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Bob Matthews

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  • Bob Matthews is an artist and exhibition organiser. He has taught at the Royal College of Art since 2002.

    As a long-standing member of Fine Art staff he has extensive knowledge and experience of working with students in the discipline of Print and more broadly within the context of contemporary art. His own practice encourages an interdisciplinary approach, drawing upon the diverse application of Print.

    His works have been shown widely, including those exhibited at the National Museum of Singapore, Museum of Fine Art Dunkerque, Museum of Contemporary Art, Hangzhou, Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau Munich, Museu da Cidade, Lisbon and Vargas Museum, Manila.  His work is held in public and private collections in Europe, Asia and the United States.

  • Biography

  • Bob Matthews was educated at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art & Design, Kent Institute of Art & Design and the Royal College of Art.

    Previously he has held research positions at both the University of Gloucestershire and the Royal College of Art, specialising in the area and development of print technologies, as well as working directly with print archives and collections. He was also worked at other UK universities, including as Senior Tutor at the University for the Creative Arts, Canterbury.  

    He was the first British Council artist in residence for Singapore, culminating in an exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore 2011/12. 

As a curator he has organised exhibitions for Artary Galerie, Stuttgart; Castlefield Gallery, Manchester; Cell Project Space, London; Herbert Read Gallery, Canterbury; Wolverhampton City Art Gallery; the Royal College of Art; The Nunnery, London; the Bank of America, London and the Study Gallery of Modern Art, Dorset.

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  • Practice

  • Through an interdisciplinary approach Bob's work manifests itself in a variety of ways, from traditional art production utilizing printmaking, painting and sculpture to collaborative interventions leading to independent curatorial projects involving other artists.

    His practice focuses on the landscape and specifically the environments used and cultivation by utopian communities and collectives. More recently the research examining the various histories and formations of the commune has led unexpectedly to the extremities of large-scale continental migration and the sprawling construction of temporary refuge settlements. The contrast between the ideological commune model and the various formal and informal migrant camps could not be starker, yet the manifestations and residue of these sites has much in common.  

    An interest in the effects of sunlight on transitory objects found in and around the Mediterranean led to research into the pervasive qualities of ultraviolet light. Through practical experimentation this led to the development of a new ‘pigmented’ light-sensitive material. This has been used in the generation of a series of works for the solo exhibition Studio Tan, held in San Francisco at Gregory Lind Gallery in 2017.  This process has also been used to develop the series of new life jacket works made for ‘Gestures of Resistance’ that were shown in Athens in 2017 as part of the wider Documenta legacy projects, through artist-led demonstrations and exhibitions in the city. 

    www.bobmatthews.co.uk

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    • External collaborations

    • Bob Matthews’ collaborations with galleries and institutions have occurred through curatorial projects. These include:

      2011: A Sort of Night to the Mind, A Kind of Night for Our Thoughts: Illusion and Materiality in Contemporary Painting. Artary Gallery, Stuttgart (Nov 2011), Arch 402 Gallery, London (April 2011), Herbert Read Gallery, Canterbury (Sep 2009) (co-curated with Moyra Derby), funded by the University for the Creative Arts.

      2009: A Sort of Night to the Mind, A Kind of Night for Our Thoughts: Illusion and Materiality in Contemporary Painting, Herbert Read Gallery, Canterbury (co-curated with Moyra Derby), funded by the University for the Creative Arts.

      2007: Hope & Despair, Cell Project Space, London, supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation and the Arts Council England.

      2006: World Gone Mad: Surrealist returns in recent British Art, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester; Herbert Read Gallery, Canterbury and Limehouse Arts Foundation, London, supported by the Arts Council England.

      2003: Yes! I Am a Long Way From Home: Landscape and Location in Contemporary British Painting, Wolverhampton City Art Gallery; Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland; The Nunnery, London and Herbert Read Gallery, Canterbury (co-curated with Roger Kelly), supported by Kent Institute of Art & Design.

      2002: Express: Contemporary Printmaking from the Royal College of Art Archive, Gulbenkian Galleries, Royal College of Art; The Study Gallery of Modern Art, Dorset; George Rodger Gallery, Maidstone, and The Bank of America, London.

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    • Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes

    • Solo exhibitions

      Studio Tan, Gregory Lind Gallery, San Francisco, 2017.

      Another Circle Round The Sun, Herbert Read Gallery, Canterbury, 2012.

      Utopias, Asia House, London, 2012.

      Utopias, National Museum of Singapore, 2011.

      Garden Ruin, Gregory Lind Gallery, San Francisco, 2009.

      Face Yourself, Keith Talent Gallery, London, 2008.

