Matthew Keff digitally riffs off the design tropes of social media and advertising
- Jyni Ong
- 20 August 2019
After studying cinema and photography at university, Matthew Keff went onto work in live events, before eventually moving into the weird and wonderful world of digital art. Gradually, he swapped out video footage and their effects for 3D renderings and game engines. Since then, he’s internationally exhibited games, interactive and video works, both online and offline across festivals and shows worldwide.
Drawing on a bright and bubbly game aesthetic (sound effects and all) featuring smiley-faced counters, claw machine toys and a colourful haphazard of shapes colliding into one another, Matthew creates kooky audiovisual scenarios in his latest work. Using video game engines, the animator designs interactive simulations which are more easily achieved through video game software. “It’s an expressive way to create,” Matthew tells It’s Nice That. “You can experiment and make a mess as a means of making the visuals” he adds on the explosive shorts.
His most recent projects Pie in the Sky and Heyday, both unfinished games, take inspiration from different parts of digital culture. He draws parallels between the internet and gaming culture, in particular connecting the dots between the ubiquitousness of mobile gaming and online advertising. Both projects use coin collecting as their central goal and hint to the audiovisual references of emoticons, video game collectibles amongst other icons from popular digital culture.
“Some are riffs on the design tropes aimed to create quick engagement on social media and other advertising platforms,” says Matthew. “They are squished together with the weird simulation aesthetics of video game render engines as a quip on digital life and feelings,” he continues. Starting out with a couple of phrases or descriptions of a concept, Matthew then maps out the visual assets he’ll need for the piece. He makes a set of 3D assets using modelling software, then builds the entire composition in a video game engine.
“At some point, it will resemble a working game which I’ll deviate from depending on how I want the work to be shown,” explains the digital artist. Continuing to enlighten us on his creative process, Matthew goes on to say: “Then, I’ll make screen recordings and still captures where the audiovisuals are made by interaction and messing around. It may be coded to play on its own endlessly, or it may be interactive, coded to be played with a game controller, through a touchscreen, or through VR.”
Currently working on a new set of videos at the moment, ultimately, Matthew hopes to provide an open experience to his viewers. Though one person may find it relaxing and joyful, others may say it’s frantically anxiety-inducing. But it’s this contrasting reception that Matthew finds interesting and in turn, there is no right or wrong answer in your experience of his work. In fact, it’s the mix of “weirdness and overwhelming emotions” that defines it.
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.