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Matt Hinkley

Matt Hinkley creates modest works of involved detail upon found objects and paper, their intricacies challenging the tiny scale, their patterns celebrating order within chaos. Matt has exhibited across Australia, the US and at Frieze Art Fair, and completed an Australia Council studio residency in Los Angeles. He lives and works in Melbourne, represented by Kaliman Rawlins.

I first became aware of your work through a show at Neon Parc - mostly drawings, back in 2006. Since then you've moved onto 3D objects.

When I was drawing, it tended to be on pieces of found paper, which naturally progressed to finding other stuff - on a remote control, for example - things I was finding on the side of the road. But ink wouldn't fix to them, so I started looked at other ways to draw on objects. I found this tool, a Dremel - it's like a dentist's drill, it comes with tiny little ends to it called burrs. I began using this and other little bits, like scalpels, bits of pens...

Just scratching?

Yes just marking. Like on this piece, it's an old shelf I found in a skip. When finding bits of paper - I was really into the marks that were already on it. My drawings before, the marks were quite obvious, but I liked them becoming more like scuff marks or smudges. In the New08 show I used scrappy pieces of paper, bits of perspex and some people would come in and think it was just a collection of things I'd found. I like the idea of making something that can appear organic out of repetitive marks that are actually quite rigid. It depends on the object - deciding what to do with a found object is usually an intuitive response to the imperfections that are already there.

Yes, the marks on paper feel more willful than the marks made upon a found object, which feel reactionary to the original piece...

You can try to be as robotic as you can but there is a certain element of error in the human hand. If you were using a computer, you'd just repeat the pattern. One of the first pieces I showed in Melbourne was a piece of plywood with every grain painted a different colour. It takes forever, but you don't do it all in one go. It looks planned, and of course you get a feel for it and can manipulate it, but it's down to chance too. Around about the same time I was making works like this telephone. This was just using a school compass.

So these patterns haven't been pre-made and projected onto the object?

No. For me, this process is super enjoyable - I just make one line, and then follow, altering slightly, you're not wholly conscious of where it's going, and sit back and see patterns emerging that you can work with.

Seeing pictures on the internet is different from real life - you can't grasp the scale with the super close-up shots on your website.

That website is almost over the top, but it does seem to help. Especially with the smaller pieces, the scale and space around them, it helps when you can see the roughness of the painted wall behind them.

So when you had moved on from paper to objects-

It was when I was using the drill, I would use Blue Tack to get rubbish out of the holes and the bits of Blue Tack I was pulling out were beginning to look really interesting, which got me to thinking how I could cast them.

And so these happened. What material are they?

They are Sculpey - it's really just a cheap craft material. They're hard, they've been fired. And this is where they were cast from. They're just cast plaster flat blocks, which I would then mark with bits of pen. And the original plan was to have them quite big but then I found the were working better in this small size. It wasn't a deliberate decision, they just work better as tiny fragments. I would pull the larger ones away from the cast and they would just fall flat.

You work solo, you work quietly - hunched over these tiny pieces - where did this methodology come from? Is it just natural to you?

You go down different paths and what emerges is what is more enjoyable. I do enjoy getting lost in it; that method of working appeals to me.

Does this attention to tiny detail play out in other areas of your life?

Ha! Do you mean, am I anal-

I mean, maybe you were fascinated with something like... ant nests as a kid?

You'd have to ask other people! It's certainly doesn't play out in a conscious way...

What kind of work were you producing in university?

It was more collage, there was still the idea of building up surfaces, but it was pretty far removed from this. Lots of use of the photocopier.

But the utilisation of the found object?

I guess - it was something I did in uni, then moved away from it, and now it's developed back into the work, although in quite a different way.

What's next?

An extension of this work -but I want to make bigger works, or more precisely - works with bigger areas of pattern. I've been using different materials like silicone to get an impression. I want to get away from the idea of making a perfect impression, so that I am only responsible for making half of the piece. I'm heading towards making more of a skin.

You can keep up to date with Matt's work and upcoming shows at matthinkley.net

Matt also runs World Food Books, a book service stocking international contemporary art journals, monographs and artists' editions. worldfoodbooks.com

Photography property of Matt Hinkley and Double Days.