Matt Hansel‘s (b.1977) paintings reflect an intelligent consciousness of contemporary culture and his personal aesthetic influences and preferences. They are imbued with a dreamlike, surreal delicacy mostly related to classical paintings of the 17th century and a funky cartoonish entanglement. The latter sports a distinctive attribute to his imagery rendering an unrealistically simplified and engaging humorous exaggeration in his recent body of work. Hansel’s surreal sensibility is so characteristic that showcases his capacity to offer an aesthetic and emotional stimulation for his viewers’ sake. Classic Netherlandish Renaissance references in his paintings such as “Only steal what you can’t afford” or “The studio copy” are converted into some playfully irrational scenes, where the Hansel’s cartoon-like characters are fully incorporated in his canvases. Given the appealing mixture of classic and contemporary painterly arrangements, Hansel’s ability to unite contradictory iconography seems emblematic, often recalling master painters, such as Hieronymus Bosch, Yves Tanguy or Salvador Dali.
Words: Yannis Kostarias
Surrealism in art implies rampant imagination, free of conscious control in visual themes, but excessively accurate in technique. Although the illogical depiction approaches an abstract perspective on canvas, the artist diligently employs a structural painting method that leads to an unexpected resulting artwork. The perspectival illusionism or trompe-l’oeil technique is also evident in Hansel’s artistry introducing an additional painting skill and enhancing his hyperreal style with an exacting precision, while offering a tricky and multifarious dimension into his diverse visual compositions. Thus, the American artist’s visual vocabulary dynamically introduces an optical disruption of his images illustrating the power of deconstruction on his canvas that reveals a frisky blowing atmosphere between victory and death.
Feeling closely engaged with the merits of the contemporary surrealism, Hansel’s work challenges the historic imagery of Renaissance with pop art details proving the creativity of his mind. Executed with alluring colours and suggesting absurd situations, his paintings are distinguishable thanks to his palette options that reproduce a range of narratives and atmosphere; from the European old master visual sources, such as skeleton bodies, skulls and books, to more contemporary aesthetics, like modern cartoonish figures.
His recent painting, “You always lie to someone when telling the truth”, is an illustrative example of Hansel’s investigation of the surrealist ambiguous perspective. Given the unordinary perplexity, the viewer has the impression of a bizarre combination involving classic still life depiction covered by abstractly uncompleted caricature and comic effects.
Born in West Virginia, USA, Hansel lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from the Cooper Union School of Art in New York and then received his MFA degree from the Yale University School of Art. His work has internationally featured in many art galleries in London, New York, Milan, Tokyo, Athens and Los Angeles. In 2017, the American artist was the recipient of the White Columns Artist Registry award and also became the New York Foundation for the Arts Grant Recipient in 2011.
In his interview with Art Verge, Matthew Hansel shares his approach on his alarming juxtapositions and other art issues, while providing some interesting insights about his daily life. Check it out!
Art Verge: Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Matthew Hansel: It starts with me repeating, “I am an artist who is destined to be remembered by generations of artists to come” until I mostly believe it. Then I start painting. Next, my inner voice gradually convinces me that I’m a total imposter with nothing new or important to say. Then I begin the process again.
AV: How would you define your work in few words (ideally in 3 words)?
MH: Victoria aut mors.
AV: Can you name any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
MH: If by “take inspiration” you mean to steal from, then yes. I steal from lots of artists directly and indirectly. Recently I have been pilfering my way through Dutch still life and vanitas painters of the 17th Century.
AV: When was the latest video you watched on social media and had an impact on your mood? Which one?
MH: I just watched a video that Christie’s posted on Instagram of Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi being sold for over $400,000,000. It took 19 minutes of bidding before the gavel fell- crushing all semblance of common sense and reason. It also made me very self-conscious about my suit.
AV: Creating a new painting is a solitary process. If this applies to you, when you concentrate on a new artwork does it affect your social life at all?
