A quiet sense of the Invasive

Studios, whether musical or visual are places where raw, received information is processed, shaped and created. Any visit to Matthew’s studio inevitably means a continuation of our favourite conversation, the relationship between Textiles and Music. We exchange the latest visual and musical finds, encourage each other to follow this or that reference and generally muse over the symbiotic relationship between cloth, thread, sound, colour, composition, graphic scores, henna cloths from the Moroccan Anti-Atlas, Stockhausen scores, Paul Klee puppets and Mbuti Bark cloths. Both Textiles and Music rely on a sensory engagement to access content. They are also clearly constructed, orchestrated, scored and designed; yet initial response is often a primal reaction to colour, texture, iconography sound and rhythm.

On my last visit to the studio we sat and talked about the latest suite of drawings and cloth works. At certain junctures, allusions would be made to specific references, images pinned to the walls of the studio. I listened as my eyes began to drift around the room, I felt as if I were in the pages of a giant sketchbook. I noticed photographs of crumpled aeroplane wings, chipped wall surfaces, Japanese Temples, old texts, scraps of cloth and paper, tiny experiments in cloth and pigment, skeins of thread, waxed papers bound by reels of linen. The walls and floor were stained, marked with the outline ghosts of previous pieces. Colour was everywhere, puttied whites, ochre reds, sepia, sooty blacks and fugitive slightly blurry marks. The quality of the colour is very specific, everything is ground, stained, dragged, it may look old, worn but all of the cloth and paper surfaces have been treated, worked into time and again until the fabric is a virtual map of the processes that shaped its existence.

The ideas in the studio are arranged to make visual connections, sequences of image, paper, cloth and thread are carefully placed to amplify those inherent connections that Matthew is trying to resolve. Odd, unexpected juxtapositions of image, materials and history provoke questions as to why someone would associate this particular collection of ideas together. Even the methodology of their placement, the overlays and laminations of imagery, are deeply resonant of his finished works.

What increasingly fascinates me about Matthew’s work is that quiet sense of the invasive process. Virtually everything he makes involves cloth and paper being subjected to a rigorous catalogue of graphic events. The beauty of the work initially masks our recognition that these are artworks that have truly had a life; they did not appear fully formed. Cloth is slashed, cut, brushed, stamped, folded, torn, pierced. Needles pierce, stitch, suture, darn, sew, laminate areas of cloth together. Colour is stained, bled, dripped, rubbed, printed, ground into the surface or pile of the cloth. It’s also important to recognize that the fabric is a construct; the ground is an invention that has very specific qualities. It is thick, rigid, absorbent and formed out of many pieces or layers of cloth. As a surface it facilitates extensive reworking and physical intervention. Marks are not just applied to the surface they are within the structure. The surfaces invariably become rigid sandwiches of varying thickness, fused, sewn together.

In the domain of images Matthew and I clearly share many of the same reference points. The difference of course comes with the nature of the individual. My view of the world, the influences we share is enhanced by Matthew’s ability to make me aware of unexpected connections, his interpretation, rigour and clarity of vision encourages me to look afresh, at images I thought, I understood all to well.

Michael Brennand-Wood