Matt Dangler: An Interview with Matt Dangler
PORTRAYING LIGHT IN INTENSE DARKNESS,
AND NEGOTIATING REALITY.
I've featured several artists in the cabinet of curiosities area of Circus Living - art which you could describe as morbid, dark, mysterious, thought-provoking and at times disturbing. Although I am interested in the darker side of arts, artwork which is overly grotesque, sadomasochistic, and ones which are designed to merely provoke feelings of disgust have never interested me. I remember attending an art showing of an artist in Montreal whose artwork exhibited female forms brutalized, raped, and abused, and my husband asked me if it was "my type" of art. It wasn't. It did not invoke self-reflection at how I reacted to them. It did not incite philosophical or spiritual reflections from me. I could not see past the brutality and darkness of the scenes. In the end, I left with the impression that the artist needed to eventually reconcile his hatred which I thought was apparent towards women. In this day and age, it takes a true macabre artist to be able to stimulate one's thoughts and feelings without straying into the territory of torture-porn, displaying gratuitous forms of abuse and violence, and producing artwork which only functions to titillate without inciting deep thought. It made me wonder if there existed such an artist whose artworks can provoke so deeply without resorting to these banal extremes?
I searched high and low for such a rare artist to feature on Circus Living and came across Matt Dangler. Matt Dangler's artwork impressively mixes dark macabre elements with monstrous forms which repel and at the same time entice the observer. I cannot help but feel drawn to his artwork. Observing Matt Dangler's artwork feels like a waking dream. There is something oddly familiar about his creations - as if I have dreamt these figures before, or have imagined them at some point in time. They are hypnotic and riveting. They tap into an inner consciousness which admittedly somewhat jostles me. What is it about Matt Dangler's artwork that pushes me to examine my psychic connections with them? Matt Dangler has an incredible ability to make one look at his creations and become involved in their deconstruction. He stimulates one's thoughts and interests without relying on provoking feelings of shock, fear, or disgust. There is nothing sensational about Matt Dangler's works - they are every bit powerful in their delicately complex forms. So, as one can imagine, given his artwork moves me in indescribable ways, I was thrilled to be able to interview this artist and learn more about his creations.
What inspires you?
Mostly the obsession to find deeper truths, inwardly. Painting becomes a vehicle for the journey.
How and when did you first get started as an artist?
I've always spent a lot of my free time drawing. It's common to say it's an "escape from reality," but it seems a lot more real than this world quite often.
I believe our attraction to dark art is unhealthy if it isn't being used to show "light"... otherwise it's like a siren calling us into the rocks, or Darth Vader seducing us with its power.
What is the hardest part about creating your artwork?
Keeping up with life... most definitely. Eating, sleeping, relationships, responsibilities...
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Uhh... well, after seeing my artwork people are usually pretty surprised when I tell them I don't do any drugs... I hardly drink alcohol, maybe 2 glasses of wine a year at this point. I prefer clarity, helps me enter "the zone."
How has your practice changed over time? (or has it?)
Yes... through art school and probably 8 years or so after, I didn't pay attention to my sleep patterns, in particular. I just kind of painted when I was awake and functional, most often through the night, sleeping during the day. I've become more diligent about a normal sleep cycle and balanced meals. Seems so basic, it is, but believe me is not easy to keep as a priority when deadlines are looming. Needless to say, the "normal" schedule has made a huge difference in quality of life... and art.
Favourite or most inspirational place where you live?
Anywhere with my fianceé. But, when she's not around, I like to walk to a nearby park. It helps clear my head... nature comforts me.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
Recently, "Don't be an amateur of yourself."
Most interesting critique you have ever received regarding your works?
It always blows my mind when people that I've never met, that probably do not have the same background in studying philosophy and religion etc. can look at these wild creatures that I create and decipher exactly my intentions... and even relate to the feelings being portrayed. It's a very surreal and comforting bond.
When you think of the concept of 'the artist's ego', what comes to mind?
... If it's just from the artist's ego it probably isn't that insightful or interesting haha, first thing that comes to mind.
Most difficult part about being an artist?
Being understood... not so much in a painting, but as a human. Having a craft as an artist takes a certain care and respect that most people won't understand, let alone the introversion and eccentricity. Lots of sacrifices are made to do my thing... it's very challenging to make these choices when other people are involved, you need to be selfish sometimes, or the art suffers. I've been extremely fortunate and humbled to have a family and partner that support me... makes it a lot easier.
Word association exercise - when you think of 'Fate', what comes to mind?
... Om, forever.
Any artists you admire?
Currently... Mark Garro, Naoto Hattori, and Chris Mars.
Why do you think there is a growing interest in macabre and grotesque art?
So much to be said about this... I would first say generally is an emergence of our repressed psyches, people have a lot of pain. There's also the shock factor, with today's technology and instant stimulation there isn't a whole lot left to anyone's imagination anymore... all that's left is the most disturbing bizarre stuff possible to peek someone's stimuli.
On a collective level, I feel that portraying light in intense darkness is generally the most spiritual work, representational of the relief we all need from the struggle and confusion of life... finding our place in this sick and unstable ego-world is painful.
All in all though, I believe our attraction to dark art is unhealthy if it isn't being used to show "light"... otherwise it's like a siren calling us into the rocks, or Darth Vader seducing us with its power. Always be wary of where you're heading.