November 2024


Matt HuynhMatt HuynhMatt HuynhMatt HuynhMatt HuynhMatt HuynhText: Gabriel Knowles Images: Matt Huynh

There’s a theory that to master a craft one must accrue 10,000 hours of experience in a chosen field. It’s a theory made prominent in recent times by the ubiquitous sociologist Malcolm Gladwell but is rooted deeply in the work of one of the 20th centuries most influential thinkers, Herbert Simon. The caveat of this theory is that it’s reliant on personal boundaries being pushed, it’s not enough to simply go through the motions for what amounts to, after day-to-day tasks are accounted for, 10 years work. Sydney based artist Matt Huynh has arguably already put in his 10,000 hours, the illustrator and comic aficionado has been creating his own strips and books since childhood. But with his illustrative work coming to the fore more and more the 25-year-old has embarked on his own version of the 10,000 hours.

“I’m trying to work through all my curiosities so I can reach a stage where I can express my ideas without being distracted,” Huynh explains. “My background is in comic books so a lot of more work is in that comic book aesthetic, very bold and confident, hard inky lines. So in my illustration and commercial work I’ve been trying to make my work more dense and complex.”

Huynh’s first method to work through what he needs to express has been to undertake an exhibition of his works for each season over a course of a year, an ambitious project by any standard. “The structure of this work was to put me to task and hold me accountable as an artist,” admits the self-taught Huynh. “With each of the series you’re seeing my work happening in real time, the last one was released in Winter and this one is being released in Spring. If I wanted to print a nice book or something I don’t have time, so it’s about where I’m at the time and how I’m dealing with life at the moment.”

Having just completed his second series, Alluvia, Huynh is already noticing just how much his work is a reflection of his state of mind and immediate environments.

“Thematically in my last series, Asperatus, they were monochromatic and the ideas there were very much based in the present. Like being in the eye of a storm and having a lot of chaos and confusion around us. You know we live in a digital world and we’re separate from a lot of people and we fling information around. Those are the reasons we have things like the GFC and modern warfare.”

“So this series is more forward looking, the colours are affirming and positive, it returns more to emotional, spiritual and moral values. So instead of throwing our hands up and saying how do we deal with all these big problems that we can’t wrap our heads around this series is a lot more hopeful,” continues Huynh.

Despite having seemingly turned his attention solely to his illustrative work it’s clear that his passion for comics and his drive to contribute to the local community are still very much at the core of Huynh’s practice.

“I was just drawing things that I wanted to see in comics and as I got older the ideas got more sophisticated. As a kid it was just a way to keep the stories going after the last page was flicked over and at first they were surrealist fantasy comics, I wanted to see more surrealism in comics. After that they were more reality based and slice of life.They were based in Sydney because I wanted to see Sydney and more of my ethnic background and history in comics. That spurred me to self publish and distribute the stories to people.”

“I think self-publishing in comics is different to self-publishing in Australia in general. It seems like self-publishing is still the best route to reach the immediate, local audience. You can still play around with formats and you don’t get stuck in book formats like the American paperback you can play around and make a zine or a fancy art book. There’s an opportunity to make it a keepsake that people want to keep for a while.”

Alluvia opens at Sydney’s The Paper Mill gallery on November 3 and shows until November 13

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