Interview With Clay Mahn

Could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what kind of work you make?
I am an artist from Missoula, Montana, currently living in Portland, Oregon. I’m primarily an abstract painter, but occasionally utilize found objects and photography as well. I try to make things that are simple, yet peculiar. 

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
Almost all of my work is designed digitally before being mapped out and physically painted, so photoshop is something I utilize everyday. It allows me to quickly “sketch” and respond to ideas, refining things like scale and hue before touching any paint. 

What types of obstacles have you run into in your artistic practice and how do you go about navigating around them? 
Every move to a new city provides numerous obstacles that directly relate to my art-making. Finding an affordable studio, a place to live, and a job to supplement making work require time and patience. After living in three different cities over the past four years, I’ve had to do some strange things. For awhile I was photographing maquette paintings on a miniature wall in my apartment before I had a proper work space. It’s been a bit chaotic, but with resolve things inevitably come together, being forced to explore new avenues is always a good thing. 

    Interstice   Acrylic on panel 36" x 57"

Acrylic on panel
36" x 57"

What do you feel are the recurring themes in your visual work?  
Pattern and geometrics inform most everything i’ve done recently. I like the idea of working within certain parameters, like painting in monochrome or allowing myself a single minimal gesture, like fracturing a plane or shifting a single line to create a piece. This helps me unify a wide range of singular actions and fight redundancy. 

    Object K   Archival digital print 18" x 27"

Object K
Archival digital print
18" x 27"

    Object T   Archival digital print 18" x 27"

Object T
Archival digital print
18" x 27"

Is there a particular artist you feel you relate to? Who are your role models (artists or non-artists)?
There are a lot of young artists I follow and consider creative role models. Lately I have been into the work of Isaac Brest, Paul Cowan, and Chris Bradley. They utilize their personal motifs with a slight touch of low-brow irony, while seamlessly shifting between mediums. 

What is the best piece of artistic advice you’ve been given?
Go to your studio every day, even if the only thing you accomplish is reading the newspaper.


See more of Clay's work at