amazing stuff – either in galleries around the world or on your favourite blog or on the cover of The Sads’ “Rough Stabs” EP (Teenage Teardrops) –, yet Matt just upped the ante by releasing his first monograph entitled “You Are Forgiven” via Free News Projects. Meaning: 144 pages of pure awesomeness. We reached out to Matt to find out more about his obsession with tigers, his dreams, his take on mythology, and his reversed-fear of heights.
Matt, how does it feel to see the release of your first monograph?
It’s obviously totally satisfying but also very surreal to see it in stores. I don’t think it has completely sunk in yet.
To me, the whole book seems very much like “a whole” –
does it feel that way to you as well?
Well, thank you. That was an early goal when I started making this work, which at times it wasn’t the most important one. But yes, once the book was finished and everything was in order it was a pleasant surprise to see that it still, for the most part, had a correlation that ran throughout.
Is it true you haven’t been very good at archiving your work?
Did that make it difficult to put it together?
That was another surprise. I guess I’m not quite as bad of an archivist as I thought. We had a large chunk of the work to get started on. Some works that we didn’t have, we were able to track down, and I am lucky to have some very cooperative collectors who were happy to let us have the work photographed. Meg Kemner, who was the production assistant for the book, did an amazing job of transforming some images of questionable quality that I had originally thought weren’t going to be used. In the end, there are only a couple of essentials that unfortunately didn’t make it in.
So, is it true that you first sold your artworks on Ebay? How much did you usually make? And what are your feelings about that now?
I guess, technically yes, but now would be a good time to clarify that: I may have sold three or four little drawings, but they weren’t anything like the work I guess I am known for. It was just an experiment while I was in college, to see how complete strangers would respond to what I was doing at the time.
What were your favourite comics while growing up?
And which ones had the biggest impact on your art?
I didn’t really start reading comics until I was in college.
I remember having single issues of Captain America and Green Lantern, but I mainly watched my comics on TV. I think Challenge of the Super Friends had a pretty big impact. I remember liking teams of heroes working together, and that one had everyone in the Justice League. Masters of the Universe is still probably the ultimate cartoon/toy line for boys. It’s obvious that my palette came from cartoons and cheap printing.
Are you really bored with Greek and Egyptian references?
Bored might be a strong word. But I do think of all of the world mythology, there is probably too much emphasis put on Greek and Roman mythology, to the point that the word itself has become synonymous with it. I understand a lot of it might have to do with the perfection of the art that was spawned out of the myths, but too much emphasis is put on perfection too. It might be that I tend to root for the underdog, but I’d prefer Indian and Native American... but I’m changing my mind as I answer. Right now I am really into Greek black-figure vases.
What is it that fascinates you about tigers? And how did this fascination come about?
That’s one I’m trying to figure out. It could be that the football team I played for when I was eight was the Tigers. It could be that He-Man rode a tiger, or G.I. Joe had the Tiger Force. I remember getting really excited after seeing a Mexican folk dance costume of a man dressed as a tiger, and that’s when I first started drawing them.
Misaki Kawai also has one of those tigers… what’s up with that?
I’m well aware and want one. She is fantastic.
Do you think your characters can actually speak?
If so, how do they sound?
Of course they can speak! I don’t understand their language though.
Do you ever dream of your characters?
I don’t recall really dreaming about characters I’ve already been drawing, but I’ve definitely had images from dreams find their way into new pictures. For example, there was a series of faces made out of brick buildings, shapes that I dreamt about, and when I woke up I immediately tried sketching what I saw, but I doubt that they were all that accurate to the dream. Once in a great while I’ll have a totally amazing dream that will stick with me for a while, and it seems lately it’s been happening more often. I had one last week involving fireballs of Tesla’s wireless electricity, a tower dropping from the sky, and shape shifters. It was an M. Night Shyamalan movie starring Keanu Reeves and Dakota Fanning.
You just mentioned these “brick buildings,” and, generally speaking, there are all kinds of “animated architecture” to be found in your drawings… where does this obsession with structural design come from?
I am literally afraid of architecture. I have this opposite fear of heights where if I’m looking up at a tall building, I get a sense of vertigo and a feeling in my neck like the world is tilting. It has improved dramatically over time due to familiarity and now I only get it when I’m in a tall atrium. One of the worst experiences I’ve ever had was on a field trip to Washington, D.C. in eighth grade, where I had to stand in the middle of the Capitol rotunda for an hour while some tour guide pointed out Lincoln’s profile hidden in some painting of a tree on the domed ceiling or some shit, while I was sweating through layers and staring at the marble floor. So I guess I’ve always had a strange relationship with architecture and have difficulty experiencing it first hand, so I might as well make up my own.
About a year ago you had a solo show entitled “The Righteous Age” – what would you call the age we live in?
“The Wow Everything Is Going To Shit And I’m Gonna Be So Fucking Disappointed If 2012 Comes And Goes Without Any Life Changing Significance Age.”
By the way, who is forgiven?
You’ll have to ask Pete Townshend.
What’s planned for the future?
The Prophecy will be fulfilled.
“You Are Forgiven” | book | Free News Projects | www.freenewsprojects.com