The Q&A: Matt Huynh

By Peggy Roalf   Monday November 30, 2015

Q: Originally from Sydney what are some of your favorite things about living and working in New York City?

A: I hadn't shared a studio before moving to NYC but made sure it was one of the first things I did upon arriving so that I could be exposed to the unique community of artists, writers and illustrators. I can perform comfortably in isolation, so it's stimulating to surround myself with other people's work and to see how they direct their practice. I can dream up with a premise for a project and can find tap into the vast talent, resources and larger audience and communities of niche audiences to make it happen. Living in this city also lets me run into potential opportunities, spaces, and collaborators that I would not have been able to think up in abstract from behind my drawing desk. It challenges, questions and plunges me deeper into my curiosity.

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between the art you create on paper versus in the computer?

A: I keep a steady flow of journals that I doodle in and work out my inner world and follow busy thoughts to their end. I have a sketchbook filled with ink floral studies and others dabbling with comic layouts. When I keep a sketchbook, I use the physicality and limits of the book as an opportunity for a small project, such as exploring a subject for one entire book.

I want to keep the close warmth and imperfection of a human hand apparent in my paintings, so I keep my artwork on paper using direct, traditional materials. For the most part I work with ink, brushes and paper. Carbon, water, animal hair and pulp. I  hesitate to use the computer to execute the artwork itself, limiting it to preparing my artwork for production and reproduction.

Q: What is the most important item in your studio?

A: Probably the door! The one that both shuts tight and opens wide.

Q: What do you like best about your workspace? Do you think it needs improvement, if so, what would you change?

A: I love having a wall behind me to physically throw ideas against the wall, and a wall of windows in front of me to daydream. I try to work with my feet flat sitting in the traditional shodo calligraphy posture or standing, so I work on a flat desk. I probably could do with a drawing table for longer spells of sketching, but I'm happy with my set up. I'd just try to clean up more often.

Q: How do you know when the art is finished?

A: There are so many uses for visuals, it really depends what I'm using a drawing for. If I'm simply drawing something like a car, it may be enough simply to do impart the idea of a car. Or telling a story. Or being beautiful, or ugly or whatever aesthetic purpose I need to use the visual for.

However my personal sensibility is guided by leaving enough of an impression on the page to recognize a very practical and tangible sense or feeling or spirit, balanced with leaving enough space for the audience to enter into the image and complete. 

I err on limiting my marks on the page so the marks left on the page are very deliberate and space opens up for the audience to breathe into. All that overworked line and nervous laboring betrays my neuroticism, fear, doubt and poor preparation, so I’d rather redo a drawing for the twelfth time to test its integrity, than to try and hold it together with more fidgety wrist noodling. It's more a kind of kicking of the tires than minimalism for its own aesthetic sake. 

Q: What was your favorite book as a child? What is the best book you’ve recently read?

A: I grew up on a heavy and premature diet of Hulk comics. More recently, I devoured Sally Mann's Hold Still and Rachel Cusk's Outline put me in another’s skin in a very honest and novel way that gave me a fresh, working perspective to reflect upon my own sense of self, relationships and identity.

Q: If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all others, what medium would you choose?

A: I’m currently applying picture making composition, graphic storytelling and comic book design principles to an interactive 360 degree virtual reality space, and think this will take up a year and beyond at the least to gather some momentum with! [above: Other Lives]

Q: If you could time travel to any era, any place, where would you go?

A: Maybe to bed at the end of the day with my partner when I’m feeling relieved, appreciative, loved and hungry to better the next day. Is that boring? I thought about this for a bit, but I don’t really care! I feel rather plugged in right now. What am I going to do in the Jazz era or the Middle Ages or something? Also, I’m Asian in a Western society - it was noticeably rougher going just a couple decades ago in the same place that I’m sitting! I’d say the future, but I’d hate to miss out. 

Q: What is preoccupying you at the moment?

My relationships, my love, my family, my friends, living and working nomadically, my health, keeping engaged and keeping from being overwhelmed by my activism and political work, trying to make healing, honest, meaningful work whilst tending to the economics and inane mechanics of drawing funny pictures for a living. Netflix.

Q: What are some of your favorite places/books/blogs/websites for inspiration?

A: We are so constantly influenced by the external world and music and books and blogs and places that I value being alone and quiet to reset my internal compass, identify where I am and make sure I can hear myself above all that outside noise. Recently, I’ve been returning to Chogyam Trungpa’s True Perception and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Sculpting in Time. They’re good guides for me. I’m a voracious news junky too and frequent across all the regular news feeds. I look at everything from long form journalism to junky pop culture goss to see which concerns we choose to concern to turn our gaze to, which go under-reported, and how this expresses itself culturally, politically, socially, economically.

Q: What was the [Thunderbolt] painting or drawing or film or otherwise that most affected your approach to art?

A: I love the scope, ambition and romance of Marcel Carne’s Children of Paradise. Not only as a work of art, but a response to the turbulence of the times, politics, war and human drama of the times. I was also very taken and inspired by Andrei Tarkovsky’spoetic films and writing.

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: Black coffee, buttered popcorn, dark chocolate and red wine.

Matt Huynh is an Australian artist based in New York City. His comics and illustrations are informed by sumi-e painting and shodocalligraphy. His clients include the New York Times, Esquire, Rolling Stone and Adobe. Creative Sydney Festival named him one of Sydney’s most innovative cultural contributors for his graphic novel, CAB, documenting true stories from suburban Sydney’s Cabramatta community. His illustrated reportage of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations appears in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection. His comic, Chinatown, was presented on the Sydney Opera House stage and exhibited at the Society of Illustrators. Most recently, Matt Huynh developed an interactive graphic novel based on the acclaimed story The Boat by Nam Le with SBS Australia. 

Representative’s website:
Instagram and Twitter: @Matty_huynh
Video links 
Other Lives:

The Boat:

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday November 25, 2015

By Peggy Roalf   Tuesday November 24, 2015

By Peggy Roalf   Monday November 23, 2015

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