       

      Selected group exhibitions

      2017

      Gestures Of Resistance, Romantso, Athens

      Horizon: Against Nature, Instituto Cervantes, New Delhi

      of average sunlight, Kingsgate Project Space, London

      The Arca Project, Payne Shurvell, Suffolk

      2016

      Conjunctively Evolving, Yun Contemporary Arts Center, Shanghai

      Abstract Apartment, Deborah House, London

      At 800° the Tokyo Kahuna will be moving to Montana soon…, Kingsgate Project Space, London

      2015

      Ideas travel faster than light, NIV Art Centre, New Delhi

      Print: Art in Print Today,  Galerie 425, Le Cambre, Brussels, Belgium

      Impact 9, Museum of Contemporary Art, China Academy of Arts, Hangzhou

      Abstract Apartment, Deborah House, London

      2014

      The Negligent Eye, Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool

      Against Nature, Camberwell Space, London

      2013

      The World in a Box: A Bittersweet Salon, Margate

      2012

      Habit-Forming, and Project Glocal, Art Informal, Vargas Museum, Philippines

      Decade, Gregory Lind Gallery, San Francisco

      Doubt, Contemporary Art Space, Riverside, California

      Accidental Purpose, for the exhibition Accidentally on Purpose, Quad Gallery, Derby

      Picture Tableau Screen, Herbert Read Gallery, Canterbury

      The Perfect Nude, Wimbledon Space, Wimbledon School of Art, London

      2011

      A Sort of Night to the Mind, A Kind of Night for Our Thoughts: Illusion and Materiality in Contemporary Painting, Artary Gallery, Stuttgart, Germany

      Abject Systems, Goodman Arts Centre, Singapore

      Folio, RCA in collaboration with the RSC, Gulbenkian Galleries, Royal College of Art, London

      Lubok at the Museum, Kunstmuseum Spendhaus in Reutlingen, Germany

      Folio, RCA in collaboration with the RSC, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford

      2010

      And Then Again, Pavilhao Preto, Museu da Cidade, Lisbon 2010 

      Lubok Exhibition, Bongout Gallery, Berlin 2010

      Flatland, APT Gallery, London 2010 

      2009

      Lubok 8 – London Special. Spinnerei, Leipzig

      A Sort of Night to the Mind, A Kind of Night for Our Thoughts: Illusion and Materiality in Contemporary Painting, Herbert Read Gallery, Canterbury

      New Prints from the Royal College of Art, Royal Academy of Art, London

      Borderland, Collyer Bristow Gallery, London

      Reg Perfect, Portman Gallery, London

      2008

      Superscope, Lounge/Monika Bobinska, London


      Selected Publications 

      Studio Tan, Gregory Lind Gallery, San Francisco, 2017. (Monograph)

      The Negligent Eye, Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool, 2014. 

      In Conversation with Stuart Sutcliffe, Media Junction, 2012.

      Utopias, National Museum of Singapore, 2011. (Monograph)

      A Sort of Night to the Mind, A Kind of Night for Our Thoughts, Arch 402 Gallery/Herbert Read Gallery/Artary Gallery, 2011.

      And Then Again, Museu da Cidade, Lisbon, 2010.

      Lubok 8: London Special, Lubok Verlag Leipzig, Germany, 2009.


      Selected Review Articles

      Stuttgarter Zeitung, November, 2011.

      Financial Times, June 4th 2011.

      Shotgun Review, June, 2009.

      Art Monthly, March, 2008.

      Flash Art, January 2008.    

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    • Awards and Grants

    • British Council Residency, Singapore 2011/2012

      Grant from British Council and Singapore International Foundation.
    • Research students

    • Flora Bowden, Freya Pocklington, Rana Al Ogayyel, Kristina Horne

    Selected work

    Research

    Research interests

    Bob Matthews’ research is involved in identifying and characterising the use and cultivation of the landscape by small communal groups and collectives. At present this research looks directly at material and sites within Germany. Artworks and curatorial projects are made in response to and in direct relation with the landscape in these environments.

    Current and recent research

    Studio Tan, Gregory Lind Gallery, San Francisco, 2017.

    Studio Tan is a solo exhibition that explores the prevalent and transformative qualities of ultraviolet light and its relationship to the threshold with the outside world. Works in this exhibition both mimic and utilize naturally occurring and artificial sources of ultraviolet, assisting the generation of absorbent images that consider the pervasive influence of light frequencies that are outside the human visible spectrum.  New artworks depict physical thresholds between studio and subject, between nature and architecture, and draw from ideas raised in Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project, and his use of the cautionary term Threshold Magic ‘der Schwellenzauber’

    Drawn initially from Matthews’ interest in the chemical effects of sunrays he began to explore and develop a new light-sensitive pigment process combining aspects of colour theory with early photographic techniques. The resulting works on canvas utilize naturally occurring and artificial sources of ultraviolet in combination with painterly techniques, assisting the generation of absorbent images that consider the pervasive influence of light frequencies that are outside the human visible spectrum.


    Gestures of Resistance, Romantso, Athens, 2017. Funded by the British Council, Documenta legacy project.

