Artist Interview: Matt Irie

Matt Irie is an extremely promising and unfairly slept-on artist from Chicago. In the past five years, I’ve seen Irie produce thoughtful and rewarding works in every medium imaginable and the pace isn’t slowing one bit. After the jump you’ll find a glimpse into Irie’s  body of work and some information provided by the man himself.

Collaborative works with Dominic Talvacchio (above and below)

Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started on the newest series of paintings? I remember one of the first shows of yours I saw was a collaboration with Dominic Talvacchio that involved paint drips, but in a much different fashion.

I sort of discovered the physical process of making the drips by mistake when I was working as a house painter.  Dominick and I then used this process to create installations of paint drips that appeared to be dripping up the walls rather than down, as one would expect. We did two of these: the first in 2006 as a part of Chicago’s Open Studio program and again, more successfully, as a part of our 2007 solo exhibition at Unit B Gallery in San Antonio, Texas. Sometime after the last drip installation I decided I wanted to explore how the process could be used to make paintings.

Can you reveal a little bit about the process of making one of these pieces? Or at the very least how you approach/begin one? How much goes into tinkering with color? Would you consider them color studies?

Each painting leads to the next.  I generally have a strategy and color scheme in mind before I get started. If all goes well I discover something in each painting that I want to explore further in the next.  Sometimes this involves strategies for compositions and sometimes it has to do with color. However, I do not consider them to be color studies. I have never considered myself much of a colorist and the majority of my work up to this series of paintings have employed a limited palette.  I choose color on personal taste and instinct and figure out what works best by trial and error.


I’m really into the illusory space that these works create, some seem really deep, others seem shallow… Is this also a byproduct of color experimentation or building up the paintings? or do you plan on exacting some sort of space before you make the piece?

I have always been drawn to illusionistic space. In the beginning it was a byproduct of the construction. However, as I continue to work on the series, space has become a major concern in the work.  The fact that some are shallow and others seem to depict a much deeper space is a result of my exploration into different arrangements of the drips. In order for the paintings to function the way I intend space is necessary so that the illusory may be juxtaposed with the physicality of the drips.

How do you concoct the titles of these works? I’ve been looking though and they’re pretty humorous, they definitely serve as the “cherry on top”. Are they a response to the finished product?  It seems you are playing with art history references a lot of the time… for instance “You Are the Vanishing Point”, where’d you pull that one from?

There has always been a bit of the playful in my work and I think that this where the humor comes from. For many years I have been involved with various bands and I come up with the titles to the paintings in much the same way as I write lyrics. I am constantly writing down various words and phrases my friends and I say.  Later, I take these out of context and collage them into lyrics or in this case, titles. With both the paintings and the songs I try to choose titles and lyrics that relate loosely to each in order to add to the experience.  The title You Are the Vanishing Point comes from a line in The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects by Marshall McLuhan. I particularly liked its relationship to the various types of space explored within the paintings and thought that in relation to the context of the book, it could offer another way of approaching the work.


It’s interesting to look back at earlier works of yours, the text drawings, the various sculpture projects, and see that you’ve arrived here. Do you plan to continue with these drip paintings for awhile? Or do you have another drastic leap planned?

I am continuing to explore this current series, as I believe there is much more to come out of it. However, I am also in the process of working on other things such as sculpture, photography, etc. After Dominick and I completed the piece for the Public Art Fund in 2009 we both decided to concentrate on solo endeavors. The paintings have been great for me. They have allowed me to investigate similar themes on my own without having to rely on fabricators or large budgets. Though the outcomes of the various investigations (painting, sculpture, photography, etc.) can be different, I don’t believe the general themes are.

What do you find influential to your practice?

That is a tough question.  I have been fortunate to work with a number of great people. Specifically, Gordon Dorn, Marvin Rosen, and Jeanne Dunning were all extremely influential to my thought process and how I approach work. In one way or another all of my work is influenced by my interest in emancipatory political theories, surrealism, abstraction, and the Midwest.


Who are The Cougars?

Cougars is a rock band I have been involved with for the better part of ten years. We have released two full lengths, an EP, and are in the process of writing material for a third full length. In the beginning we toured a lot, including tours throughout the US and Europe. These days we are all involved with other things so we are more relaxed about it.

Invent something right now, what is it?

The cure.


For more info on Matt Irie and his work, please visit his website Also check out Ebersmoore to see his most recent exhibition, You Are the Vanishing Point. Chang!


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