With art that can engage on many levels artist Vincent Mattina is compelling. His intricate detailed images, transports us to worlds reminiscent of great dystopias from the literary world (think Isaac Asimov) right through to film.
While visually his work is a veritable feast, his ability to engage our cortex is equally powerful. It’s work that stimulates and asks us to question and explore more.
From the scary yet exciting ideas of technological singularity to questions of spirituality, Vincent Mattina is an artistic visionary.
Let’s start at the beginning-memories crayons and a love of art at such a young age elaborate on that?
I always loved to draw, ever since I could hold a crayon in my hand. I was captivated by worlds you can create with a pencil and a piece of paper. My earliest memory. In kindergarten I was recognized by the whole class because I could draw the best Batmobile! Like most kids of my generation I wanted to be an astronaut. My second choice was an artist. I suppose my fascination with science started while watching Nasa rockets take off and men walking on the moon.
Was a love of art something specific to you or did family play a part?
My appreciation of art was due to my mother. She gave me the most encouragement in my family. I had uncles and cousins that could draw and paint but none of them ever parlayed their talent into a career. My mother was a pattern maker and then clothing designer. She was my creative influence. I think I got my independent spirit from my father. His first career was as a shoe maker then during prohibition he ran moonshine from St. Louis to Chicago and had one of Al Capone’s brothers as his room-mate. We had souvenir books on Italian artists around the home and two books on Pompeii featuring illustrations before and after the eruption of Vesuvius. I was so captivated by it, that it made my imagination run wild-I still own it.
Can you break down the technical aspects of creating your work-the detail is so intricate that we cannot imagine that your work is created without lots of rigor and sweat?
No sweat, just a lot of grey mass ecstatics, to borrow imagery from Captain Beefheart. I probably put in more detail then needed to get the point across. I combine my own photos and stock images from the internet together in Photoshop sometimes using up to 40 layers which make for some very big files. There is a lot of back and forth during the creative process. I have a basic idea and sometimes even a rough sketch of what I want to create then I add images, remove them, add others, change colors and edit. Then I put it away for a few days and work on something else and come back to it and rework it. This can go on for a week or more- I never do a digital piece in one setting. I have a whole folder of pieces I am not happy with. I keep them for a while and if they don’t inspire me enough to share they get deleted.
The worlds you create remind us of something from Blade Runner (1982)-explain how you are inspired to create these worlds?
I love cinema, interesting that you mention that film. The original Blade Runner movie, Brazil (1985) and Metropolis (1927) are the movies I am still most visually inspired by. I guess you could say they are the bar for imagery that I strive for. I don’t simply want to be a Sci-Fi, Steampunk or fantasy artist I want to make a commentary on our contemporary life.
The ‘dilemma of technology’-your thoughts.
Like most people I have a love/hate relationship with technology. Without a doubt it makes our life easier, but as with most man-made things it comes with a price. For example-smart phones give us the world at our fingertips but they also invade our privacy and hear everything we say. For me personal assistants like Alexa and Echo, while convenient, make all our actions bits of data for the National Security agency (NSA) to store on their hard drives.
Digital Age you call it ‘overwhelming’ how do you convey that in your work?
My Sentinels series addresses our current big brother, the N.S.A. It’s been proven that they collect and store meta-data records of phone calls and internet communications on all of us since they passed the Patriot Act in 2001, to protect us from terrorists.
Talk about the past and future in your work-how scary is the future for you?
Past, future, present can be as similar as they are different, as the adage goes, “The more things change the more they stay the same”. In my work I like to try to bring different ages together to make the viewer unsure if he is looking at a portrayal of the future or the past. I’m not afraid of the future but there are some things that we all should be concerned about. Arguably the scariest is the singularity, when artificial intelligence becomes self-aware. I recently read Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era (2013) by James Barrat. It really puts that reality in perspective. There are teams of scientists all over the globe racing to be the first to develop self-aware A.I. but none of them are building any safeguards or morality such as Isaac Asimov’s 3 laws of robotics into the tech.
There will be no next level of consciousness…..We will fall away like the dinosaurs
In this age environmental issues are significant-are we at a time where we are on the brink of disaster-can you name a piece of work that conveys your thoughts?
Absolutely, there are several pieces that address the theme, but I would say the 1st in the series defines it best; From Sea to Shining Sea.
Dreams once interpreted can be amazing tools for deeper understanding-has technology detached us from our individual dream language?
Everyone has their own personal dream language, however when it comes to interpretation of dreams most symbols are universal. My wife who interprets dreams has taught me a lot about their spiritual meaning. It’s really nothing new. In Genesis Joseph is rewarded by the Pharaoh who placed him in charge of Egypt due to his ability to interpret dreams. To answer the second part of the question. Technology at this point has not disrupted our subconscious minds but getting enough sleep is an issue that is a wide-spread symptom.
Spirituality and art. Explain that synergy for you. If you drew a world where we go when we ‘leave this world’ what would it look like ‘describe it’?
I believe the next world is really beyond imagination. It’s not the place where everyone is sitting on a cloud of La-Z-Boys playing harps. It will for sure be a paradise, so what’s your paradise? Reunited with your deceased friends and relatives? Flying? Unconditional love?
Are your worlds dystopias, utopias or something in between?
Most are dystopias. I guess it just comes naturally, because I am trying to convey a message. Extreme visuals seem to get the point across best. You must create drama to make it interesting. Perfection is boring, in art anyway.
Your work Transhumanism really intrigues us. Are we living in an age where we are all types of cyborgs as we become ever more reliant on technology?
I believe that to be true, especially with technical enhancements that are becoming available for greater physical and mental performance. Children in the future will we be left behind if they are not augmenting their brain with tech. Unfortunately, it will only be accessible to the very wealthy.
What will be the next level of consciousness for human?
There will be no next level of consciousness for humans unless you count A.I. as human. We will fall away like the dinosaurs and be replaced by our own creations. Seems fitting.
Stills from film Brazil (1985) courtesy of the BFI, Blade Runner (1982) and Metropolis (1927)