Matthew was born on the March 7th, 1972 in the small industrial town of Newport in South Wales. Growing up on a council estate at the fringe of the town he had very little exposure to the arts. Considering having an internationally renown arts school in Newport, there were very few outlets to the arts, the typical council run gallery being the only main stay. With no formal training and very limited access, Matthew considered himself an outsider artist in his early years.
After the birth of his daughters and a series dead end jobs, Matthew went to university in 2001. He studied Fine Art, Contemporary Media at the Newport School of Art, Media and Design as an undergraduate and then went straight on to complete a Masters degree at the same institution.
After graduating in 2007, Matthew went on to work within the university as a fabrication technician within the arts school until 2013 when the university decided to close the art school. Since then Matthew has focused on his art practice and his passion for making.
Would you say your work is inspired by the cubist and Bauhaus movement?
Not directly, I am a huge fan of both the Cubist and Bauhaus movements and although you may see hints of their influence within my earlier work, I wouldn’t say they have inspired anything I have done this millennia so far.
How did you discover or come across producing work on urban landscape?
It wasn’t until starting my degree that it came to the forefront of my practice and I started to delve deeper in to it.. Then whilst writing something for my masters degree in 2008, I tracked it’s emergence and rise to prominence within my work from the early 90’s.
Do you have a set art process when creating an artwork?
Not entirely, although my largest body of work is the Urban Composition Series and each of these series adhere to a slightly different process. The first series were quick sketches within the environment and then developed up in the studio and then finally coloured from memory. The second series were drawn freehand from photographs without regard for proportion and then loosely painted. The third series were perfectly dimensioned from photographs, without correcting the the way photographs flatten the image; thereby staying true to the process.
You are predominantly known as a painter, but have ambitions of exploring video. Do you have any ideas upon this as of yet?
I currently have several hours of footage of which I will start to play around with when time allows. I am toying with the idea of an ever changing composition, one element disappearing as another appears. An almost running cityscape composed of other cityscapes.
I made one video piece about 10 years ago, this is the only time it has been shown publicly except in a series of projected stills (thats if you intend to use it Helen). I am interested in exploring the medium more, even though I do struggle with it a little; especially sound. I can’t ever see myself producing any moving images with sound, which is ironic as in 2007 I produced a series of talking paintings (Reflective Landscapes) which included sound.
Do you aim for the viewer to see the world differently?
Umm, maybe not to see the world differently, but to explore how we perceive it and certainly to open the discussion on it’s effect on the people living within it.
What made you become an artist?
Becoming an artist wasn’t a choice. In infant school I would express myself by writing fictional stories and then as I got older my creativity transformed in to a visual language. Maybe it has something to do with my mother being told by teachers in infant school not to correct my spelling as it could hinder my creativity and then as I grew older and got more embarrassed about my poor spelling that it pushed me more towards imagery.. Either way it’s no bad thing, I’m happy with who I am today and my wife is a walking spell checker haha
How is color important in your work?
Colour is very important within my work, it adds weight and affects the composition of the work. One of the fascinating things that draws me to the urban landscape is how the colours of the streets and buildings change throughout the day and light conditions.
What makes you so unique?
I’m not unique, but maybe a couple of my concepts and work are. I have been making Urban Compositions for 10 years and have not come across anything like them so far. By breaking away from the conventional boundaries of the canvas, the negative spaces boarding the work can become just as important a the work. This leaves the viewer to decide where the work starts and ends.
It was a similar story with the Reflective Landscapes. I made my first one in 2001 and it wasn’t until 2007 that I fully realised the idea and made the finished body of work. During my research in this period I couldn’t find any other artist that was making talking paintings or exploring the concept of removing the role of the viewer in deciding what was good and bad about the piece and having the piece tell the viewer what it liked or disliked about itself.
If you were exhibiting who would you put your work against?
This is a tough question, Turner is my favourite painter but maybe thats too much to ask. So I would have to say Kristin Baker. I find a certain vibrancy in her work and the way she handles light is wonderful. These are two qualities I admire about Turner and never tire of seeing. (http://www.kristinbaker.com/view.php?id=131&yrend=2012&yrstart=2001&med=&sz=&ex=)
Define your work in no more than five words?
Painted reliefs of fragmented cityscapes
What influences your work?
I grew up and live in a small industrial town in South Wales, well an ex industrial city now and it’s traversing the streets of this place that I draw my influences from. I guess my work could easily be a part of any british city or town but to date all of my urban landscapes are of Newport. I see it as a reflection of my relationship with the environment that contributed to who I am today.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions?
I have nothing lined up at the moment, but I am open to any opportunities.
What work will be showing there?
I am just at the start of developing the next series of Urban Compositions so it depends where I am and what comes up.
Where can people find you on the internet?
My website, I’m still in the process of revamping it. A great deal of my work is up and I hope to have all of my work upl eventually on http://www.mattthewharris.info. I’m also on Facebook (www.facebook.com/matthewharrisartist). and have recently started to put prints up for sale at http://www.folksy.com/shops/Hoss