Bottles on a table at Clay Mahn's studio.

Where are you from and where do you reside?

I lived in Portland, Oregon after getting my BFA at The University of Montana in 2012, and then recently moved back to Missoula, Montana, which is where I grew up.

Do you find that your location strongly influences the direction of your work? Where do you feel you create your strongest work?

I’ve lived in three different cities over the past four years, which has detached my creative process from any dependency on a particular environment. I’m the most productive when given a clean space that I can turn into a complete disaster.

How do you approach a new work? Do you plan where and how you are going to disrupt the expected patterns and lines within your paintings, or are these decisions determined during the creation process?

All of the works are designed and manipulated digitally before being painted, but the layouts aren’t particularly labored over. I try to break things up as quickly and mindlessly as possible in order to retain an aspect of chance.

I consider the digital breaks in the compositions to be the “mark” or gesture, but as the paintings are physically executed they acquire human and material imperfections that make them less digital and more organic.

Where do you draw inspiration from for the composition in your work? Are the colors you select inspired by a single source, or various sources?

Old linoleum tile, parquetry, certain fabrics, things that reference decoration or embellishment. The colors are random for the most part—what’s most important to me is that the pieces function in monotone. The compositions are always a subject of restraint. When working with patterns/optical effects there can be a tendency to go over the top, for the work to become a purely decorative object or a case of visual trickery. I try to keep things slightly austere, a bit awkward.

What necessities do you require when making your art (radio, specific paintbrushes)? Is there something people would be surprised to discover about you?

Music is a must, plenty of coffee, a sharp razor blade and a plastic trowel. I haven’t had a paintbrush in my studio for years.

Last updated July 17, 2023.