Where to begin? Australian artist Matthew Revert is a multi-disciplinary individual who is prolific through about five different mediums. He's released five books (all of which include covers he designed). He's released six albums that blend experimental field recordings with folk mumblings and spoken word. He's designed the cover art for about 400 books with a new release (or two) being announced seemingly every week. With a steady outpouring of work, including personal illustrations, the new cover for Michael J Seidlinger's book of poetry, the cover for B. Diehl's newest collection, and a liquor bottle for Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy, I felt it necessary to speak with this talented creative, and find out if/when he does, in fact, sleep.
How has 2018 been treating you so far?
Maybe I should get back to you in June about that. I’m still sizing 2018 up and trying to determine what I want from it and how likely I am to get it. There are some interesting opportunities potentially coming up this year, but I no longer assume anything will happen until it does. I’d like to think there will be some luck on my side this year, but others deserve it more than me. I haven’t died yet and hopefully this time next year I still won’t be dead. Lofty goals.
Your book cover design portfolio is...prolific. Is it hard to split time between passion projects and commissioned work?
It can definitely be a challenge and it’s one I used to struggle with more. Changing my cognitive response has helped. I try to make less of a distinction between commissioned work and my own work in terms of passion. Where it becomes a struggle is when an idea for a project consumes my mind and I have to force myself away from that to meet a commissioned deadline. Some commissioned can be overly prescriptive too, and they can feel somewhat imprisoning.
How do you cross disciplines? Do you spend certain days dedicated to writing and others with visual art, others again with music, or does it come in waves?
In can be hard to predict or control because in many ways it does come in waves. That said, I find that one discipline feeds the other. I design all of my books and records, for instance, which allows my graphic design to become heavily immured in the writing. My music also takes from certain aspects of my writing in that I try to use it to convey a story in ways not often associated with traditional music.
What are your plans for the rest of the year in regards to art/design?
In terms of my art, I would like to start working on new pieces and perhaps look toward having them exhibited and building a platform where I could sell them. I seem to get frequent interest from people interested in my art. Hopefully this interest will result in purchases. As for graphic design, I am in a transition period. I am lucky enough to have a lot of work and can’t recall a time in the last few years where I haven’t been working on a few projects at any one time. As grateful as I am for the work I get, I would like to start focusing on clients able to pay what can amount to a liveable income. The small press is an amazing thing to which I owe much. I’ll never leave it, but I do want to add larger clients to the dynamic.
What are your plans for the rest of the year in regards to writing?
Sadly it is the writing part of my identity that suffers the most beneath my workload. What I sincerely hope is I can focus significant attention on my writing in 2018. If I could come away from 2018 with a new novel under my belt, I would be extremely happy.
What are your plans for the rest of the year in regards to music?
I have a cassette tape coming out soon from a wonderful Greek label called Thalamos. I’m excited to see how that one is received. There are whispers of other releases, but nothing concrete enough to announce yet. I enjoy the process of making music and will continue to do so this year without too much focus on the outcome. It tends to turn out better that way.
You recently reopened Twitter, yes? Do you have a love/hate relationship with social media?
Social media is an odd duck. I really do owe it a lot and have benefited greatly from it. That said, there is a toxicity there one would be foolish to ignore. My relationship with it is one of hypocrisy where I contribute to the toxicity while gaining from it.
Outside of your own art, what have you been reading/watching/listening to as of late?
I’ve been in a bit of a strange space as far as what I’ve been enjoying. I’ve been drawn back toward bossa nova music - particularly recordings from the Elenco label. Among them, Nara’s album ‘Me’ from 1964 is as astonishing as ever. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Portal’s new album ‘Ion’ is a fantastic beast of a record. Well worth checking out. Film wise, I’ve been revisiting work by one of my favourite directors, Věra Chytilová. I’ve had a few issues with reading lately, but have been getting a lot of value out of the book ‘An Anthology of Concrete Poetry’ edited by Emmett Williams.
Do you constantly have a journal nearby?
Despite my ongoing intentions to the contrary, I rarely have a traditional journal nearby. I often use my phone for this purpose as it can become a means of capturing far more than writing. I record sounds that strike me as interesting and regularly take photos to inspire designs. I’d definitely like to gain the discipline keeping a traditional journal requires.
Your visual art style is quite eclectic. What are some studio essentials?
I try not to get too caught up on technology when it comes to the studio. My music in particular is usually conceived in a very primitive matter using cheap tape recorders, bad instruments and random objects. I find my creativity is stoked more effectively when I limit my tools and force myself into a position of making do. I find it quite troubling when people focus more on their tools than what they produce with them.
How do you approach a blank canvas?
As an opportunity. You hear stories of people who become terrified by a blank canvas, but a blank canvas is magic. It is moments away from possessing something within it that has never existed in history until you create it.
Do you have any advice for artists working on their craft?
My advice to any artist working on their craft is to focus on the ‘working’ bit. Talk less. Work more. Work when it is easy. Work more when it is hard. Whenever you hate what you’re doing, learn to love that hate. Don’t wait for the perfect time or environment. Don’t wait to be asked. Learn to love being ignored. Remain grounded if you start getting acknowledged. There will never be a shortage of excuses when it comes to not working. Just know that no matter how compelling the excuse is, it’s still an excuse.
Do you have any final thoughts / words of wisdom?
Many things you ardently believe at this point in your life are wrong. If you should become aware of something you are wrong about, embrace being wrong.