Currently winding up a group exhibition as part of an annual event in New Orleans, Louisiana called Dirty Linen Night, it is easy to see why artist Matthew Hance is a force to be reckoned with. Quiet and quirky, this 30-something year old painter works day and night for his art. His paintings are haunting and intimate without even giving very much information away. A full-time artist by vocation, and a contract preparator for the New Orleans Museum of Art, Hance works between 6 and 10 hours in his studio every day. With a strong cup of coffee in hand, and a quiet space for his creative brain to go wild in, his paintings come to life with a glance or a look.
Starting from an early age, painting and drawing were like breathing for Hance. An avid observer, his artwork catches the most finite of details, and chooses its stories to tell with visual play. Hance creates work based on intuition and fate, leaving some of the work to chance and some to planning and execution.
“The process of creating a piece for me is a meditative act, an ever evolving game of adding and subtracting. I try to be as playful as possible and in the same breath uphold the idea of Chaos Theory,” he tells us. “I’m always trying to push my boundaries and currently my creative approach is extremely organic—like a game of chess. I start with an idea and allow ample space to change directions, sometimes an entire composition halfway into a painting.”
Working with his favorite materials, including pencils, pastels, Golden acrylic paint and Van Gogh oils, he starts with a gesture, and works out the composition and details from there, letting the painting have a say in its final look. Focusing on portraiture and the eyes specifically, Hance is intrigued and inspired by the essence of his subjects, whether the figure he is creating is a person, a memory or a concept. Looking at his large-scale work in the flesh recalls the art and influence of Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Botticelli, and Degas. There is a softness that pairs so perfectly with his line variation and edges, finding the sweet spots to go into detail with, like little focusing flourishes in a sea of blur and background.
The concept of memory and human processing is of great importance to Hance, and fueled a recent project where he creates a painting from a person’s personal recorded memories, and then displays the visual and auditory side by side for viewers. How we process identity, both internally and externally is fascinating to Hance, and can be easily seen in his intimate and robust paintings, with multiple narratives and evocative style.