Pedro Matos


“Making art is what makes me understand myself and the world a little more”

AT: Where are you from and how/why did you start engaging with art?

PM: I was born in Santarém, Portugal and grew up in Lisbon. I have always had interest in art and even as I child I was interested in artist books, paintings and visiting museums.


AT: When did it become serious?

PM: It is hard to pinpoint a single moment. I think it was a gradual and organic evolution. I travelled with my family since I was a child and visited museums, got artist books and so on. As a kid I was initially interested in classic and modern art such as Rembrandt, Velazquez, Caravaggio, Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne, Klimt, etc I think that later on, or maybe simultaneously, I started looking into more contemporary art like Warhol, Rothko, Pollock, Basquiat etc.. In my early teens I got exposed to the subcultures of hip hop, graffiti, punk, skateboarding, etc, and the visual culture that came with it. There were a lot of contemporary artists who were emerging from these scenes, people like Barry McGee, Ed Templeton, Harmony Korine, etc. They were my introduction to contemporary art commercial galleries and the solo exhibitions of new work. By the time I went to college and started learning formal art history and critical theory I was already interested in these clusters of contemporary art and the little scenes that were emerging like the mission school, street art, post-internet, etc..  While I was still a student I started showing work in these cities and meeting people and felt that was a much more educational and a richer experience than art school ever was.


AT: Are there any people who has been significant in your breakthrough as an artist?

PM: I believe that everyone who has crossed paths with me and has helped me over the last few years has had an important role. From the other artists who visit my studio and debate ideas, to the people who invite me for shows and give me opportunities, to dealers and collectors, all the way to random people who share something on instagram. Everyone that engages with the work or with my practice and career becomes part of the process. I am thankful to every single one.


AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?

PM: The first approach is always a mental one. There is always an ongoing conversation in my head and thoughts and ideas of how I understand the world and what I see, what I get interested in, what do I understand, what do I not understand, what do I question, what do I avoid, etc. This is the starting point for my practice. From this chaos results the need to create, to have an output, to produce and to use that output to reach and communicate with others. Making art is what makes me understand myself and the world a little more. It can be through objects, through paintings, through exhibitions, questions, aesthetics, relationships.. The themes or interests may change over time, but the nature of the process is always the same.

“Untitled (Matta 98)”, acrylic enamel on canvas, 200×150 cm, 2020.

AT: What do you aim to reach with your work?

PM: My work as an artist is ultimately my own mean for questioning, learning and understanding. I am lucky to be able to do it in such a way that the outcome of that process can be shared with others. I don’t know what effect my work will have on others and don’t want to make work that forces anything in that way. If it helps anyone or becomes part of the dialogue..  if it opens up a moment of questioning, of introspection, of meditation, of bliss, or any other reaction they may have, then I have succeeded.


AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?

PM: I love painting and its been the basis of my practice with occasional ventures into sculpture, installation, text and video. Mostly my paintings are created with very basic materials such as acrylic enamel, cotton fabric and wood or aluminium stretchers. Another very important tool has been photoshop/illustrator when I can try out a lot of ideas and preliminary sketches.


AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the final outcome beforehand?

PM: Yes. Usually I have a plan to make a work beforehand, but there is always room for the unexpected. Sometimes accidents are the best thing that can happen. I feel everything while I work throughout the hours, days and years and I try not to let momentary feelings affect the work that much. I think that core values that last long are more important than momentary feelings.


AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?

PM: It depends. I am not sure if they are finished or abandoned. Usually if it doesn’t bother me and I can tolerate it for a while it can be a finished work. Sometimes you know right away it is finished and it feels right, sometimes you hate it and come to love it months later, or sometimes it ends up destroyed.

“Untitled”, acrylic enamel on unprimed canvas, 50×40 cm, 2019.
“Untitled”, acrylic enamel on unprimed canvas, 50×40 cm, 2019.

AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from? 

