Matthew Carey Simos is one of those artists driven by obsession. Or maybe that should be obsessions. He’s into a lot of stuff – from the historical to the mythical, but it was his ability with capturing individual spirits, free thinkers and even animals that caught my eye.
Oh, and he seems a master of the reductive process to boot, which always gets me going. So, as has become the norm, I approached him for an interview and voila! Here he talks about his process, his successe rate and all those interests that inform his stunning work…
When did you start linocutting?
I started in mid-2011 when I first moved to Edinburgh to join my partner Eleni. I was trying to be an illustrator at the time and was in the process of defining my style by experimenting with new techniques. After seeing the awesome linocuts my sister Chloe was doing, I had a go at it and became hooked.
Did you have any formal training?
Not really. My first linocut was in 2001 during a foundation course and even then I only did a second one in 2006 when I was studying illustration. Both were really bad! I really started from scratch when I got going again five years later and have taught myself through research and lots of trial and error.
Who are your printing influences?
When I first started I was doing a lot of animals with anthropomorphic behaviours and my influences were a mix of traditional illustrators and whatever naturalistic linocutters showed up in the various Google searches.
Unrelated to printmaking, my biggest influence aesthetically and thematically, is without doubt the great French comic artist Jean Giraud, aka Moebius.
Can we talk about the almost mythical, heroic figures in your works – why are they such a source of fascination?
I was reading a lot of science fiction and fantasy at the time and the idea of non-malicious giant beings who are somehow observed by explorer-humans, became a visual and thematic obsession which still persists. The figures appear to be either part of the surrounding environment or part of a historical and in some cases archaeological context, which is another fixation of mine.
On another note, getting scale and perspective right has always been a problem in my work and therefore the choice of large open environment and contrasting figures provides me with an artistic challenge.
Your works almost have an ‘aged’ quality to them – historical almost. What lead to this?
I’m obsessed with stories of exploration whether these are real or imaginary and I think there’s a great deal of overlap between historical accounts and exaggerated tales and also a lot of room for narrative building. I believe my work sits somewhere between the real and the fantastical and I like providing some information of the underlying narrative, but at the same time leaving the viewer to piece in the rest.
Reduction printing can be very frustrating – do you have a very high success rate?
I couldn’t agree more! It can be soul crushing. When I finally sorted the various registration issues through the use of the Ternes Burton tabs, I’ve still had to deal with inconsistent ink transfer, bad planning, carelessness and just simple bad days.
My success rate has varied dramatically, but has generally stayed at above 50/50. For example my Winter print, which utilised two plates – one for the warm colours and one for the cool – had an amazing success rate (only two duds out of 25) and I was only using a simple L-shaped registration system.
On the other hand, my latest print, The Aviatrix Dreams, was going well until the last layer (No 10?) and then I must have lost something like eight prints out of an edition of 25.
Your colours are very measured and studied – are there a lot of trials to get them just so?
Not really. I spend a huge amount of time planning my print on my computer and once I’ve achieved a satisfactory colour balance on screen I am able to then print out a colour swatch which I use to create my ink mixes. The colours of my final print will obviously not resemble those on screen, but at least I’m able to keep the balance just right.