Matthew Trygve Tung, “The Bronx, Post Divestment”, ink on cotton-rag paper, 40 x 25″, 2008

Matthew Trygve Tung, “Untitled”, ink on cotton-rag paper, 14 x 20″, 2006

Matthew Trygve Tung, “American West III”, ink on paper, 21 x 15″, 2007

Matthew Trygve Tung

Born 1982, San Francisco, CA.

BFA San Francisco Art Institute, 2006.


Greenpoint, Brooklyn (11222)

Of late I primarily work with ink and graphite on paper. I tend to use rapidograph pens and heavyweight, cotton-rag printmaking or watercolor papers, and any variety of graphite pencils. My computer and the internet are also an essential tool, as I spend much of my time searching for an accumulating images of a vast variety, ranging from historical archives to flickr.

Describe your process:
Most of my pieces either start with an idea in my head or after seeing a rather striking image. Like I said above, I am constantly combing the internet for images of interest, even when I am not looking for new source material. Every once and awhile I’ll actually set foot in a library or historical society, but for the most part I am indebted to the endless resource of images that is the internet. After collecting images I tend to do small thumbnail sketches in a notebook or on scraps, just to get an idea of how I want the image to work within the space of the page and to get a feel for the image with my hand.

Once I have exhausted small sketches I move on to the actual piece of paper and begin mapping things out. This is really the most tedious part of the process for me, and the most anxiety-wrought. I tend to be overly precise when mapping out a drawing, carefully measuring everything out on the page in light pencil as I see fit in my mind.

After everything is mapped out I get around to what I find to be the most enjoyable work, which is the slow build up of the drawing itself. I work the pieces very slowly, especially when using rapidograph pens, usually working with the finest of line other than some filling work and methodically drawing away until it all resembles something I actually had in mind.

Is there a common theme or subject matter in your work?
Almost all of my recent work deals with what are essentially ruined landscapes, places of abandon and disregard. I tend to shift back and forth between urban and rural settings, but almost all of my pieces deal with man’s movement through the landscape, how we use, inhabit, and disuse our environments. A large part of my explorations deal with the idea of emptiness and vastness in the American Landscape, and how that allows a different mentality toward both our manmade and natural environments.

How do you work with your materials, do you use any unique applications?
am very slow and methodical in all of my processes, always working in my own ordered steps, though beyond that there is nothing especially unique about how I work with my materials. Ultimately it I am just drawing, which, no matter how complicated I make it with all of my steps and processes, is the most direct and simple form of art making, and I think that is why it can be so satisfying.

Describe your studio or ideal working conditions, when are you most creative?
My current studio is a shared space on the Greenpoint/Williamsburg border that I have been lucky enough to mostly have to myself. Prior to that I was in a tiny (70sqft!) studio in Williamsburg that rained mysterious metallic black dust all the time. At the end of the month I’ll be moving into a new apartment with a decent sized room that will be dedicated to my studio and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m a quite a control freak and like to have a very ordered and private work space. I also tend to work late at night and often in short bursts, so not having to travel to my studio, no matter how close, will be great for my productivity. I’ll be curious to see how my working habits change once I am in my new space, and I’m sure I’ll find things I miss once I am there.

What factors make you consider a work finished or successful?
One of the things I miss most about printmaking (which is what I spent my undergrad years doing) is the sense of completion I always got when I pulled a print. Even if the plate was to be further reworked, once that actual print was pulled there was a finished piece. With drawing it’s not as easy, and there are often times that I’ll come back and add this or that. In general though, there comes a point in any of my drawings where I basically feel like adding anything more will ruin it, and starting out with such clear ideas in my head of what I want the drawing to be, I tend to have a good sense of when that has been achieved. So far as success is considered, I’m still figuring that one out. I always hang my work once I feel it is done and seeing it on the wall will tell me pretty fast whether or not it really is. The main thing missing from my current practice is a greater audience for the work to interact with. I think it is essential to have eyes other than one’s own (or people similarly too close to you and your work), and finding that in New York has been one of my biggest challenges so far.