July 2024

Burly Griffin

Text: Melissa Loughnan Images: Matthew Griffin & Melissa Loughnan

Matthew Griffin is a Melbourne-based artist who typically produces work exploring subcultures, idols, consumerism and rebellion. Pop culture and art historical references are melded with intense cynicism and satire in the presentation of works across a variety of media including collage, installation and video.

When Melissa Loughnan approached Griffin for an interview she was met with an unexpected proposal.

Melissa Loughnan: Would you be interested in doing an interview with me for The Blackmail’s July issue?

Matthew Griffin: I’m not really making any art stuff at the moment but if you want to chat about something else, sure. I need a new job so maybe we could set it up like a job interview. What do you think?

ML: Yeah that sounds like fun, what sort of job would you like me to interview you for?

MG: I don’t have a specific job in mind. I was thinking that the interview might be a chance to showcase my various talents. The idea is that my future employer might read the interview and realise that I would be an asset to their business. Since quitting my teaching job I have been working as a builder. Whist I am happy to plaster and whatnot I see myself more in a job like the one Charlie Sheen has in Two and a Half Men. Maybe this interview can help make that happen.

ML: OK. So, tell me about yourself.

MG: I figured that I would reveal myself slowly during the course of whole interview / Q&A thing. I think it gives it a bit more of a narrative arc, otherwise it’s like those films where they show the ending at the start, which is fine for Phar Lap. I dislike the way these things always start with someone listing their strong points. It’s a little too much like speed dating. That said I am a outdoor type, enjoy cooking with a GSOH seeking same. Let’s go with another question.

ML: Why do you want this job? And why did you leave your last job?

MG: When I said let’s make it like a job interview I meant that it would be nice if I could get a job out of it, I didn’t mean lets pretend you are interviewing me for some made up job. It’s no use to me getting a made up job as I require real pay. So just ask general questions, whatever you want, I will answer anything. I won’t tell you what to ask anymore I promise.

I worked as a lecturer at the VCA for about six years. I liked the students and enjoyed chatting about their art. I became increasingly depressed when I began to think about the way the art world operates in Australia. My job was to supposedly prepare them to enter the local art system. I would show the students work by good artists, talk about theory and encourage them to make work knowing that there was not really that much of an audience for it. It felt too much like lying so I quit. I am now working with a builder guy renovating a house in the country. It has its moments, but I am not very good at it. If this career trajectory continues I will be doing night fill at Coles in a couple of months and then work for the dole.

ML: I had a similar realisation as an art student a number of years ago, that even if I had really good ideas and made really strong work, that the chance of making a sustainable full time career as an artist in Australia was slim. This is when I shifted my focus to art history and curatorship, and started on the pathway to conceiving Utopian Slumps.

So considering that you have now realised that lecturing in art is not an ongoing career option for you, have you considered any other types of employment in the arts, or would you prefer not to return to the field?

If you were to, say, start working with me at Utopian Slumps, what sort of role could you see yourself in?

MG: I didn’t know that you went to art school. Do you have any pictures of the work you made?

It’s not so much the slim “chance of making a sustainable career” I have been considering, it’s the lack of audience. I have never been that interested in the buy and sell side of it but I did expect a bit more dialogue.

I have no interest in working in the arts. I’m ready to sell out. Maybe advertising. If that doesn’t work out I think that whole homemade tattoos craze may have run its course and I’ve been looking into home made dentistry. I have bought a drill and some other products from China and have been messing around and I’m getting pretty good. How are your teeth?

I don’t think I would be any use at your gallery. Sorry.

ML: I have pictures somewhere, if I can track them down I’ll shoot them through. It was quite a while ago now and I stopped before I really got started.

A lot of the artists and arts academics that I’ve known who’ve been after more dialogue/engagement have relocated overseas. Have you lived and worked overseas before? If so, would you consider doing it again? If not, would you consider it at all?

My teeth are OK, but there’s always a need for some routine maintenance, that could be lucrative.

MG: I must see those photos. Please find them.

I haven’t lived overseas before, but I have travelled and made work for shows overseas. I wanted to live elsewhere but never seemed like I had the money to do it. I have been able to manage the art/work/girlfriend triangle pretty well in Melbourne. It always seemed to me that you either had to be a real go getting hard worker type or a Trustafarian to do that in London. I should have gone when I was younger. My conundrum now is that whilst I dislike Melbourne, I enjoy rubbing feet with Cath while she watches that show with Sally Fields in it. I’m pretty sure that’s how people get pregnant. We are going to Brasil in a few weeks to visit Cath’s family, who knows, maybe we will stay.

ML: Getting back to seeing yourself in a job more like Charlie Sheen’s in Two and a Half Men, perhaps advertising could be the way to go. If there was an advertising mogul reading this interview how would you describe your strengths in relation to this industry? Would you be a creative, or are you looking for a complete escape from creative output?

MG: I often catch myself whistling the theme song to Two and a Half Men. What a strange show. I recently had an argument with a few friends that it was a better show than Mad Men. We ended up agreeing that we wanted a mix of them both. A sort of Two and a Half Mad Men.

As for my advertising strengths… I once had a small ponytail, so I’m definitely a creative. Also my knowledge of contemporary art mixed with my time spent on YouTube means I have stuff to rip off for the next 10 years. I would also be able to help with general maintenance around the office (plastering, painting, etc) as well as a hands on approach to colleagues’ dental hygiene.

(Note from Melissa) Matthew has also asked me to do a drawing for the piece, this is his request:

I would like you to draw a picture to go with the article. just a quick sketch. Please draw a picture of me wearing a top hat and a monocle emerging from a big back of money. Have eyes on the money bag crying and the tears streaming down the bag and forming a puddle at its base in the shape of a peace symbol. Do you think you could do that for me? It would be great to have a photo of your drawing with the interview…

If anyone would like to offer Matthew a job please contact Jarrod Rawlins at Uplands Gallery, email [email protected]

Matthew Griffin

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