PROFILE: Matt Antoniak | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Across the course of two and a half years working in a Newcastle art shop, artist Matt Antoniak would observe people trying out materials on test paper. “Some customers would spend seconds just scribbling, whilst others would spend 20 minutes making a drawing before walking away from it,” he says. He began collecting the scraps produced by people from all kinds of demographics. “I think I was probably initially interested in the time and ego aspect of making these marks, for something that ultimately becomes discarded.”

Antoniak’s collection of test materials now numbers more than 400 pieces and he’s developed categories to help him archive everything he’s collected. “It’s interesting to see what people draw; I’ve got hundreds of eyes, faces, heads and fantasy beast things,” he says. “Tropes appear repeatedly – kind of like monitoring the zeitgeist of what people are interested in.”

These materials form the foundation of his latest exhibition, which heads to Gateshead’s Workplace Gallery between Saturday 11th May-Saturday 15th June. Often combining more than one original drawing, Antoniak scans, photocopies and photographs the materials before scanning them once again, which can sometimes cause marks – such as folds and creases – that provide signals to how his paintings have been translated from the test pieces to the finished piece. Painting these in forensic detail is particularly imperative to Antoniak. “The time element of the work is important; the original drawings took seconds to produce, and take me hours to recreate,” he says. “And I guess I like the metaphorical idea of really studying other people’s marks given the climate of society today. Looking more and caring more.”

The idea of caring about small, often overlooked works means that his paintings also push back against the idea of an individual, genius artist. “Painting can be a really grandiose medium, and I think working in this way asserts a quiet defiance against that,” Antoniak explains. Instead, his exhibition, filled with faithful recreations, is set to interrogate these more traditional concepts, as well as notions of time and chance, by being imbued with micro-authorships from the public. You might not look at a doodle in the same way again.


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