MH: The creative process is the logical pursuit of the illogical. It’s a struggle born of an irrational belief in a singular vision: your own. You have to structure your life accordingly. If you value seclusion, don’t be an actor. If you seek autonomy, don’t join a band. If you want a social life, don’t be an artist.
AV: How do you know when a painting is finished?
MH: For me, a painting is finished when every object in the painting has a direct correlation to the way it is painted.
AV: What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space like, and how does it affect your process?
MH: The fact that I’m lucky enough to have a space to work in New York is something I don’t take for granted. My studio is very basic and totally sacred. It has one window, four walls, a door and no wifi signal- all of which help me to get more work done.
AV: Which exhibition did you visit last?
MH: The Whiting Tennis exhibit at Derek Eller. Aside from having one of the most amazing names in all of art, Mr. Tennis is an all-star in the studio.
AV: What do you hope audiences will take from your work?
MH: Every viewer has a different relationship to art and a different set of expectations. When I connect with someone’s work, it inspires me in some way and inevitably ends up informing my process. Inspiration seems to be the most precious gift that an artwork can give to a viewer. If my work did that for someone else, I would consider that a success.
AV: What does your mum think about your art?
MH: She’s a huge fan. In fact, I’m fairly confident she would say that I am the best artist out of all her children.
AV: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
MH: When left to my own devices, I stay up late and get up later. However, my daughter prefers to crush my devices into a thousand little pieces and sprinkle them on my head every morning around sunrise.
AV: Is the glass half empty or half full?
MH: My glass is always half full. Problem is, it’s only half full.
AV: Which are your plans for the near future?
MH: In February I have a show at Yours Mine & Ours in New York. In March I have a show opening in Milan at Brand New Gallery. So, my plans for the near future are to forego rest, healthy eating and basic human interactions in favor of my foolhardy vocation.
View this post on Instagram
Last days to see the group exhibition “The Curators’ Eggs” at Paul Kasmin Gallery where are included works by our artist Matt Hansel. Here an image of the painting by Matt Hansel installed in the middle between works by Pieter Schoolwerth and Nick Hornby. http://www.paulkasmingallery.com/exhibition/the-curators-eggs–a-group-exhibition @matt.hansel #matthansel @paulkasmingallery #paulkasmingallery #paulkasmin #pieterschoolwerth #nickhornby #dannymoynihan #newyorkartgallery #chelseaartgallery #newyork @brandnewgallery #brandnewgallery #groupshow #groupexhibition #artshow #artexhibition #contemporaryart #newyorkartist #americanartist #contemporaryartist #figurativeartist #artist #newyorkpainter #americanpainter #artisttowatch #artstagram #instaart #artcollector
View this post on Instagram
It’s Day 3 of @PulseArtFair ! Come check out these works by @samfriedman and @matt.hansel at booth N-104! The fair is open until 7pm. Left: Sam Friedman Untitled, 2017 Acrylic on canvas 72 x 60 inches Right: Matt Hansel The Escape Artist, 2017 Oil and flashe on linen 60 x 48 inches #SamFriedman #MattHansel #PulseMiami #PulseArtFair #PulseMiamiBeach17 #JoshuaLinerGallery
View this post on Instagram
"The Purpose Of Memory Is Not To Live In The Past", a new amazing painting by Matt Hansel! http://www.brandnew-gallery.com/Software/artist_selworksAC.php?artist=375 @matt.hansel #matthansel @brandnewgallery #brandnewgallery #milano #americanartist #americanpainter #americanart #newyorkartist #newyorkart #newyorkpainter #contemporaryartist #contemporarypainter #contemporaryart #contemporaryartist #figurativeartist #figurativeart #artist #painter #painting #artwork #contemporaryartwork #artisttowatch #emergingartist #artstagram #instaart #collectart #artcollector #artcollection #art #artadvisor #artadvisory #art #surrealism