Matt W. Moore is the artist behind MWM Graphics, a design, fine art, and illustration studio. By combining his background in graffiti with graphic design, Moore has created a distinctly bold, colorful, and geometric aesthetic. While he may be most recognized for his angular, geometric spray-painted murals, he is an innovative artist, combining and working in many mediums, like robot drawings, bicycles, sculptures, desktop backgrounds, ceramic tiles, and clothing. Clients of his include Coca-Cola, Wired Magazine, and Ray-Ban. He travels and creates art in cities from Paris to Sao Paulo, from Munich to Moscow. Working across the globe fuels his creativity, as he responds to the different environments in which he works. Moore’s portfolio is enormous and varied and constantly growing. He perpetually creates beautiful and new work at an extraordinary pace.
I first discovered Moore’s work about three years ago, when I came across a bold-colored geometric spray-painted mural (see image above) from his Crystals & Lasers series in Paris. My interest in geometric graphic design had already been sparked. Like Clemens Behr, who I previously interviewed on this blog, Moore broadened my ideas about what geometric art could look like in the physical world, beyond the computer. Since my initial discovery, Moore has been one of the artists I most admire. His style is distinct, but his work is always changing. And, as you can witness from some of the videos, he makes being an artist look like so much fun. He clearly works hard, and he loves making art.
The following interview is structured around Moore’s curated selections of his art, divided into six groups, which are bolded and underlined below.
How would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it?
When folks as me what I do I say I am a graphic artist. When they ask what that means I explain it is the best term I have found to describe my hybrid career, interests, and creative output. I am a graphic designer. I am also a fine artist. My projects in graphic design are crafted with the eye of an artist, and my projects in fine art celebrate my fascination with design. I work in various disciplines, cross-pollinating, exploring new ideas, aesthetics, techniques, and taking discoveries made in one realm and bringing them to a new place. My strongest work is difficult to explain and categorize.
You picked six groups from your body of work: Color Spectrums, XYZ Axis, Sretenka Sculptures, Core Deco Ceramic Tiles, Infinity Knot Theory, and Organic Geometry. Why did you choose these particular groups, and how to do they relate to one another?
These are key examples of my interests and output from the past, present, and my goals for future. They are different aspects of my work in art, design, and murals that have all happened simultaneously. These six groups of images show my recent evolutions from walls, to sculptures, to functional design, to organic geometry, to freeform abstraction.
COLOR SPECTRUMS op-geo murals exploring different color combinations in different environments
The Color Spectrums murals were my first exposure to your work. I was dazzled to see physical manifestations of perfect shapes, as opposed to working with vectors on a computer. At what point did you think to take a traditionally free-form medium like graffiti and lay down tape to make clean geometric lines? Did this style have roots in computer art, or did it originate while working with spray paint?
I’ve been painting on walls since I was a kid. Then I went to art school and studied graphic design. Around that time I was more hyped to paint freeform abstractions than my nom de plume whenever we would go paint walls or freights. I started to incorporate the forms from design and geometry that I was exploring digitally into the walls that I was painting. I was always into these concepts in my work, but once I got rocking in vectors it hit the next level. Rapid experimentation. Just as in all of my projects, cross-pollination is key. Ideas from a mural I paint often inform my design work, and unique forms I realize in design work usually find there way into my work in the streets.
How did the different environments and locations affect your murals? Were the chosen colors a response to your surroundings?
Considering the environment is a crucial part of public art. The surroundings determine every aspect of the murals I paint. It’s all about feng-shui and harmonious flow, colors, and balance. I have waited hours and studied the natural shadows from other buildings and street signs to reference these moments within the abstractions. People too. How do the folks who live here interact with this space? Will cars be parked here? Will snow be piled here? Will it look great from 3 feet away on the sidewalk and still look good from two blocks up the hill? I have returned to the paint store countless times to get the palette just right for the neighborhood’s native flavors. Environment is everything.
These murals are a testament to how comfortable you are working on large-scale artworks, which I assume is heavily influenced by your background in graffiti. How has the size of your art evolved over time, and how has that impacted your style? In the reverse, how has your style impacted the size of your art?
