Matthew Hance is an artist whose work embodies a feeling of insightful connection, intrigue and a sense of home. His work is incredibly unique, and based in the long-standing tradition of portraiture. Soulful and sensitive, each piece is different and feels personal. Each person or creature has a range of detail and focus in their piece, and the viewer feels like they are truly seeing the subject in an intimate way. Hance has been working in the arts for over 20 years, and is currently the art preparator for the New Orleans Museum of Art. Feeding off the spiritual and creative energy that flows through the city of New Orleans like blood through veins, Hance’s paintings carry some of that spirit in them. Hance took some time to chat with CULTURE about his art, his New Orleans’ life and medical cannabis.
Tell us about your artistic journey.
Until I went to the Maryland Institute College of Art for a Bachelors in Fine Art, I was pretty much left to my own devices which I value to this day because it provided me a lot of freedom to find out who I was a creative thinker. It took about 10 years to decide to go back to school for a graduate degree. I chose Pratt in Brooklyn, New York. Since then, I’ve relocated back to the south.
“I believe there are many different cases in which medicinal cannabis could play a vital role in someone’s recovery and really hope that it expands wherever it needs to without all the red tape.”
How would you describe your work?
If I were to describe my work to someone whom hasn’t seen it, the concept of memory and how we process human identity are the main focal points in my work. Also, I enjoy how therapeutic the role of process can be, the physicality of paint (COLOR), and how to convey multiple narratives within one composition.
How and when did you find your personal artistic style?
I have been a professional artist for over 20 years and can honestly say that it wasn’t until recently that I’ve found my personal style. I’m always trying to push my boundaries and currently my creative approach is extremely organic—like a game of chess. I start with an idea and allow ample space to change directions, sometimes an entire composition halfway into a painting. Plus, I work with a complex system of layering, being that I use both dry and wet mediums, that the piece is very process driven. It becomes a game of recognizing patterns and predicting certain consequences that may arise from working with many different mediums at once.
What is it about portraiture that is intriguing to you?
The thing that attracts me to working with portraits definitely stems from my earliest influences in undergrad. A few that come to mind are: Egon Schiele, Rembrandt, Klimt, Botticelli, Gauguin and Degas. It’s very challenging to capture an essence of someone, to really strike it good, and to form some kind of narrative from nothing.
Tell us about the process you go through to create an artwork.
The process of creating a piece for me is a meditative act, an ever evolving game of adding and subtracting. I try to be as playful as possible and in the same breath uphold the idea of Chaos Theory.
How do you feel about medical cannabis and the push for legalization? Louisiana has very specific limits regarding cannabis for patients right now. Would you support it expanding to help more people, in more places?
I have a personal relationship to medical cannabis and definitely stand for legalization. My father was diagnosed with cancer years ago, now in remission, and was prescribed it to assist him with his recovery. I know people who say it was instrumental in getting off of prescription drugs; via major surgery. I believe there are many different cases in which medicinal cannabis could play a vital role in someone’s recovery and really hope that it expands wherever it needs to without all the red tape.
“It’s very challenging to capture an essence of someone, to really strike it good, and to form some kind of narrative from nothing.”
What events you have coming up for your art, in the next couple months?
Currently, I have three new paintings in a group exhibition, as part of an annual event in the city called Dirty Linen Night, at Graphite Gallery in New Orleans. I recently submitted work into an online competition hosted by Bombay Sapphire called Artisan Series. Bombay Sapphire and the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation have created this international platform for artists’ to have their work showcased to curators, collectors, and art enthusiasts’ around the world. Two entries with the highest votes (online voting is between September 14 – November 7) will be deemed the Online Winners. These finalists, including 14 Regional winners, will advance to Scope Miami to exhibit their work.