Matthias Bork lives in Canada but he was born and educated in Germany, is descended as far back as 1850 from a family of artists. Bork has studied art in Germany, Canada and Mexico. He became a full-time artist in 2000, but has painted continually since the 1970’s. Between 2000 and 2016, He has created over 510 works of art, and completed over 1300 works since 1975. Having entered exhibitions in Europe and America, Matthias specializes in non-objective mixed media in addition to oil or acrylic on canvas and paper, furniture and large murals. Let’s meet him.
“Art was always a part of my family. My grandfather started his painting and decorating company in 1924 and besides painting, wallpapering, stencilling, he was also specialized in applying crown molding plaster, the old fashion way, as well as wall murals on interior or exterior house walls. Occasionally, some fine art was required, for example oil paintings on canvas, to match the interior design for one of his clients. His company was well known and by the 1930’s his reputation was outstanding. Many of his clients included the rich and wealthy, of our home city. Naturally, my father followed in the footsteps of my grandfather and completed the apprenticeship in the trade. Followed by years on the road, the so-called journeyman years. My father took over the company, after receiving his “Master” (Painter), he continued the tradition of excellent craftsmanship. So naturally, me and my brothers were always surrounded and influenced by paints, colours, fabric samples. We watched him, when he prepared and mixed his paints and from a young age on we helped him on various job sites, to earn our first own money. Even though, my older brother eventually took over the company, after he graduated from Master school, now in the third generation, I believe that I had the most interest in fine art. My father realized my talent and interest and he was basically my first instructor and mentor. From him I learned how to draw with charcoal and pencils. However, he never encouraged me to become a full-time artist. As the saying goes “Starving Artist” is the reputation of many talented painters, even today. So, art was always a part of my life, but not until the mid 1980’s, after I already was very successful in my own business ventures, that I decided to start a second career as an artist.”
His family was never very wealthy and everything they achieved in life was due to many sacrifices and hard work. In fact, everything they had worked so hard for, was completely destroyed in one of the final bombing raids in their home town in 1945 when the family home and everything in it was destroyed by fire. Also lost many family members. The late 1940’s and 50’s was a time of rebuilding everything from scratch. Every single brick had to be retrieved from the rubble, scraped off from old mortar to be used again in rebuilding the home.
A slight detour.
“Since my older brother already followed the path of my father and grandfather, I first did a 3-year apprenticeship as a baker, followed by a second 2-year apprenticeship as a pastry chef. The journey years that followed were as a Commis de Pâtissier in Frankfurt, Germany, Demi-Chef de Pâtissier in Stockholm, Sweden, Chef de Partie Pâtissier in Bangkok, Thailand and finally as a Chef Pâtissier in Niagara Falls, Canada. In these fine Hotels, I acquired the skills as a food artist. The quality of the edible art pieces we created was just amazing. For guests like The Rolling Stones, Peter Maffay and Kings and Royals. I still have some autographs of some of the famous hotel guests in my possession”.
Matthis remembers one of the most diffucult time regarding being homeless.
“I had left my job and went back to Germany to help a friend of mine. I returned 6 month later to Canada with no money, no place to stay and my previous employer had sold his business, so I did not get my old job back. It was the Christmas week, temperatures around minus 20C. I slept at the Train Station for 18 days and was looking for work during the day. I got employed again New Years day, stayed with a friend until my first pay cheque, to be able to rent an apartment. I slept on the floor for another month until I was able to buy some used furniture”.
From German to Canada
“Why did I move to Canada? The short answer would be, I followed a little boys dream. However, the truth is, it was a little more complicated than that. But as long as I can remember, I was always fascinated by the native Indians and their struggle for survival. As a little boy, when my friends and classmates drew pictures of cars and robots, I would always draw Cowboys and Indians. When I got older, my interest remained and I would read anything with the title America, Wild West or Yellowstone on the cover. Soon after, I was very familiar with, were to find the Navajo Reservation on a map or the location of the battle of the Little Big Horn River. Eventually I chose Canada over the US, simply because it was a little more European, the many French, German, Italian and Polish settlers had left their marks more permanently. My first vacation in Canada was financed simply by selling my car, but I had to make myself a picture and I was not disappointed, I wanted to immigrate to Canada. It would take another 6 years before I finally had the opportunity, a job offer which I took. I arrived at the age of 25, with two suitcases and 2000 Dollar. That was 30 years ago.
Art and artist.
“Most of the time when I create art, I think about it a lot. What is the reason of the shapes and colours? If it is a commission, what does the client want or expect? In those cases, I will do extensive research. I will put in consideration to the interior design of the home or office, the wall colours, the source of light, natural or florescent? But not every painting needs to have a meaning. In non-objective paintings, the harmony of colours is very important. Often little is much and the true challenge is to know when to stop. I look at the beauty of it, not so much the meaning”.
If not art, what else would you be doing?
