by Will McGuirk
When putting together the promo story about the 2018 VAC Juried show, one picture of those available for use, stood out for me more than the others. It had a deep resonance; in the way a smell brings back a vague memory this painting evokes something else. When looking at it one doesn’t just see what is on the canvas. Its uncanny, its the painting equivalent of an ear-worm. It gets inside you. It points to something else, something in the past but its not derivative or a copy or even an homage. Its an honest expression of a world in which painting exists, like when tv show characters appear on a different show and say they like watching it. It’s a painter’s painting but it is also very human and immediate.
I used that picture to illustrate the piece on the VAC show. That painting, it turns out, won Best In Show Mayor’s Award and the artist is Matt Garby, a 23 year-old artist living in Toronto, with a BFA from OCAD. He is originally from Oakville.
We contacted Matt and he generously answered some questions for us.
SC: Why did you enter the show, how did you hear about it?
MG: “I try to enter any shows that I can to get my work out there. Since graduating it's the best way to get people to see your work and give you feedback, as well as seeing what other artists are doing, and that's just as important. Obviously winning first place is some pretty nice feedback. I heard about the show from the VAC's Instagram. That's where I usually see a lot of submission calls.”
SC: The woman in the painting has such a presence, who is she, was this a portrait commission?
MG: “The model is actually my wonderful girlfriend Áine. She's been the subject of a number of portraits of mine. I'm lucky because she's very patient, and she's good at it. I usually paint friends or family because they model for free, but I do take commissions as well. I enjoy them as a collaborative challenge.”
SC: What inspired the composition of the painting, it stands out now just at the show but also from what I see on your website ?
MG: “My work has always been concerned with the relationship we have with nature, both the good and bad, especially in art itself, which is why I try to incorporate art history references in my work, such as the landscape in the background of this painting being taken directly from Manet's Luncheon on the Grass. I think it's a very complex one that can been explored in a lot of ways.
Generally I've done portraits and landscapes, but never tried to bring the two together. That's what I tried with this work, with some success I think and I'm going to be pursuing that idea and this aesthetic in the future.”
Below are some examples of Matt’s previous works