As part of our new blog post theme, that of ‘Meet the art teacher/artist’ each month we will highlight either an art teacher/tutor, artist or designer maker and ask a handful of questions, nothing too serious but something that could encourage some interaction between art teachers, artists and college tutors.
1. Who are you and where do you work?
My name's Matt Hulse. I am an artist working with film, music, sound, performance, word and community. I've been working independently / freelance since I graduated in 1991, and occasionally been involved in tutoring / lecturing.
2. When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?
I wanted to leave school as soon as possible and be in a band – like The Clash or The Velvet Underground. I wanted to be on stage, to make noise, an impact. My folks were quietly working hard to help me avoid that. A practical art course (within the context of a university rather than an art college – my folks had this idea that I might get a better education from a university) emerged as a kind of compromise between freedom and further education.
3. Where and what did you study?
Art at Reading University (1987-91) and Electronic Imaging at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD – University of Dundee) 1994-1995. Reading was an incredibly liberal course – a 'sink or swim' environment – learn how to face yourself in an empty white studio box and generate art. DJCAD was the opposite – a technical boot camp. Interesting combination.
4. What is the best thing about being an artist?
It is one of the few roles in western society that asserts ‘freedom’ as a principle and is free of strict definition. What is an artist? What is art? The questions continue. Asserting that one is 'an artist' may allow one to live and work in an unconventional way. So it's a way of life as much as a 'career' choice. Not an easy choice by any means because so much hinges on maintaining 'integrity' and a sense of self, qualities that may be hard to define. It requires a high degree of self discipline and self belief. You know what, even if things seem to be going really badly, and my life seems chaotic and pointless, I imagine folk stuck in cars in the dim winter light on their way to a thankless job at 7am and I am proud of that young guy who had an instinct to hold out for something a bit different. I may be skint but I survive and who really needs all that stuff from Ikea anyway? I also get to drink a lot of coffee, smoke the occasional cigarillo, wear a jaunty hat, talk in a European accent and know that this can all be chalked up to the great tradition of being an artist.
5. How would you describe your style (clothes, art, home….whichever you choose)
Work: Visceral, lean, poised, absurd, sensual, maverick, surreal, beautiful. Home: sparse, uncluttered, temporary, looks remarkably like a suitcase. Clothes: I still wear a T-shirt that I bought for £1 in 1998. I need to get myself a new pair of creepers. I love my tartan lumberjack coat.
still from film 'Dummy Jim' by Matt Hulse
6. Do you listen to music while you're working? If so, what?
My films are often based around music so listening to other sources can get complicated, but I find music a huge inspiration to my life and work in general. Here are some names: Wye Oak, Red House Painters, The Minute Men, Brian Eno, The Velvet Underground, Glenn Gould, Ivor Cutler, Ludwig, The Soft Machine, Bucks Fizz, Talking Heads / David Byrne, lots of bands from the New Wave / Post Punk period.
Photograph by Ailsa McWhinnie @ squarepictures.net
7. Which artist or designer inspires you most and why?
That's tough. I am eclectic and diverse in my tastes (and practice), I love to mix and collage and jumble and juxtapose. Perhaps that's why I admire Andy Warhol's varied work. I am particularly keen on his illustrations of shoes, cats, jewellery, hands – the work he did as a commercial artist before being an 'artist' artist. Much of this early work reveals his Eastern European emigré roots too; I like that style. It seems to me he really understood the vacuous nature of the 'art market' and played it like a fiddle, making it dance. He had a lightness. He also said 'Art is anything you can get away with' which I think is a very good definition.
8. If you could give one bit of advice to your 18-year-old self, what would it be?
Don't waste so much energy seeking validation from 'the art world'. Be yourself and find your audience. Sometimes the best thing is to do or say nothing. Drink more water. Don't go cross-eyed in ALL your group family photos – it's not big nor clever. Hide the cigarette butts more carefully.
Samuel Dore in 'Dummy Jim' directed by Matt Hulse
9. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to become an artist or designer?
When you're under pressure to make choices in your late teens or early twenties it's really hard to know what all these 'roles' actually mean in practice. Sure, it's easy to say 'a jeweller makes jewellery' but what is actually involved in the process? Maybe you are drawn to the idea of 'jeweller' more than the reality of the making. So I would say you need to try and work out – if you can – what is at the heart of your interests and passion, what processes and techniques keep you engaged, and then see what options there are to satisfy this instinct. For example: if you like working small and detailed, yes, you could be a jeweller, but perhaps you are also an animator? The skill of working small is 'cross over'. My instinct was very much about 'freedom' and so 'artist' seem like a good path, but in practice, day to day, what I love is detailed design work, editing, art direction, working with sound and communicating ideas. Film (and animation) is a good medium to match these skills (although it does not answer all my needs).
10. What’s your greatest achievement?
In 2013 I completed a feature film that I started in the year 2000 – and rather amazingly, I am proud of the way it's come out. It's called Dummy Jim. So my greatest achievement is probably endurance and determination. And maintaining friendships with the people who worked on it for all that time. And in 2013 the US immigration authorities declared me officially 'An Alien of Extraordinary Ability' which has to be cool, right?
11. What three things would you still like to do before you die?
Make a musical road movie, an unsettling combination of 'Punishment Park (1971)' and 'The Muppet Movie (1979)'. Learn how to do a backwards somersault from a standing start. Get hitched.
12. What’s your favourite food?
Any kind of Scotch egg.
13. Where was the last place you went on holiday?
'Dirty' Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA.
14. What was the last book you read?
I tend to start and never finish. The last one I finished was Camus' 'The Outsider' (almost two years ago) and I am still trying to get over it. I suggest not reading it if you are feeling uncertain about your future. I am currently not finishing 'Tales From The Mall' by Ewan Morrison, 'It's A Slippery Slope' by Spalding Gray, 'A Time of Gifts' by Patrick Leigh Fermor, 'Wanderlust: A History of Walking' by Rebecca Solnitt, 'The Complete Peanuts: 1957-58' by Schulz and 'Important Atrefacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry: Saturday, 14th February 2009, New York' by Strachan and Quinn Auctioneers. You did ask.
15. What is your biggest distraction?
Questionnaires like this that massage my ego and prompt me to reflect upon my haphazard life. Romantic love. Beer.
16. If you ruled the world, what single act would you carry out.
End sexual violence.
17. Do you have any regrets?
You only regret the things you don't do. Once I failed to take up an opportunity to assist on a film that Derek Jarman's cinematographer was shooting. In my defense, I did call the guy and he said 'You're welcome to help but we're only making a boring documentary about East Croydon station'. I guess I thought myself above such mundane work, and was also a bit scared by the whole thing. I was only 21.
18. In no more than five words, write your own epitaph. (Optional!)
If in doubt, drum.
You can find out more about the film Dummy Jim on the website.
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