“I am a man of many interests and it would probably be easier to list the careers I wouldn’t enjoy. I have done many things in my life, but I could imagine to being a pretty good interior designer. But regardless of what I would be doing, I think art in one way or another would always be a part of my career. Like we say in German “Meine Lieblingsfarbe ist bunt”, which is kind of difficult to translate, but means something like “My favorite colour is motley” Indeed I love bright colours in a dialog with each other. I also think, Art should not be complicated and sad. I want to see the simplicity and beauty in it. I don’t want to think, “What is the artist telling us?” I do not have much appreciation for some of the installations artists come up with. For example, an installation of a stretched white bedsheet surrounded by 3 red bricks and a loop recording of heavy breathing, is not art for me”.
He is guided by things that move him, and he works in series. If he is not busy with a commission, MABO would start a new series of paintings, anywhere from 5 – 20. Maybe a set of figurative paintings. One of his latest series is called “Phase of faces” were he did 35 abstract faces for an art show in Germany. But his favorite style is probably non-objective mixed media in which he has sold most of my works.
“Who knows, perhaps my next subject will be an Inca inspired abstract? Time will tell. But I will most likely never return to any form of realism still life paintings, that’s just not me”.
MABO is influenced by a lot of famous artists, like Picasso, Rothko, Matisse, Chihuly but he is also influenced and moved by many unknown painters. There is an abundance of talented artists, all around the world and with the internet it is possible to know about them and to see their works.
Latin American art
“Latin America is rich in history and of course the fine art of the Mesoamerican cultures like the Mayans, Aztecs or in Peru by the Norte Chico civilization and the Incas. Other notable more recent artists, just off the top of my head, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Federico Uribe or Fernando de Szyszlo. I’ve been to South America and have traveled extensively in Mexico. I love the colours, patterns and style of Latin American art, but one of my favorite artist is Alberto Ulloa from the Dominican Republic. What I like most about the Latin American culture is the rich history and Spanish influenced architecture. I enjoy visiting historic colonial towns, pre-Hispanic sites and the Mesoamerican ruins. Watching the sunset or just enjoying the smell of the Ocean air, the smell of freshly prepared tacos on the street corner, the sound of a nearby Mariachi band. The food is awesome and I love the people. Friendly and helpful, always eager to help if needed. However, the word “manana” should be banned from the Spanish language, since it doesn’t really mean “tomorrow” ☺
Young people and art in Canada
“I believe we have some of the best art schools in America. Brock University right here in St.Catharines, Ontario is home to the Marylin J.Walker school of Performing arts, a top notch facility with excellent teaching staff. But everywhere in Canada we have excellent opportunities for students and the curriculum is widespread, anything from digital to visual to performing art. The possibilities are endless, and not only for the young people”.
Social network feedback
“I started fairly late to take advantage of the social media opportunities. Now I use Facebook and Instagram to reach out, but I will not buy “likes” or sign up to other similar forms of marketing tools to appear more popular. Honestly, I am quiet surprised of the feedback I get. Actually, I found Instagram an excellent tool and have been approached by others, resulting in an art show in Milan in Italy as well as in Hermosillo, Mexico. Lately I also started my own Youtube channel, which is not intended to be an educational channel, but rather an opportunity to watch me at work. It is still a learning experience and I am still figuring out the best length, type of music, spoken explanations or just sub-titles etc”-
MABO has many hobbies and interests. And one of them is being involved in Martial arts all his life. He is holding a black belt in Judo and a Master degree in Kung Fu, and he has also been teaching Kung Fu for the last 18 years. He also loves to do his own home renovation projects and has single handedly renovated 8 homes since coming to Canada. “I also love to write. I have written 4 books and published 6 as a self-publisher. Ancestry is another passion of mine and in the last 40 years I have researched my family roots back to 1514. And if I am not busy with anything else, relaxing with a good glass of Merlot, surrounded by family in front of the fireplace or with a good book in my hammock in Mexico”. Quite a lot huh.
Diversity and LGTB rights
“During my early teenage years back in the 70’s I became aware of people with a different sexual orientation. Being part of a very large clique of friends it turned out, 3 of our friends were gay. It felt a little strange when we found out, since all 3 of them used to date girls at first. But it was okay for us and we did not treat them any differently. In fact, I am still in touch and friends with two of them. The world has come a long way, and in some open-minded countries the acceptance and rights in the LGBT community was faster than in some less liberal countries. The trend will continue and the process will be slow. Unfortunately, in some countries the trend is negatively developing. Just look at a country like Iran. In the 1970’s, women would work side by side with their male co-workers. The women in Iran of the 1970’s were very fashion oriented did not have to cover their heads and I could imagine that the acceptance of LGBT could have been possible in the not so distant future. This all changed with the cultural revolution. Homosexuality is now a crime in Iran, punishable by imprisonment, corporal punishment, or by execution. On the other hand, look at the positive development of another Islamic Country. The Kingdom of Jordan. Same-sex activity was legalized in 1951, becoming one of few Muslim countries to do so. I am a big fan of King Abdulla of Jordan and his peace-loving politics, and the freedom of religion. I treat every gay or lesbian person with the same respect as anybody else. And that applies also to people of different race, colour or religion”.
Of course we ask everybody who is the sexiest man alive in the world…
“That is a difficult question. Dwayne Johnson was just voted Sexiest man alive. I would think more like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is, for his 69 years, still a pretty good looking guy”.
His website is: www.mabo-art.com with links to e-mail, Facebook and Instagram.
Let’s get one of his beautiful paintings!!!