Studies of Matthew Dear by Michael Cina
On the occasion of our release of Michael Cina’s ‘Studies of Matthew Dear’ (two new limited edition prints which grew out of his work for Matthew Dear’s Beams album), we asked the artist to tell us about his experience. Below, Cina explains how the project got started and the unique circumstances under which the paintings were born.
The Matthew Dear Beams project started over a 15 minute conversation about the album cover. Matthew called me to talk about ideas and I suggested a portrait early in the conversation. He was a little uneasy about it, but the fact that it would be abstracted interested him. He asked if I wanted to come to NYC to do it there and we could film it. I suggested that we could also have all these things around us to interact with the ‘moment’ and so he ran with that. It was the most fluid brainstorming session I have ever had and it was also the first time I had ever spoken with him on the phone.
I flew to NYC in December of 2011 and we shot the video in one day. It was a little unnerving for me to paint in front of a room full of 15 people. I am used to working alone or with one or two people… but I rarely paint with anyone around. Creating art is something I like to do alone. There was a “performance anxiety” present in a large way. Mainly because I have never painted a portrait but also I was working with an 8 feet tall canvas. It was that environment that really sparked this strange painting.
I shot a couple of photos of him and used that to project his image onto the canvas for framing purposes. Then the rest was my typical chess game of being in the moment and reacting to what was going on around me. It was a really great environment to be in because nobody knew what would happen but I felt like the weight was on my shoulders… all while the cameras were rolling.
After I sketched his frame and turned off the projector, it was like free falling from an airplane. I mixed the paints and made the first stroke. Half way through the day I knew I was in over my head and really nothing came together until the last 10 minutes of the day. I had been painting by turning the canvas around while it was resting against a pillar, but I normally work on the ground or on a table. So I took it down and attacked it and everyone gathered around.
The whole day people really didn’t comment on the painting, so that was a strange thing, too. So when I propped it up, everyone came around and just stared at it for a minute. I think the first word uttered was “Whoa.”
After I got back, I wasn’t able to see the painting besides a shot I took with my cellphone. I really only had like 10 minutes to stare at it after it was done because it was getting late. I never felt at peace with it and it really made me uncomfortable. So I started working on another painting in my studio that was based on the first painting. What you see on the cover of Beams is that second painting. The first was used for the "Earthforms" single.