Pedro Matos is causing a bit of a stir. His part collage, part photo-realism, incredibly beautiful paintings are gaining recognition around the world. Originally hailing from Lisbon, Pedro takes inspiration from the homeless characters, the layered history of the Portuguese streets and the marks left on the world by humanity. Never content, Pedro is forever trying to better himself, challenging his painting techniques, questioning his composition and colour palette. Painting is his full time job now, so he's taken up learning the piano as a hobby. We were pleased to represent his work on our online print boutique Hermit Editions. We dropped in to visit his (exceedingly neat) studio cum flat in East London to find out more about his life and work, after his recent move to London.
Concrete Hermit: You’ve recently moved to London. How are you finding it?
Pedro Matos: I am loving it. I fell in love with the city since I first came here a few years ago and I kept coming back a lot of times since then. Every time I met new amazing people and found new things that I love about it. I am happy I had the right opportunity to make a permanent move this year. Right now I work and live in Hackney and work from home, as I am just working for few upcoming group shows. Once I start working on my next solo show I will need a separate painting studio.
CH: Has the move influenced your work in any way? What inspiration have you taken from the city of London?
PM: I am sure it has been influencing me in many ways. London is very different from Lisbon both aesthetically and culturally. On one hand, there's a lot less light and space, but on the other there's a lot more energy and it's very inspiring to be active and create. The culture and people's mindset are very different, but I feel a lot better here. Portuguese people are very negative and passive, and I can't surround myself with that. In the upcoming months I'll be able to tell how these differences affect my work.
CH: Best place in London as yet?
PM: There are so many! I had a good time at the broadway market today...
CH: Talk us through your creative process, from the very start of an idea to exhibiting the finished painting.
PM: I start painting with no plans, studies or sketches. The process of painting is a dialog between the different layers, languages and subject matters. I add and take a lot, and paint over things previously painted, and write a lot on my paintings as well. There's a basic structure of composition and subjects I am interested in and want to explore and question, but I can never plan or predict 100% of what I am going to do, I make changes all the time until it feels right.
CH: It seems, given the reaction of many, that your paintings are just the right balance of genres to appeal to a wide range of people. Though I think it’s down to the level of skill that people can admire within your Photo-Realism style, have you encountered any genre-hopping injuries?
PM: I wouldn't say I have found any injuries, but quite often I find people becoming interested in my work for reasons I do not relate at all. For instance, it seems people are finding out about “street art” and “urban art” in Lisbon right now, and approach me because of things I have lost interest in years ago. When I think about painting as a technical and physical practice, it is my hope to be able to master it and push it further that it already was. There's nothing more sublime than experiencing a painting by Rembrandt or hearing Chopin's piano, and that's where I want to go with it. For me it's not about labels or genres, I am not worried about that. It's a very liberating feeling to be free of all that, but of course you can find those injuries, specially if your talking about the commercial aspect of the art world. It's a lot easier to sell a stencil that makes a yuppie feel rebellious for owning it, than it is to sell a portrait of an old homeless man. No one wants that in their lofts.
CH: Where did you learn or who taught you to paint?
PM: I started painting on my own when I was about 16 years old. I am self-taught in that way. Again, my teachers are Rembrandt and Caravaggio, but they're all dead. I then entered a BFA in Painting, because I thought I would learn and improve etc, but it brought me a lot of conflicts so I ended up dropping out. The first time I learnt something with someone else was when I found out Jason Martin had a studio next to mine, and they would tell me about things I didn't know, like shipping, documenting, and so on.
CH: Where does the visual inspiration come from for your shredded paste-ups and patterns that frame your characters? Do you collect scraps or does it come from your experience or memory?
PM: They come from the streets. The patterns are from traditional Portuguese tiles that cover the facades of buildings in Lisbon. The shredded paste-ups come from the posters in the street. It's a little different here in London, it's a lot cleaner in that way... but in Lisbon you can find a lot of shredded pasted-up posters on top of each other, with 20 or 30 layers of posters, all ripped, tagged, aged, etc.. it's very beautiful. I don't collect them, but I take photographs for reference.
CH: You seem to have discarded a few ways of making work already (your charcoal paste-ups for example), how do you see your work changing and growing in the future?
PM: You're right. Street Art has lost a lot of it's appeal to me in the past few years, and I have also stopped drawing. I am becoming more and more interested in painting, photography and installation, and those are the things I want to focus on. I have been learning to value my time more and discard all the things that are unnecessary. In the future, I see my work growing in concept, scale, color palette and composition.
CH: What's the best advice anyone's given to you.
PM: 'You only live once.'
CH: Tell us a bit about your forthcoming solo show.
PM: My next solo show opens in April 2012 in Soho, at Ivory & Black Soho, of which I am also co-owner and co-director. It will be a new series of paintings, installation and photography.
Walls and Frames, the latest book from Gestalten, featured Pedro's work and launched last night at Pictures on Walls.
See more of Pedro's work here.
Buy Pedro Matos prints from Hermit Editions.