Matthew Barney is a renowned artist who has created some of the most memorable contemporary works of art. His works range from sculptures to videos, performance pieces to drawings and much more.
His art has been exhibited in some of the most renowned galleries around the world and has been the subject of many documentaries. In this exclusive interview, we get to know the man behind the art and discover his motivations, inspirations and views on art.
We get to learn about his influences, his creative process and his vision for the future of art. This is a rare and intimate opportunity to gain an insight into the mind of one of the world’s most exciting contemporary artists.
Influences and Inspirations
Question:One of the first questions we wanted to ask was about your influences and inspirations. What are some of the artists and writers that have had an impact on your work?
Answer:I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and I think that was an important moment because that was after minimalism and conceptualism, but before the internet and a lot of other things.
I think it was a moment when artists hadn’t found their voice yet and were looking at a whole range of other kinds of culture and bringing those together. And I think that was really important.
I was very influenced by the Fluxus artists – George Brecht, Yoko Ono, Joseph Beuys – they were all very important to me.
But also the early works of Cindy Sherman and David Hammons, and Robert Mapplethorpe, and also the early films of David Lynch and the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, and the early films of Werner Herzog.
Question:Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process? How does an idea go from being a thought in your head to making its way to a finished project?
Answer:For me, the creative process is very much about bringing things together. Finding what you want to say, trying to find a form for it, and bringing it together with other things.
For example, if you want to make a film about the ecology of the human body, you bring together things like the writings of the Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov, and the writings of the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard about the idea of domesticity or home, and bring those together with the writings of the naturalist Charles Darwin.
And through those different things, you try to find a way of saying something. That’s the way I work. The process is much more about bringing things together than it is about me having an idea and then making it.
Vision for the Future
Question:What are some of your hopes and fears for the future of art? What do you feel the art world will look like in 5 or 10 years?
Answer:I have no idea. I think that is one of the things that I really like about being an artist. There are certain things that are relevant to artists that are always going on, but the art world is always changing.
I think that is one of the things that makes being an artist really exciting. You don’t know where you are going to be. You don’t know what is going to happen, and that is very enjoyable.
I think that is one of the reasons why I have been able to work as an artist for as long as I have, because it is always new.
Art and Politics
Question:Art is supposed to be an escape from reality, but it seems like more and more artists are making political statements with their work. Do you think art and politics go together?
Answer:I think that politics is always there, and there are certain things that are political in nature. There are certain issues that are political. But I think that they are not necessarily things that need to be spoken about by the artist.
I think that the work will speak for itself. The work will have its own political meaning. I don’t think that an artist needs to state what their work is about.
Art as a Form of Self-Expression
Question:A lot of people have this idea that art is a form of self-expression, but some people say that a piece of art doesn’t come from the artist but from their subconscious. Do you believe that artists can tap into something from within themselves that would be impossible to achieve otherwise?
Answer:I think that artists do things for two reasons. One is to say something about the world or about their experiences in the world. And the second reason is to try to discover something about themselves and about their world.
So I think that those two things are always happening at the same time. For me, it is a way of discovering why I do things, what are the things that I think are important, what are the things that I think are worth spending time on and worth paying attention to and spending energy on. It is also a way of discovering what other people do.
And I think that those two things are always happening at the same time.
Challenges and Rewards of Being an Artist
Question:Like any profession, the art world has its challenges. What would you say are some of the challenges of being an artist?
Answer:I think one of the challenges is that you never know if you are doing the right thing. You never know if you are on the right path. You don’t know if what you are doing is the thing that will lead to success.
And that is a very difficult thing to deal with. Also, the financial challenges of being an artist are not easy and very often there are difficult relations with other people in the art world. The critical reception of your work can be very difficult. It is not an easy profession. It is a difficult profession.
Advice for Aspiring Artists
Question:What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an artist? What steps should they take?
Answer:Start making work. Start making work and don’t worry about whether it is good or bad or whether it will be shown in a gallery.
Just start making work and keep making work. And put it in a drawer and go back and look at it in a year and think about what you were thinking when you made that work.
Think about how you were thinking and what you were feeling and what you were interested in at that time. And then go forward and make more work. I think that is the hardest thing for people to do. They want to know if their work is good or bad.
They want to know if it is going to be shown in a gallery. They want to know if it is going to make money. And I think that the only way to become an artist is to start making work and to keep making work and not to worry about those things.
Question:We would like to thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you would like to share with our readers?
Answer:I think one of the things that I would like to share is that I think it is really important to make work and to not worry about the outcome of that work. I think that is something that is really important.
I would also encourage people to go to museums and go see art. I think that is a really important thing to do. I think it is important to see as much art as you can and to spend time with art and to spend time with other artists.