Painting graffiti definitely got me in the zone of working as fast as possible and as big as possible. Efficiency is very important in a sport where every minute counts. Over the years my appetite has grown exponentially. I always strive to be as big as possible when painting a mural. I’ve learned how to assemble and operate all sorts of scaffold and lifts and with that comes a whole new game of logistics and strategy. My biggest walls are yet to come. In the meantime you can spot me practicing my craft in the forgotten corners of the city. I’m the guy with the backpack, plus the luggage on wheels, plus the ladder, plus the five-gallon bucket, trying to look all inconspicuous on the subway.
What is the significance of Color Spectrums in your evolution as an artist?
Early on in my career, most of my work was either full color or monochrome. It was either vibrant and explosive, or subtle and timeless. As I have grown as an artist my color palettes have matured as well. I am finding now that peppering in a few unexpected colors into a monochrome mural can make it even more powerful. It took a lot of experimenting and creating to break myself from my natural tendencies with color selection. These geo murals show that early thinking of dedicated and mixed spectrums, and some of my more recent work is evidence of the shifts I have been focusing on.
>> See more from Color Spectrums and other geometric murals here.
XYZ AXIS a residency & exhibition in Cincinatti in 2011
In 2011, you had a residency and exhibition in Cincinnati. Can you explain what that entailed and give a chronology for your time there?
I went for a month-long residency at YES. During my time there I created, from scratch, an entire series of canvas paintings for the exhibition and also painted the big mural in the neighborhood.
You created a mural as well as gallery pieces. Was this an atypical experience for you? How does a project like this, rather than an isolated mural, affect your creative process?
It’s nice to take the new discoveries that happen in the painting studio and bring them directly to a wall. The murals I paint to celebrate my exhibitions are always synced with the artwork in the show. Not just the new techniques and aesthetics, but also the colors. I’m usually using all my half-cans and leftovers from the studio to complete the walls, so it all wraps up quite cohesively.
Your bio explains that for most of your projects with art galleries, you arrive at the venue “empty-handed, creating the entire body of work as a residency on-site.” In that case, how do you prepare for a mural? How much improvisation is involved? Do you have a specific plan, or do you go into it with a concept and let the design develop as you are creating it?
This is my favorite way to do gallery shows. Working this way combines travel, adventure, new friends, and new experiences. It allows me to snap out of my home studio routine and start a fresh rhythm of work in a new place. I inform my clients I am doing an exhibition and I wrap up as much design studio work as possible before I leave so that I can focus for full days on the series for the exhibition. Pressure makes diamonds. Working this way really fits my character, I need structure and goals to reach my top stride.
How much control do you have over your creation? How do randomness and accidents play a role in your process?
Everything I do on canvas is very freestyle without any sketches. Most of my walls and other projects are very spontaneous as well. When I wake up in the morning I truly have no idea how things will take shape during the day. But, I do create various parameters for myself and rules that guide me and keep the series I am working on unified. Randomness is the opposite of order, and accidents are the opposite of deliberate results. I’m not random. Every action I make in my art is either part of my plan or something that will disrupt my plan so that I arrive at a new solution a few steps down the path. Accidents are great, but they are not celebrated in my work the way that other artists do. Accidents are lessons for the future in my book. After an honest effort of trying to revive a canvas that feels like an accident I will usually buff it out and begin fresh.
What is the significance of XYZ Axis in your evolution as an artist?
That was an important show for me for a bunch of reasons. After doing exhibitions and murals all over the world in this style of abstract geometry, it was really cool to do a show in Middle America and be able to order my coffee in the morning in my native language. By that time the aesthetics of colorful triangles had really reached an undeniable level of popular culture saturation. Getting credit and being celebrated for being one of the modern pioneers and innovators was a good feeling. It was a fun trip, a successful show, and marked a real page flip for me with my dreams and goals for the future. Around this time I really shifted my interest and explorations to doing more sculpture and furniture design with geometry, and celebrating organic geometry in my personal works.
>> See more from XYZ Axis here.
SRETENKA SCULPTURES hand-painted sculptures in downtown Moscow during Sretenka Design Week
You created large hand-painted sculptures in downtown Moscow. They almost look like one of your murals has been wrapped around some polygonal stone. They were displayed in an open space, which allowed people to really explore the sculptures, walking around them and viewing them from different angles. How did the public respond? Did you ever secretly stand amidst the crowd without them knowing you were the artist?
