Understanding one of Massive Arts in California: Interview with Contemporary Mural Artist Matthew Fl
While you walk through California East Bay’s Largest murals, there might arise a thought about who made those massive murals? Well, these murals that surround the half city block in West Oakland sized 28,000 square per feet have been created by the contemporary mural artist Matthew Floriani. Matthew received MFA in Studio Art from MILLS College in 2017 and BA in Mural Painting from California State University, Monterey Bay. His undergraduate studies were in the field of chemistry, biology, and physics. Matthew interprets the ideas of hidden emotions from his personal life experiences. He talks about the importance of walls of a house which makes us comfortable might not be a secure place, along with which he depicts abstract figures wearing masks and different objects. Let’s know more about him in this interview.
Matthew, you are a brilliant muralist would you like to talk about some of your mural art projects? What is the largest size you have ever painted?
Well, since 2017 I have been working towards the creation of large-scale pieces that reflect the state of the places in which I live. I have been honored to have been sought out by property owners, and currently, I have been working on four murals simultaneously. Starting in June 2019 and ending in March 2020, I was allowed to create four separate murals that surround a half city block in West Oakland, CA, approximately 28,000 sq./ft. The four murals don’t only reflect the current state of ‘The Town,’ but the works also suggest hope and the importance of community. Also, from my understanding, they stand alone as the largest mural in the east bay. Before starting any site-specific work, I do my best to understand the environment and the values of the dynamics of the public. After completing this body of work, the management company of the property hired me on for a fifth piece that just began in July. The largest piece to date is approximately 11,500 sq. ft. With everything, it will be approximately 32,000 sq./ft.
We all come from different background, different cultures and ethnicities, and we all live different lives. if you are from here, or currently residing here, OAKLAND is HOME! April, 2020 (1715 poplar street, west Oakland, CA).
When you talk about “the complicated existence of what lies behind an architectural mask.” Do you feel that you put a creative colorful mask on those walls with your paintings on the architectural walls?
When I say ‘the complicated existence of what lies behind an architectural mask,’ I am referring to the idea of hidden emotion. Specifically, in my home movie series, I am suggesting that we, as a society, live behind a protective facade of comfort, a layered mask that shields us from reality. I want my paintings to insinuate that idea. In my mural ‘Reverence,’ my figures are wearing masks resembling skulls to depict the concept of mortality. For those of us who have felt the touch of death in our lives, we carry that loss with us forever.
Reverence is dedicated to the people who have felt the touch of death in their lives. the mural depicts individuals wearing skulls for masks, representing that we all have a relationship to death. July, 2019 (16th and poplar street, west Oakland, CA).
Even a single line conveys a lot. Every line that you create looks perfect, clear, and controlled. Does it relate to you as a personality and do you see the role of your academic excellence in the field of science which is all about accuracy and perfection?
Most of what I do is based on my past experiences and current circumstances. Having studied chemistry, biology, and physics in undergraduate school, I was taught to convey scientific discovery and illustration through the use of a single line drawing. Though I do believe that my education in the field of science has affected my accuracy and perfection, I would not say it has played the only role. I have always been very connected to my childhood home where growing up was adorned with South Western-style decor. I came to admire the shapes and patterns of South Western-style art – clean, precise lines and patterns are now a staple in my style.
The Star was a piece inspired by the people of Sebastopol, ca. a local bar I drank at and admired. the owners asked of me to paint a starry sky in which resembled mythological constellations. so I decide to create some of my own.
Talking about the characters you depict in your art pieces; they look relaxed in their own space yet they stay protected behind or alongside different objects which you explain as a drawn form of collage. How do you come up with those creative characters and different objects?
The main focus of my work is to share common ground with my audiences. With that said, I prefer that my characters do not have races or ethnicities. I like them to simply be humans. Those characters are normally drawn through my concepts and experiences. The characters themselves are to be seen as deep in thought, regularly depicted with large emotional gazes evoking a sense of longing.
Dragon is a floor serpent inspired by folklore. June, 2020 (301 Jefferson street, Oakland, CA)
Matthew your color palette is a cheerful contrast of bright colors along with grey and black. It feels like you are having a playful time while creating your art pieces. What do you think and why?
My work is constantly a push and pull. I use colors that are unsteady with me to convey a sense of discomfort. I share something with my paintings, and that is the passion and sensation of emotion. Having had loved ones pass suddenly in the past changes one's life. I will always remember those people: what they looked like, and how they carried themselves. So, my paintings share those sentiments as well. The emotion of death, but also the hope for life.
