Clay Mahn is currently working in Chicago, IL, originally from Missoula, MT. He’s been interested in art since very early on, but really began to take a serious look at things during his undergrad years at The University of Montana. Mahn’s father is a maker, a ceramicist, and his drive rubbed off on him in a number a ways. He finished graduate school two years ago.
“Chicago and SAIC have already transformed and influenced me tremendously. Being surrounded by a mass of smart, ambitious artists has made me consider everything I make in a more purposeful way.”
Read below as we caught up with Clay Mahn to find out more about his works and what inspires him most.
Tell us about your works, we would like to know more about them. What materials do you use?
“I use a number of different materials, all rather basic. I’ve recently been making a lot of sculpture in concrete. I’ve always found it to be a fascinating material - it’s history, versatility, chemistry, affordability, ubiquitous use, etc. The show with Devening Projects was comprised of dozens of poured concrete slabs based on small sketchbook drawings that were then enlarged to a more 1:1 scale, in terms of the human body.
I paint with acrylics that are often tweaked with additives like graphite or calcium carbonate to break up the polymer in a way that allows me build up a surface with many thin layers, and then sand them down to a near polish. My work is very much about material / surface and process - I consider it heavily.”
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your work / what inspires you most?
“Lately I’ve been working thematically within a couple of formats. The red/blue landscape formats have intrigued me. There is something about the repetitive process and variants within a theme that I find exciting - the subtle shifts. Changing compositions based on times of day - a setting of suns or moons. Simple, but therapeutic and meditative for me at the moment. They also function as abstractions but I see them much more in the prior light.”
How would you describe your work and how would you define your style?
“The work has a playfulness to it that I consciously try to keep present in some component or another. Often that comes through in the installation / exhibition format more so than inherently represented in the pieces themselves. I try not to worry about defining my style, all of that seems to happen on its own accord. I’ve been working on thinking more with my gut as opposed to my head, I feel a lot of work can get over-analyzed before it’s had a chance to become something viable. I’m always tweaking things based on the last project, rejecting or embracing elements and moving forward. Exhibitions have been as much of a learning process as explorations in the studio.”
“My exhibition, ‘Softer Thoughts’, at Devening projects this last year was a memorable one as it spanned two separate rooms within the same exhibition. There was a challenge to create two distinct spaces while utilizing sculpture, installation, and painting. I’d been struggling with the two mediums in prior contexts and feel this was a fitting context to confidently present two separate, yet relatable bodies of work.”
Do you have upcoming exhibitions you'd like to share?
I do have two solo exhibitions coming up in April. One is at TW Fine Art in Brisbane, Australia and the other is at Comfort Station, a project space located here in Chicago. Looking forward to them both, lots of work to be done!“