The people of Moscow really enjoyed those. In a city that is quite grey and cold, seeing those on the side of the street must have felt like an alien sighting for the locals. Kids especially enjoyed climbing on them. It was interesting to stand to the side and observe the crowds pass by. It is safe to say that everyone noticed them and lots of people stopped to study them from all angles.
Was this one of your first ventures into three-dimensional art? What prompted you to explore sculpture?
I had studied sculpture and furniture in school and had made small versions of different sculpture ideas, but this was definitely the next level. It was the natural evolution of this style. After years of trying to cleverly make walls look three dimensional, these sculptures allowed me to play with dimensions in a whole new way. Instead of painting them in a way that made sense, I worked them with the opposite goal in mind. Through the use of color and implied depth I created moments on each form that looked as though the facets were going away from the viewer but the forms were actually coming towards the viewer, and vice versa. A real life optical illusion playground. I am so grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the architects who built them and the Sretenka Design Week organization that supported the project.
You seem to thrive creatively by finding new artistic outlets. You work to the credo of “range is conducive to growth,” which very accurately relates to the grand variety of artistic disciplines in which you work. What is the relationship between one medium and the next? How has working in one medium opened up your mind to new possibilities in another medium?
I’ve found that my most unique output is the result of taking ideas from one place and applying them elsewhere. Allowing design to inform my art, and vice-versa, results in a hybrid that can be unexpected and fresh. Working across disciplines is crucial for my overall happiness and creativity level as well. After a week of vector design all I want to do is go to a wall and paint with my hands. After a week of painting walls I am happy to return to graphic design and collaborate with clients. Variety is key.
What is the significance of the Sretenka Sculptures in your evolution as an artist?
Aside from being a super fun project, in a far away land, actualizing a longtime dream, this project reminded me that anything is possible. With a solid plan and the right team there is no dream too big. Collaboration is so important when the scope of projects gets beyond the capabilities of an individual. This project raised the bar for my future efforts in public art and design.
>> See more of Moore’s sculptures at Sretenka Design Week here.
CORE DECO Moore’s functional design company at core-deco.com
Core Deco is your “functional design” company. Explain what you mean by “functional design” and how you understand the intersection of functionality and art.
I consider functional design to be anything that serves a purpose beyond décor. This brand is my playground for objects that celebrate my design sensibilities and strive to bring household items to a level of appreciation for their clever appearance and usefulness.
How did this project come about? Is this the first time you’ve created art with an intentional, practical function?
Core Deco was on my dream list for years. I have a folder full of ideas for furniture and tiles and core household components. I had built myself custom furniture before, and I worked different jobs in construction and boat building so I knew my way around a woodshop. I had also done dozens of product collaborations with brands in skate/snow/surf and sneakers, tech, and apparel. But this is my first real serious personal push towards functional design. It has been an exciting process from concepts to products and I am thrilled that it has been so well received by the design community and consumers.
Right now, there are four products on the site. Given how productive you are as an artist, I assume this is only the beginning for Core Deco. Explain where you want this to go. What other functional designs have you dreamt up, but not yet created?
There are a bunch of new offerings in the concept phase right now and we expect to launch a new collection in Spring 2014. I’ll leave the specifics a mystery for now, but expect the unexpected. One really awesome parallel success of the brand thus far is the opportunities that have come to me, as a designer, and the folks I have collaborated with creating the Core Deco collection. I have had organizations tap me inquiring about designing tiles for the floor of their headquarters, and I’ve had many brands reference this work while we discuss our collaborative products independent of Core Deco. It’s a good reminder. As a young Costner once said “If you build it, they will come.”
>> You can buy the coasters seen above, and other items designed by Moore at core-deco.com.
INFINITY KNOT THEORY freeform flow 7-color screen-printed poster
Infinity Knot Theory is a large 7-color screen-printed poster on which you and 1xRUN collaborated. What was this project exactly, and what does the name mean?
The name combines the two phrases “Infinity Knot” and “Knot Theory” and becomes somewhat of a double entendre alluding to the fact that infinity is not a theory, it is a fact. The artwork is part of my evolution into organic geometry exploring very basic forms, circles and cosine curves. It’s fun to build designs like this that are all interlocking and resemble the gears of a clock.
