«Maybe my paintings are just about being human in a time when being human too often seems taboo.»

David Matthew King

New York, United States.


Usually we start an interview with another question but the first thing that comes to our mind when started writing the interview with you: “Why your paintings look like a million dollars?”

That’s a very nice thing to say, but I’m not sure I have an answer to that. People have told me they feel a strange sense of joy when they look at my work, or that they feel like there’s something very heavy just beneath the surface, or that my paintings seem very playful or deadly serious and intense. I think all those things can be true at the same time. Maybe that’s why.

Can you tell a little about yourself? What were the prerequisites for the beginning of the artist’s career?

I’m not actually sure where the artist’s career begins. I think people define all these terms in their own way. For me, it’s difficult to say when the artist’s career began because I’m essentially doing the same things now that I’ve done my whole life–that is, searching for solutions to problems that have no solutions. The only difference is that the context has changed. I hated visual art and poetry until I was 23 years old. I was a terrible student in elementary and high school, and I essentially failed out of college my first time around. I came to New York in 2004 to be a songwriter but quickly began working at a small publication. The editor sent me to Andrea Rosen Gallery to pick up a press release for Annika Larsson’s “New Gravity.” I stayed and watched the films. The next day I bought a sketchbook from Pearl Paint on Canal Street and started making charcoal drawings. I have an MA in English Literature and I taught literature, composition, speech, and creative writing courses at the college level from 2008 to 2016.

I think the artist needs a problem to solve, and if there isn’t one, they’ll manufacture one on the paper or the canvas, etc. There’s a strange release that comes with seeing the process by which one searches for resolution. As for prerequisites, I think first and foremost an artist needs to be a diagnostician. One needs to be able to identify what is and isn’t working within an extremely complex series of relationships, and then how to reconcile those things within the context of the whole. Maybe the only other prerequisite is one’s willingness to try.

We would like to know what do you think about your paintings, what meanings, messages you put? (if you are a supporter of concepts in art, sure)

I don’t put any intentional specific meanings or messages in the paintings. I also don’t use recognizable symbols or figures. The paintings are my responses to questions I’ve grappled with since childhood. How can one express joy or affection or anger or anxiety about the passing of time without using symbols or language? How do we cope everyday with such great uncertainty? How and why should we continue to exist within this whole big mess? I think sometimes the paintings are simply me existing. Maybe my paintings are just about being human in a time when being human too often seems taboo. I paint what I feel. If the way I feel resembles the physical form or silhouette of something else, so be it. As a child I was told that my heart is the same size as my fist.

Recently, you are very productive in your work. What inspires you the most?

A big part of it is the need to keep myself entertained. I derive a lot of pleasure out of surprising myself, whether it be through writing or painting or music. I’ve done a lot of it, especially over the last 15 years or so. Last week I found a finished poetry manuscript I wrote last summer and a screenplay I wrote in 2010. Sometimes part of this lifestyle is working through those moments when nothing is coming. And sometimes the product of that work is surprising in an entirely new way.

What do you think, did the works of other artists influence you and which ones?

Frank O’Hara, “Adieu to Norman, Bon Jour to Joan and Jean-Paul” and “Having a Coke With You”; ESG, “Erase You”; Irma Thomas, “Ruler of My Heart”; Franz Kafka, “A Hunger Artist”; John Berryman, “The Dream Songs”; “Hang On, Siobhan”; “Rain Dogs”; “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”, “Better Must Come”; Mick Jones’ vocal on “Stay Free”; “Paris, Texas”; Glen E. Friedman; Frederick Seidel; Joan Didion; “Is This It”; Aaron Sorkin; Paul Westerberg; King Tubby; Bob Dylan; “Wings of Desire”; “Waiting for Godot”; Ricky Gervais; “Decline of Western Civilization, Part 1”; “The Harder They Come”; “El Mariachi”; Patsy Cline; Jorge Luis Borges; all cover art from Soul Jazz Records and Sounds of the Universe.

Tell us about your studio. How much time do you spend working there?

I don’t really have a proper studio. My work up until now has been done wherever I am at the moment. In the last few months I’ve worked in garages, bedrooms, offices, friends’ apartments and, for a few days, in a gallery in London. Prior to that I was working in my small Brooklyn apartment, stacking all the furniture in the corner so I could have space to move around. When I have time and space to work, I’ll spend up to 18 hours a day working. If there’s some time restraint, I’ll spend whatever time I have available practicing techniques or studying or writing about art. It’s healthy for me to be working all the time right up until it becomes unhealthy. People often ask how long it takes to make a painting. I tell them it’s taken every single day of my life.

Could you describe your usual working day? What music do you listen to?

Given the circumstances, I don’t really have a usual working day. The only real constants are coffee and a long walk somewhere. If I’m able to paint, I set my alarm for 3 hour sessions at a time, but I end up hitting snooze for about 2 hours after it’s gone off. As for music, I sometimes put my iTunes on shuffle or I listen to interviews or documentaries or anything where there’s dialogue. I like working when I can hear tension in the human voice.

What are you working on now?

Painting is my priority, but in the time between painting sessions I’ve been doing a lot of writing and drawing–much of which has to do with reconciling my own conflicting feelings about abstract and minimalist art, education, and the power vs. the futility of language. These are themes that are present in almost all of my work. Sometimes they just need to be approached from different angles.

Your plans for the remainder of this year. Are there any planned exhibitions?

I’m about to begin a couple week stretch painting in Brooklyn. No exhibitions planned, but I’m going to be working this fall with a gallery and press in Florida to publish a small collection of woodcut prints.

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