Matthew Attard: 'That it is ok to make mistakes, or rather, that it is impossible not to make them'

Artist Matthew Attard tells all in our Q&A

Maltese artist Matthew Attard is strongly interested in situating his practice within the realm of contemporary drawing through a multimedia approach that highlights drawing’s versatile, performative, and time-based nature. His interest in understanding the gaze as a form of drawing - its perceptual, physiological and cultural dimensions – were the focus of his practice-based PhD research at the Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh, funded by the Malta Arts Scholarship scheme. Matthew is the solo artist for the Malta Pavilion at the ongoing 60th Venice Biennale, with the project I WILL FOLLOW THE SHIP.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

I check the time and hope that I didn’t hit the snooze button too many times.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

I think I received many good ones over the years, all for different reasons. One of the best pieces of advice came when I got my first degree, and that was to apply to the Peggy Guggenheim Internship programme in Venice.

What do you never leave the house without?

My sunglasses… apart from when I lose them.

Pick three words that describe yourself.

Ambitious, intuitive and easygoing.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

This is the recent exhibition, I WILL FOLLOW THE SHIP, representing the Malta Pavilion at the ongoing 60th Venice Biennale. The Venice Biennale is one of the most prestigious international exhibitions, and having the opportunity to exhibit as a solo artist at the pavilion while representing my country undoubtedly comes with a mix of significant challenges and great satisfactions.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

I like to follow live football results - for some reason it relaxes me, even though I do not really watch the games.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

One lesson is that while one should dream big, remaining grounded is equally important. This helps dreams, ambitions and ideas materialise, as one keeps working towards them at their own pace. I hope (actually, I’m sure) that there are more lessons to come.

Property and cars aside, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

This is probably my current computer in combination with the eye-tracking device.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

That it is ok to make mistakes, or rather, that it is impossible not to make them.

Who’s your inspiration?

I often find articulating influences and inspirations challenging because many operate subtly and gain significance over time. I think that sources of inspiration vary widely, and for me these start with family and friends, along with colleagues and artists I admire and look up to. I believe every impactful encounter has the power to influence.

What has been your biggest challenge?

In recent years, this was my PhD research, which I did at the University of Edinburgh. I had started my studies in December 2019, and a few months after my move to Edinburgh, we were globally going through the COVID-19 lockdown periods.

If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing?

It is so difficult to reply to this when everything I do is related to art making. If this weren’t an option, I would like to be a writer… this doesn’t mean that I would be good at it though!

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

Since I mentioned the internship earlier, I will go with Peggy Guggenheim. Hearing her story would be fascinating.

What’s your worst habit?

I am easily distracted by anything, and while answering these questions, I am proving myself right.

What are you like when you’re drunk?

I think it is best to reply to this with, I don’t remember.

Who would you have play you in a film?

I don’t believe there’s ever going to be a film that features me, but can I hypothetically choose Benedict Cumberbatch for his fascinating acting skills?

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Any form of bullying.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

I would want whoever attends the funeral to choose.

What is your most treasured material possession?

A small drawing by Caesar Attard.

What is your earliest memory?

One of my earliest memories is spending time at my Nanna Rose’s place.

When did you last cry, and why?

At the pavilion in Venice when I could finally see the completed set-up.

Who would you most like to meet?

I just want to keep meeting people that enrich my life experience, and what I do.

What’s your favourite food?

Mediterranean food.

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now?

It’s not a person, but the James Webb Space Telescope account.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?

I would want to spend a day in every era, and if possible, among different cultures.

What book are you reading right now?

I finally started reading Sajf by Ryan Falzon.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

To be able to breathe underwater.

What’s one thing you want to do before you die?

I just want to keep doing what I am doing and work on the artistic projects that will develop in the future. I hope these will take me to new places and broaden my life experience.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

I am currently stuck on The Smile’s albums.

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/listen to?

I’m so bad at singing that my own singing irritates me – so I don’t sing!