How did you decide on using 7 colors, and how did you pick the 7 colors?
It’s a funny story. Whenever I work with a company on anything that will be screen-printed I always ask what the color maximum is. This factor really determines the final look of the piece. Typically it’s two or three colors, maybe five. The good folks at 1xRun gave me the green light on a seven color design, so I went all out and made my most intricate, and very labor intensive to produce, screen printed poster. Two thumbs up to the guy who printed these. He did a super job. It’s quite the process as you can see in the video.
ORGANIC GEOMETRY Moore’s angular geometry evolved
A lot of your work has dealt with angular geometry, but over the last three years you’ve focused on what you call “organic geometry.” What is “organic geometry,” and what caused your focus to shift? Were there events or circumstances that inspired you?
Three years ago a perfect storm of various factors really caused me to reflect and look forward with a new perspective. I was reaching a point where it was less magic, and more method, to paint pure triangulation-esk geometry. I was less curious. I had reached a point where I had explored extensively and devised my recipes. I sometimes felt that I was just tweaking various ingredients to make each mural different from the next in my deep archive of work in that style. Meanwhile, these aesthetics, which were very rare to come across when I was getting into painting in this style, by that time, it was everywhere in pop culture and the art and design worlds. I decided to trade in the triangles for circles, swapped the facets for flow, put down the masking tape and got my hand-eye-coordination to a whole new level, and applied the same type of color principles and optical illusions to this new chapter of work. Range is conducive to growth. And when the crowd decides to zig, I definitely notice, and that’s when I zag.
Looking back on your life, your art, and your career up to this point, can you identify milestones or significant moments of a larger change in your identity, style, and artwork?
Well, the different sections of this feature do a good job of showing my evolution in the past five years. The list is long, but a few crucial points that come to mind right now are… Going to college and learning graphic design software. Surrounding myself with creative cats in all different art and design fields that I look up to, collaborating with them, discussing topics with them, learning from and sharing my perspective with them. Traveling the world and seeing with my own eyes the distinct visual landscapes of each culture. Getting involved with three-dimensional projects. Always remembering to stay hungry, curious, and open. The journey is the destination.
What is the significance of Organic Geometry in your evolution as an artist? Why did you choose to have these artworks presented last?
These six groups of work is in chronological order, so the Organic Geometry stuff is the most recent set in this feature. These two are actually from a couple years ago (The mural is from a group show in The CMCA and the blue canvas is from my Gravity exhibition in Paris), and there is a lot more to discover on my Blog and Flickr from these past couple years. It was meaningful for me to reflect on everything that has helped me arrive at where I am now with my work. Without one phase the next phase wouldn’t be possible. Everything is built on previous discoveries, experiments, successes, and failures. My most recent work is actually more of a combination of the geometry and organic. I guess for me, with my process, I need to go all the way to one side of the spectrum before I can fully appreciate the other side. And now, with this abstract work I am painting on walls, my aesthetic vocabulary is more evolved and I am having more fun than ever before. I’m already looking forward to the mural opportunities of Summer 2014!
>> See more of Moore’s organic murals here.
In an interview with Abduzeedo, you said, “The goal is to make work that doesn’t need a signature to be recognized as your own.” You have definitely succeeded in this goal. I can see uncredited artwork on a design blog and quickly know that you created it. How did you evolve from first starting out as an artist to creating work that “doesn’t need a signature?” Did you set out to develop a distinct style or was it something that developed on its own?
That was part of a bigger statement where I was explaining the importance of versatility and always evolving, but not being a chameleon that is simply riding the waves of others. I could say a lot about this topic but it is a challenge to put my ideas into words. At the end of the day, keeping it real is the key formula. That, and honest hard work. Everyone is unique in their own way, and as long as we wake up everyday focused on our own vision, everything we touch will be sincerely ours. Signature style doesn’t just mean the outward aesthetics of a work of art, it is also the approach, technique, and years of exploration and research that led to the results. For me, it was never a conscience decision to have a signature style. But after creating lots and lots of work, evolving, striving to be unique, with a clear mind, I like to think that someone that is familiar with my work will really see my hand in the art I create.
>> See more of Matt W. Moore’s work at MWMgraphics.com.