Mathew Tucker – BA (Hons) in Fine Art

Name: Mathew Tucker

Current Job Title: Artist

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to choose your course:
I had studied art and design and a little product design years ago in the UK but never completed my degree, feeling a little unsure of my direction. I entered the workforce for years in London and eventually wanted a change and moved to Dingle to help my best friend run his Surf School. After a couple of years in Dingle and some time spent getting back into my artistic interests, I decided I wanted to go back to school to learn about Fine Art. I looked for Fine Arts degree programs that had a broad range of subjects and a strong faculty and I also wanted to be on the West Coast so I could surf as often as possible, Sligo made perfect sense and it worked out brilliantly.

What specifically about the course did you particularly enjoy?
We had a great group of people come together and there was lots of fun, support and camaraderie over the 4 years but I think we were also very lucky to have such a great faculty. The lecturers were supportive and knowledgeable and came with art-world knowledge, which is a big component when you plan to take your degree into your profession.

What is the best thing about the course that you think new applicants should know?
Between the practice and the theory it really will introduce you to a whole new set of ideas, understandings and appreciations of what Art does, how it works and the ways that we find meaning in objects, events and experiences. Interestingly, you also start to realise that this spreads far beyond just ‘Art’ and has deep significance in everything. It rewards a curious and creative mindset and the faculty will offer a wide range of perspectives.

Any favourite modules during your time studying?
My main love was always painting so the studio time we had with the lecturers was my favourite because we were able to get to work on the paintings and had really wonderful and often challenging feedback and critique with the lecturers and our peers. The direct feedback and critique that we received and shared while discussing other people’s works were some of the most valuable learning experiences. History and Theory were always far more rewarding than expected and influenced and enriched our studio practice. Digital Media with Tommy Weir was always great too, a great teacher and always fun and supportive.

What key skills did you learn while studying at ATU Sligo that has influenced your career?
The Professional Practice module was useful in having a grounding in how the art world works and how to communicate your work and ideas to your industry. There are digital and photoshop skills I learned at Sligo that I use daily in documenting and editing my work and the ability to properly photograph work in proper lighting and high resolution. Writing about my work and understanding where it fits or what other work it relates to. Perhaps for me, the most important skills were the ones we learned in painting class. Being taught a real technical method for painting graphically, photo-realistically or classically is an incredibly useful grounding for a painter and one that is seldom taught in contemporary art education.

Can you share some detail of your career path or further studies to date?
After Sligo, I applied to a couple of colleges in New York to continue my studies and do an MFA in Fine Art. I was fortunate to be offered a place at Hunter which has become one of the best programs in the US and has a great reputation for Alumni going on to forge successful careers in the arts. I was able to work and study while in New York and spent time working as an art handler for many of the big galleries, auction houses and museums which was an incredible education in itself. I graduated in 2016 and have spent the time since art handling, raising a family, continuing my studio practice and slowly developing my career. I have had work published in numerous magazines since leaving school, I’ve been selling work both independently and through a gallery that consigns my work in Los Angeles and the last year I have curated a group show, had a solo show of recent paintings and was the proud recipient of The CUE Foundation’s – Aon Artist Empowerment Award and a Solo exhibition of those selected works are currently on display at the Aon HQ in New York.

What does your current role involve?
I am essentially a one-person business as an artist. I work from a home studio in a garage that I converted with full gallery lighting, white walls and a custom-built paint cart and work tables. I spend my days painting, drawing, emailing, sending invoices, packing artwork for shipping, liaising with the gallery in LA, photographing work, updating my website, sharing on social media, planning studio visits with other artists, writing statements or crafting a newsletter or update for collectors or curators. It’s a lot of hats to wear but a good art education will give a good grounding in most roles and Sligo was certainly fundamental in acquiring many of those skills and getting to this point. My impression when talking with my peers is that Sligo was a far more comprehensive art education than most and that has been of lasting value to me.

What advice would you share with our current students considering a career in your field?
Seek out feedback and critique about your work, take in what resonates with you and let go of the things that don’t seem relevant. Spend lots of time looking at and talking about other people’s work because it will teach you as much as your own. Be generous in helping others, look for opportunities to show your work as much as possible in spaces that are relevant and get your work seen. Find community at university and out in your industry because that’s where so many of the opportunities will come from. Try to spend some time working in the art world to see how the business of art functions and to meet your peers. Be proactive, go after what you want because no one is ‘discovered’ unless they make themselves seen and ‘overnight’ success is built on a lot of work behind the scenes.

What did you like best about studying at ATU Sligo?
I loved Sligo – the surfing and the mountains and it’s a great town with a great contemporary art space in The Model Niland. I keep in touch with many of my friends from our degree program and I think those friendships and the faculty created a really rewarding and productive environment in which to learn. The strength of the program and those who deliver it, the location and the friendships formed were in combination the best thing about studying there.

What advice would you give a first-year student starting in ATU Sligo?
Spend the time getting to know your peers and the staff and get out exploring Sligo because the landscape is beautiful and there are hikes and beaches to enjoy and it all enriches your learning experience.

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