Matt Smith is a textile artist and ceramicist who has an intriguing exhibition at the Ink_d Gallery in Brighton, England, which opens, July 4 2015.
The exhibition is entitled ‘Trouble with History’ and will feature a collection of textile-based art made from vintage tapestries and domestic textile kits, which have been unpicked, reworked, and subsequently subverted from their perceived norm.
I understand that not everyone is going to be comfortable with the idea of the level of textile manipulation that Matt uses in his work, but this isn’t a quirky exhibition or one that is done for the sake of it, there are some real issues here and they tend to be issues that affect us all, that should make us think, and perhaps even make some uncomfortable.
The results of Matt’s intervention and manipulation is to shift the emphasis of our standard perception of the norm. Without a real focus to the composition, is there a connection we can forge, can we identify, sympathize, or generally empathize with subject matter that seems to be missing any connection points? Does the composition merely become an exercise in disconnection?
To obscure the identity of the subjects of the work, faces and sections of the original compositions that would have been intended to have been that main focus, Matt has deliberately severed any emotional bond we may have formed with the characters that sit, play, love, and so it is in life.
Preconceptions quickly disappear in Matt’s work, we don’t know the age, sex, or skin color of the individuals featured. Without being able to connect with those markers of age, gender, or race we cannot make judgements.
It is a way of getting us to think, to stop a moment and trouble ourselves as to the issues involved in Matt’s work. By removing our complacency of understanding, we have to think about the nameless and the unidentified in history, those who struggled to find a place in societies that were often violently hostile towards them.
By withdrawing from making connections with those in our community that we disapprove of, we in many ways disconnect them from the community, they become outsiders, they become a disapproved lifestyle at best, a plague on the norm at worst.
By losing any significant identity with the ‘different’, society loses interest in what happens to them, they often become rootless and disconnected. ‘Them’ and ‘us’ has been a constant for those who have wished to manipulate the human condition throughout history. If you can remove any personality traits from ‘them’, any empathic connection, any sympathy, or shared experience, then they become a distant, cold, unknown and unknowable entity, and therefore anything can be done to them because they obviously deserve it as they are no longer ‘us’
Matt is interested in issues that surround the identity and stigma so often attached to these states of being ‘different’, which is very often a state that is imposed from without, rather than within. We are all different and we are all unique, but to many societies whether in history, or in our own contemporary world, difference is a controlled substance, and uniqueness is well underplayed.
Matt’s exhibition ‘Trouble with History’ at Ink_d Gallery, Brighton runs from July 4-August 2 2015. More information can be found at the Ink_d website.
Matt also has a comprehensive website which can be found here – Matt Smith
Matt has also been awarded Artist in Residence at the V&A Museum, London, from October 2015.