The Giants Who Live Amongst Us is a mural done in 2017 living on the corner of 3rd and Washington in West Oakland. The characters are longing for something they can’t seem to grasp. They are too large to fit inside the homes, and yet the homes taunt their every move.
Though the overall visual of your artworks is themed with the deep emotions, yet you present it with an interesting aesthetically pleasing way, which attracts the viewer’s eye for long and relaxes him/her completely. Do you also feel a relaxing moment while creating your art pieces? How do you explain it?
I feel a moment of relaxation during my pattern processes; however, I would not say the entire process is relaxing, often very tedious and complicated. I feel the most at ease when I finish the work. Specifically, the long straight lines stress me out, I am always afraid of ruining my paper because it is expensive and easily scratched. Most of my work comes from a place of stress and soreness, and that’s what I want to evoke in my colorful and yet black, grey, and white pieces.
Connection: starting with a talking cup and ending with a telegraph machine. the imparting or exchange of information. connection is a relationship in which a person, thing, or idea, is linked or associated with something else. January, 2020 (1601 poplar street, west Oakland, ca)
Your artwork ‘Telegraph Machine’ and ‘Talking Cup’ as the name suggests, looks like it’s related to communication, yet from the past. How do you describe these art pieces?
Regularly I try to tie in objects from my childhood, as well as objects from other periods to induce the notion of connection through the loss of unity. In these two pieces, the concept was to illustrate two humans, one female, and one male. The female struggles to communicate with the male, as the male attempts to listen to the female. It is supposed to be a beautiful story of connectedness, and the perception that human beings long for unity. Again, all my work is spoken from my own true experiences, emotions, and knowledge. I want my audiences to be able to make up their interpretations if they so desire and or do not agree with my ideas.
Thwap!: pow! bam! thwap! sound of conflict? sound of force? this super hero depicts the vulnerability within all of us. seeing the masked vigilante from all sides suggests that we all can be exposed. October, 2019 (16th, 18th, and Kirkham streets, west Oakland, CA).
Matthew you have explored and worked on several types of papers. What are those different types? Also, you mentioned that every paper has its beauty which you try to retain, would like to share the importance and qualities of different papers?
For the past several years I have been studying and researching different types of papers such as Lokta handmade papers, rives printing papers, Lenox papers, Strathmore papers, banana husk papers, and silk-screened fabrics. Currently, in my studio, I am utilizing Strathmore and Lenox papers as my main drawing surfaces. The Lenox paper I use is 100% cotton and is 250gsm in weight. I find it to be very smooth and can handle all sorts of applications and mediums. It is also off-white, which allows for an antiquated finish. The Strathmore paper, I am currently using, is a cold-pressed 100lb off-white material that shares similar commonalities as the Lenox paper, such as their off-white nature, however, the Strathmore 100lb does not have the hardiness the Lenox does. Materiality is very important in my work. I want the paper to show through the work itself and be a part of the imagery. I also appreciate the fragility of paper and expect the paper to show its true nature within my finished products. When paper gets wet it moves, it talks, I want the paper to speak with my paintings.
In your drawings titled ‘Beer bird’ ‘Beer Serpent’ ‘Oak Ness’ and ‘Three Beers’ we notice glass bottles and liquid solutions. What are drawings about? How did you create this idea?
As I mentioned earlier in the interview, I like to suggest things within my paintings. One of the things I like to suggest is addiction. Not that I would consider myself an addict, and not to say that I understand the pain of an addict. I am merely suggesting themes in my own life. The potion, or beer you could say, is simply a solution for living monsters. In other words, I am having a battle, a conversation with myself, trying to understand the obsession. The idea first arose, when I attempted to stop drinking beer during the week to stay lucid. Potentially I cannot understand if the monsters are inside the drink itself, or if the monsters are inside me, and therefore the series of folklore.
Very different from the others, your artwork titled ‘Disgust’, what is the depiction of?
Disgust is a piece that ascended out of current events. Again, utilizing the title and the imagery to suggest devices in the work, I wanted to capture the veracity of the situation during the police brutality riots. By titling the piece ‘disgust’, and illustrating the character puking out their skull, skeleton to come, suggests a feeling of complete dry-heave. A feeling of utter and complete distrust and disloyalty to the system.
“A house is never as secure as it might appear. Behind closed doors lies something deeper and more complicated.” By Matthew Adam Floriani
Still taking a moment to imagine when Matthew mentioned 32,000 square feet. Matthew’s concepts hold a deep connection of his life experiences, knowledge, and emotions which he brings onto the walls and paper which is easily relatable as a viewer. As we look at his murals, the execution feels well planned and detailed in his contemporary figurative abstract style!