    Gestures of Resistance aims to respond to our current general mood of political anxiety and alienation by opening up socio-political critique in order to resist the palpable feeling of disempowerment. Rather than accepting the non-choice of the neoliberal setup of Greece or current right-wing politics both in America and Europe, the artists of Gestures of Resistance reflect on the current state of our political condition, our current housing situation, the state of education and art, liberalism, diversity and pluralism in this moment of historical crisis, whereby the state of today seems to have strong links to the state of the past.

    The work made for this project, titled Still Life considers the scientific research term ‘Flotsametrics’ and reflects upon its relationship to the movement of currency and ideas, as well as the often tragic displacement and migration of people. The mixed media artworks are based on the form of life jackets, and specifically the crudely made and ineffective ‘fake’ life jackets that were given to fleeing migrants. As objects they are intended to function as paintings in the traditional sense, and as paintings to be worn. 


    Ideas travel faster than light, NIV Art Centre, Delhi, and Habitat Centre, Delhi, India, 2015 – 2016.
    Curated by Jasone Miranda Bilbao

    Ideas travel faster than light is an ongoing collaboration between artists working in India, Spain, the UK and the US. The project has two parts. In the first part nine artists based in London/Bilbao/LA were invited to submit proposals for new works together with instructions of how to make them and nine artists based in Delhi and Mumbai were invited to produce them according to their interpretation and understanding. The works were exhibited at the NIV Art Centre (Delhi) as a collaboration between the paired artists. The instructions were gathered in a publication accompanied by a text written by Mathew Poole. The second part of the project will swap directions and the artists who wrote the instructions in the first part will now make the work and vice versa.

    The main idea of the project came up as a practical solution to the problem of how to transport works across long distances on a small budget. This became a matrix of ideas and things grew in response to the possibilities offered by that condition and situation. Since ideas have a level of materiality different to objects that occupy a physical space, they can be lighter cheaper and freer to move.

    Ideas travel faster than light facilitates the transporting of ideas while extending them and re-contextualizing them in a new context. The process of writing instructions for new works in one place then making them in another, roots their origin in between locations while activating a chain of events that embodies them of a history and a life after, reproducing the mesmerizing relation of intimacy between the maker and its object. This has a strong sociological element since from the moment an artwork is transported from one country to another, mediated and re-interpreted by a different mindset, questions of intention and interpretation come to the surface.


    Another Circle Round The Sun, Herbert Read Gallery, Canterbury, 2012.

    This project followed directly on from the residency in Singapore. The exhibition comprised of an installation that reflected on the temporality of materials and structures within the environment and considered the significant roll that time plays in the value and meaning of objects. Matthews is interested in how we might locate the artist or crafts-person within the collective and architectural projects that inspire him. In an examination of communal life and collective approaches to making, Matthews is searching for the individual within the larger group, and how they might be identifiable within this community by the traces, marks and motifs they leave behind.


    Utopias, National Museum of Singapore, and Asia House, London, 2012 .
    British Council Exchange Residency.

    This was a solo exhibition produced and funded by the British Council-Singapore International Foundation Artist-in-Residence Exchange Programme (AiRx). Focusing on how landscape is cultivated and subverted by cultural and fringe groups within Singapore, Matthews’ research drew upon current architectural and horticultural manifestations both inside and outside the city. As the inaugural British Council artist-in-residence in Singapore, Matthews was the first contemporary British artist to take up this residency. Working directly from found materials and photographs, Matthews created appositional works that illustrate perspectives of the city and the jungle through digital drawings, videos, constructions, watercolours and relief prints. The project developed into a greater consideration of the relationship between the rapid growth of architecture and jungle, their coexistence, and expansive threshold.


    A Sort of Night to the Mind, A Kind of Night for Our Thoughts: Illusion and Materiality in Contemporary Painting. Artary Gallery, Stuttgart, Germany. Arch 402 Gallery, London. Herbert Read Gallery, Canterbury. 2011. Curated by Bob Matthews and Moyra Derby.

    Matthews acted as co-curator of the international travelling exhibition A Sort of Night to the Mind, A Kind of Night for Our Thoughts: Illusion and Materiality in Contemporary Painting. The project emerged from specific interests concerning the ‘materiality’ of painting; formative research identified broad and contrasting approaches to surface application, media, materials and process. After its initial run at the Herbert Read Gallery, Canterbury, the exhibition toured to Arch 402 Gallery, London  and to Artary Galerie, Stuttgart .

    Critical developments in painting in the 20th century cultivated by Bauhaus artists Johannes Itten and Oskar Schlemmer underpinned the curatorial discourse of the exhibition and were a key factor in the show’s tour to Germany in 2011. The exhibition identified a group comprising 23 UK-based contemporary practitioners who exemplify a current state of painting within the UK and whose practices overtly explore ideas of materiality and illusion. The exhibition included some of the UK’s most celebrated contemporary painters, including Nigel Cooke, Varda Caivano, Phillip Allen and Phoebe Unwin.