Matthew Bielen: Affected By The Sea

Architerior had a talk with American artist Matthew Bielen, whose artistic journey has taken him from cartoon to realism to abstract.

Where are you from?

Springfield, Massachsuetts, USA.

How come you started working with art?

There was never a question that I’d be an artist, I couldn’t imagine being anything else. I began drawing as soon as I could hold a crayon. My grandfather was very creative and good with his hands, so I assume the need to create was handed down to me. I can remember drawing and painting at any opportunity I had since I was in preschool.

Have you studied or are you self taught?

I was born with an artistic inclination, but I also studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where I did some serious learning. It’s nice to have a natural ability with something, but there’s just so much to be learned from other artists.

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How would you describe your art style?


Has your style changed over the years?

I grew up wanting to be a cartoonist or an illustrator, because I loved drawing cartoon characters from TV and movies from memory. Then I got really hung up on realism and always strived to create artwork that was very true to life and could be easily identified and explained. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started using materials that I typically wouldn’t have. I took the lack of control in pouring paint to be a challenge and haven’t stopped since. It’s sort of comforting and unnerving to be making art that is still explaining itself to me each day.

What’s the best thing about being an artist?

I only recently even felt comfortable referring to myself as an artist, but now it makes a little more sense. I always thought of the word “artist” to mean “a famous, established, successful person that the whole world can appreciate”. I understand now that being an artist just means looking at something a hundred million different ways and then following your instincts. I’d say that the best thing about being an artist is having the ability to not care about what others think about you.

Can you mention a few exhibitions or moments in your art career that have been extra important to you?

The biggest moment for me to date is being given the opportunity to have my own show in a gallery. Larkin Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts was extremely generous and open-minded toward me and I’ll always be grateful for what they’ve done. On a smaller scale, I have a memory of being in a Members’ Open show at a museum where my work was hanging the next room over from Robert Motherwell’s work. That was symbolic for me. It was totally coincidental, but it was encouraging to know that my painting was breathing the same air that Motherwell’s was.

What are you working on right now?

The last few months have been a whirlwind trying to get ready for my solo show, but in the free moments I’ve had to paint, I’ve been experimenting with some very raw color and form. Interfering slightly less with the medium and standing back more. But anything can happen.

What would be a dream project to start on?

I guess anything that didn’t have a size restriction. Space always seems to be an issue for me when I’m creating something. I’d love to never have size restrictions.

What inspires you to create? Where do you get ideas and energy?

Most of my work nowadays is inspired by the ocean and our relationship with it, but the work comes from intuition, so it’s also comprised of unconscious things. Memory, fleeting thoughts, and emotion somehow get placed down. I’ve always been drawn to rugged coastal areas. I love sun, but I’m just as comforted while facing a heavy rain or Nor’easter. Some people believe that we inherit history from ancestors, almost like evolution, which kind of makes sense to me. Maybe I’m painting the thoughts of someone from a long time ago who was deeply affected by the sea. Maybe I’m just deeply affected by the sea.

If you could exhibit your art anywhere/with anyone, where/who would it be?

Maybe in New York City with the Abstract Expressionists from the New York School. I’d exhibit my art in a cave as long as I got to talk to them.

Do you have your own or others art on your walls?

I used to have every wall filled with my art, because I had nowhere else to store it. It was nice using my home as a makeshift gallery, because guests would sometimes walk in and buy something. I’m now grateful to have my work on gallery walls and I’m trying to start my own collection of others’ work.

How does one stay unique in the art world, and is that important?

Be yourself. Only you can do ‘you’, even if someone copies you.

If you could go back in time to an early stage of your art career, what advice would you give yourself?

I would tell myself that it’s okay for something or someone to be different, even if it makes you uncomfortable.

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