Here’s part two of my video interview with Matt Small. It’s from his recent show, “Youngstarrs” at Black Rat Press in London. The show is up for another week, so you can still catch it if you haven’t seen it in person yet. There’s some really beautiful work which Viddler’s image quality does not show off properly at all. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can check out Part One of this interview as well.
The audio is poor, so there is a transcript below the video.
RJ: So how do you choose who to paint?
Matt: Well I got my film camera…
We talk about how I only brought a cheap video camera.
Matt: Yeah so I film people with a video camera and I do it at a nice discreet distance. So in a way it’s a bit naughty, but what you’re doing is you’re getting them unaware and you’re capturing them in their own natural way of being. You know what I mean? [inaudible] Because I film them and people assume an identity. We all do that. We all… I’m doing it now. So we all assume an identity, and we stop being ourselves as such. We put out what we believe we want people to see. I bypass that by filming you, without you knowing. And then I can just go through that and find ones that I believe in [inaudible] and I’ll get that person. So there are all just like kids on the street. And, as sinister as that might sound, that how I’ve got them. One of the kids here, he was from a place called [inaudible] estate in North London. He’s sitting there, and I just filmed him. He had that beautiful look about him. [Inaudible]. I just that was very telling of the kids that are growing up in that particular area. They’re growing up in a tough estate and [inaudible] and who knows what lies ahead.
RJ: What’s the process to paint one of these, the actual painting though, once you have the image?
Matt: Once I have it? Well I’ll film, sketch, and then I’ll build up the sketch on metal and I’ll use oils and use that to build up tones and then I use [inaudible] I’ll get loads of emulsions paints which you see [inaudible] different tones of paint that I use and then I scratch it on. And I’ve got a little tool that I use to smear the paint around and it creates a sort of collidial process where all the paints mix and it’s like being in a realm of chaos because what I’ve just done is before I painted a very conventional painting: a very nicely done picture. Every time I do that it’s me protesting against traditional portraiture. It’s me saying “damn the way that [inaudible].” And it’s quite liberating. I’ve just destroyed this picture that [inaudible], and then I’ve got to try to get it back. The way I [inaudible] to bring it back as a different picture. Almost like it’s been reborn into something that I would like to think is progressive and it’s saying a bit more than that picture before. What it was before was something that doesn’t represent me or what I’m trying to say about art and about the world. And when I destroy it and bring it back, it is something that is me and it does speak about the world. I think that’s what makes it really interesting personally. Because each time I do one of these paintings, there’s a little story behind it. And it’s a story that sort of speak about me as well as a person. I think that, as an artist, if you’re an artist then you really want to make sure that a picture is coming from you, and it’s you talking and that’s there in these pictures.
A little over a week ago I had the chance to see with Matt Small and we spoke about his show Youngstarrs, which is currently on at Black Rat Press in London. Here’s part one of that interview, the rest will be coming online in the coming days. The audio isn’t great, so below the video you can read the transcript.
RJ: Okay, so we’re here with Matt Small at Black Rat Press for what’s the show called?
Matt: It would be called Youngstarrs.
RJ: Right. It opened last week, and I guess you’re gonna explain to us some of the paintings.
Matt: Well, the show, Youngstarrs, kinda I wanted to do a project about kids I suppose. At the end of the day, these kids are us. Because that’s who we are: big kids. I just thought I thought it would be lovely to have this huge theme of young people. Young people that are living and growing up in today’s society. These young kids who walk round up the roundabouts and they’ve all got their futures ahead of them. You know whatever in the end, whatever negative things, so many worrying stories about what’s happened with our youth and we worry about where they’re gonna be. I’ve got a young child myself, he’s seven. He’d say that’s your formative years. You know that’s really where you become who you are as a person. That’s where [inaudible]. That’s where futures start to really kind of, you know, to be cemented and such. As well as [inaudible] you really kind of becoming you as a person, which is like: do we believe that, [inaudible] we can tell with the recession and [inaudible] and this crime and do we think that our little kids are gonna be down in the scrap heap or do we just see them as these beautiful little angels like “young stars” as such? They’re like stars in the sky. They’re shining bright and that be me is what I think that my little kid, that’s what I thought of him. I can’t see him in a negative way, I can’t see his friends in the negative, I can’t see their futures in anything but the positive, a positive termed vernacular, because I think that that would be failing them. And I’m getting sick and tired of The Daily Mail and all those sort of papers that just talk about how everything’s terrible and the world’s gone to pot because I can’t think like that. So that’s more than your [inaudible]. That’s in the same vein as like, the concrete people, and I’ll do my best to sort of make my kid’s future as bright as possible and I think that’s the [inaudible] in kids. That’s the potential of them all. I think that that should be giving the right message that I’m trying to say, and it is saying that we’ve all got stories, we’ve all been somewhere, we’ve all wanted to have something different in our lives and [inaudible] sometimes takes us to where we don’t wanna be [inaudible] everyone’s got a story. And I’d like to think that when people look at this they sort of see themselves in them. These little young people. It’s like, well, I had the whole world ahead of me, and my story is still continuing but things I might have wanted to do or things that I think I can’t do, I didn’t get the chance, or I wish that this didn’t happen. I might be this place. Or I just think it’s really interesting to think about these children who, they are us. They got the world ahead of them. I think of these as self portraits. They’re all me. I was that little kid once. I don’t know why what happened to me [inaudible] there’s things I could have done I didn’t do it because of life’s little scenarios and what we thought we couldn’t achieve if someone’s saying you can’t do it. And that’s what I’m saying, life starts to inform your mind and tell you what you can and can’t do and I just think, I don’t want that to happen around my kid. I think each one of these kids has got the potential to become world leaders and something incredible [inaudible]. It doesn’t matter if they’re from dodgy or a bad estate or bad area or they’ve got bad things happening around them. They’ve got the chance to grow in a positive place. These are the young stars.
RJ: So it’s sort of like right before, or right as they are sort of realizing that the world might not be that perfect place, but at this point, it still is for all these people.
Matt: It’s totally that. That’s what I see. Like within contemporary London (for me) or wherever you live. You think that these kids are gonna be all savvy and they’re gonna be all different to how we were when we were as little kids. They’re not. They’re still playing tag and they’re still very cheeky and funny and they haven’t been burnt yet. They haven’t had their fingers singed. They’ve still got a lot of energy and a lot of potential. I think that’s exactly what I see every day. As I say I’m at my child’s school. I see that.
Matt Small’s solo show, “Youngstarrs,” opens at Black Rat Press next Thursday. I’ve just been sent some preview pics of the show from Matt’s studio. This show is really shaping up to be something special. Personally, I think Matt’s portraits are some of the most powerful being made today.
I’ve seen a couple of the pieces from “Youngstarrs” and they have impressed me to no end. I would show you a blury photo I took with my iPhone, but twitpic.com seems to have lost the image. Oh well, these preview images are better quality anyway.
The cool thing about the above painting is that it is done (I believe) on concrete. The end result is probably my favorite style of work that Matt has ever done.