PM: Life


AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why? 

PM: Yes, many of them. I am a lover of art and love to experience a lot of work. It is always changing and I can’t say which ones influence me or how. I have recently been looking at Raymond Pettibon, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Mattias Faldbakken, Ida Ekblad, Banks Violette, Oscar Murillo, Eddie Martinez, Harold Ancart, Matt Connors, Adam Pendleton, Clyfford Still, David Ostrowski, Wes Lang, Matisse, Laura Owens, Oscar Tuazon, Pedro Cabrita Reis, Barry Mcgee, Richard Serra, Dan Colen, Theaster Gates, Josh Kline, Aaron Young, Tauba Auerbach, Cy Twombly, Urs Fischer, Christopher Wool, Rudolf Stingel, Sterling Ruby, Lawrence Weiner, Warhol, Wade Guyton, Damien Hirst, On Kawara, Bruce Nauman, Stefan Bruggemann, Nina Beier, etc. If you ask me next week I will give you a completely different list.


AT: How important is the role of social media for you?

PM: It is a tool and it is part of society and how we communicate and interact with each other. It is not perfect and has it’s down sides.. but it can be crucial too. Specially in a moment like we are living now in social isolation, technology is what is keeping us together. It has helped the art world to become a little bit more democratic.

“Untitled (Barbara)”, acrylic enamel on unprimed cotton canvas, 180×100 cm, 2018.
“Untitled (JxR)”, acrylic enamel on unprimed cotton canvas, 180×100 cm, 2018.

AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?

PM: There is good and bad. I find it fantastic that we live in a time where people value ideas, art and culture and allocate their time and money into its production, acquisition, preservation, and so on. I am very grateful for that. On the other hand, there is a lot of speculation, gatekeeping, nepotism, classicism, etc. most of the problems are about the “system”, the market, the hierarchy chain etc.. not so much about art in itself or what artists create or bring to the table. I think there is great art being made today and great professionals in every field – gallerists, curators, directors, art handlers, collectors, etc – but we need to keep improving the ways we present, document, share and support all the critical and cultural output that artists make and dedicate their entire lives to.


AT: What do you find to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art? What is the most rewarding part of working as an artist?

PM: The most rewarding thing is to be able to create and all the perks of being part of this community. The people, the cities, etc. The most challenging is the fact that artists have no protection or certainty whatsoever. In contemporary art there is a lot of unprotected people. From artists to art handlers, interns, gallerists, tour guides, etc. Whole ecosystems of people live with uncertainty and in the blind hope of the next sale that will pay their salaries. Our systems should evolve into some sort of model that is not so short sighted and sees beyond the next show or next 10 sales or next 12 months.


What do you do besides art?

PM: I live a normal life with many different interests. Family, friends, outdoors, music, cycling, basketball, cinema, art, food, health, business, technology, travelling, animals..


AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?

PM: 2020 has been the year that brought a lot of uncertainty for everyone so it is hard to say right now. I hope to stay healthy and that the world finds its solutions for the current pandemic. A lot of projects were cancelled abruptly, but we are all trying to find new dates and solutions and how to cope with the new reality. My goal is to keep making work and to adapt to whatever changes are needed to be made. We are all learning at the same time but now we must unite and come out of it on the other side better than we were before.

“kilroy was here”, vinyl lettering on wall, dimensions variable, 2019.
Pedro Matos (b. 1989) is a Portuguese painter currently living and working in Lisbon, Portugal. 

The works on canvas by Matos portray several blown-up images of incisions, casually noticed on walls, wooden doors, school desks and trees. These marks, at times barely comprehensible, are normally seen and then instantaneously forgotten due to their lack of visual syntax and real contents of interest: they're scraps, relics left by someone before us. Matos incorporates these visual clusters on the surface, using these marks to create a painting that apparently lacks both a subject and syntax, and is characterized by a sense of metaphysical suspension.