In a sub-society driven by texting, social networking sites, and other forms of instant communication there are a few who choose an alternative means of expression. Pedro Matos absorbs his feelings, emotions, and depictions into the bristles of brushes and the innards of pencils. The 20-year-old street artist and painter hails from Portugal and was blessed with the ability to revel his perception via lead, ink, and paint. This self-taught artistic prodigy creates without and artistic itinerary, and simply goes where his memory takes him.
“I find myself captured by the beauty of this homeless street musician the same way I am about this damaged, tagged and vandalized abandoned 18th century building.”
Format: It is obvious that a lot of emotion goes into each of your paintings. Tell me about Pedro Matos as a person and how your personal life/upbringing/experiences influence your art.
Pedro: I am 20 years old and I live in Lisbon, Portugal. Having a graffiti/skateboarding background and traveling a lot has definitely influenced how I live, see, think and paint. I am a pretty emotional person myself, so I guess that will just reflect upon my work no matter what. The emotions expressed on my paintings are my own.
Format: It’s amazing how much you’ve accomplished thus far in your life. Your website mentions your rapid headway in the art world. How did you go from Lisbon’s underground art scene to international gallery shows in such a brief time frame?
Pedro: Thank you! Actually, that happened both out of ambition and necessity. There weren’t any galleries in Lisbon showing and representing the so called urban artists / low-brow / pop surrealism / whatever it is called. And I felt the need to go further and push myself and that’s why I had to go international early on. Fortunately, Elisa from the Carmichael Gallery in LA liked my paintings and gave me the chance to show some pieces there. I didn’t even have a clue about how to ship paintings overseas, but they got there in the end. She has been very kind and supportive. I had another show in London last April, which was cool because I could make it to the opening.
Format: I know you are a graffiti artist as well. How do you tie your graffiti passion into the beautiful works you create on paper and canvas?
Pedro: I don’t do traditional graffiti these days that much and that has always been something I did with friends just for fun. I do take street-art more seriously though, and I try to put up good work. Having a graffiti background has given me the experience to go out and not get caught. Obviously those influences translate into my paintings, and I find it beautiful to juxtapose this graffiti/street look with something more classic, realistic, figurative and detailed.
Format: Which surface you prefer: the walls of the streets or the blank canvas?
Pedro: They both have unique features and I can’t chose one to another (That’s why I do both). Street Art is really powerful! It reaches hundreds of people everyday, and it interacts with the city and people in a way it’s not possible in a gallery. Being ephemeral makes it a precious experience because you know it’s not going to last forever. On the other hand, painting a canvas on my studio allows me to go further and make higher quality paintings. It gets to people in different and unique ways and both mediums really compliment each other. It’s also great the feeling that one might create something that might outlive him.
Format: Your website also mentions how you choose to depict the “downtrodden, unnoticed, and unappreciated” people in society. These words make your movement sound political. What message are you hoping to carry out via paints and pens?
Pedro: I see it more as a social message than political. For instance, I recently noticed this ambiguous situation in Lisbon. There are a lot of empty buildings in the heart of lisbon. They close all the doors and windows with bricks and concrete so no one goes inside, and they have been like that for several years. And you see a lot of homeless people sleeping just outside these buildings in the cold and rain.. So, it just made perfect sense to me, to represent them, and paste them up on these same buildings. It’s funny how people ask me “are you painting that to put it on the streets? that’s such a waste..” and they don’t ask how much of a bigger waste is the building where I am pasting up these people on.
Format: Do you remember the first drawing you ever did or the moment you recognized your talent?
Pedro: I remember drawing as a kid. I did these drawings on math paper with all the squares, and I remember doing a lot of landscapes too. But that was abandoned for a few years. The skateboarding lifestyle and people like Ed Templeton made the connection from skateboarding to art and I started painting when I was 16 or 17.
Format: Many of your pieces have a destroyed look to them. The dripping paint, fading colors, and eliminated backgrounds give your artwork an ambiguous, dream-like tone. Is this on purpose?
Pedro: It is in a certain way. It is my very particular way of seeing things when I wonder in the city. I find myself captured by the beauty of this homeless street musician the same way I am about this damaged, tagged and vandalized abandoned 18th century building.
Format:What is the meaning behind presenting an individual person in each piece?
Pedro: If I paint more than one person on the same piece, people will look for the connections and relations they have. And that’s not what I have been interested in exploring so far. I might do it in the future, but for now, I rather portray someone’s individuality, feelings, aesthetics, emotions, and so on, in a way they become more noticeable.
Format: Are the people in your paintings people you’ve actually encountered in life or do you paint what’s in your imagination?
Pedro: I draw / paint both from life and photos. Sometimes sketches from memory, but it’s essential to have some sort of reference to have the light and expressions correct. Either way, they are based on real people and real lives.
Format: What other passions do you have outside of artistic expression?
Pedro: Life. My family, girlfriend, friends, music, skateboarding, yoga, cycling, travelling, movies .. and so on. It could all be an artistic expression though right?
Format:I noticed your art is for sale. How did it feel the first time you sold a piece of your work?
Pedro: The very first ones might have been symbolic sales to friends and family but when I had my first small show in Lisbon, while I was setting up the show I sold two pieces to the owners before the opening and that felt really good. Having people paying for something you create and wanting it that bad in their lives, it’s amazing!
Format: You are a detailed artist when it comes to shadows and color choice and placement. How did you teach yourself such skilled techniques?
Pedro: Actually, I do not have a clue about what I am doing. I just try to do it, sometimes it works, some times it doesn’t.
Format: Do you have a ritual or routine when it comes to your personal creative process?
Pedro: Loud music is mandatory.
“Having a graffiti background has given me the experience to go out and not get caught. Obviously those influences translate into my paintings, and I find it beautiful to juxtapose this graffiti/street look with something more classic, realistic, figurative and detailed.”
Format: Where can the public go to purchase your artwork and/or find more information on your upcoming shows?
Pedro: There are some pieces available at the Carmichael Gallery in LA and at The Brick Lane Gallery in London. My upcoming shows probably will be in Lisbon (solo) and LA and London (group) but I don’t have dates available yet. I’ll have them mentioned on my website / myspace / facebook etc when the time is right.
Format:Upon viewing your work, it is hard to believe you are only 20 years old. What do you do in your spare time? What is in heavy rotation in your CD player or iPod?
Pedro: Thank you. I’m attending some classes at the Fine Arts Faculty in Lisbon’s University. Other than that, I try to balance my time between all the interests mentioned above and I try to do new things and go to new places as much as I can. My iPod plays a lot of different things. From Justice, Crookers, Steed Lord, to Pete Doherty, Nirvana, Edith Piaf, Beethoven, Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, Velvet Underground, Doors, Notorious B.I.G., just to name a few.
More Info: www.pedromatos.com