top of page

Matthew Macaulay - Exhibition Installation View

Matthew Macaulay

Jan 18 - Feb 10

PV Jan 18 6-9pm

Gallery Open - Thurs - Fri 12pm - 5pm

Wed and Sat by prior appointment.

In Conversation - Saturday 3rd Feb 2pm

Free, but booking essential:

Matthew Macaulay

Little Snakes 2017

41cm x 31cm

Oil on Canvas

Could you say something about the paintings that will be in the exhibition?

These small paintings on board come from wanting to make paintings that seem more immediate. I found for a time I was getting a precious feeling whilst creating other larger works, with these smaller paintings I don’t get this feeling, I often paint them on my lap.


The small paintings are making me re-evaluate my attitude to painting on a large scale and I’m thinking back to when I started painting, I thought painting offered an enormous sense of freedom, experimentation and play.


When did you start painting?


I started painting when I got kicked out of the Coventry University print workshops on my undergraduate degree. It seemed like a strict environment and having broken a couple of silk screens, the print technician mentioned quietly to me that maybe I should take a break from the print room.


I wonder if print will return to your work at some point? You seem to return to paintings with layers - I can see a connection to print.


Yeah, I remember seeing fantastic exhibitions of artists like Hiroshige and Utamaro at Ikon - but I was frustrated by the printmaking process as it seemed so long and drawn out. Also, I met a lot of great painting staff at Coventry. Jonathan Waller would pop in at the start of the week and I would see Graham Chorlton in the middle. A tutor, called Vanda Harvey, would appear at the end of the week and talk to me about my work. I found her attitude infectious; she was a real advocate for learning through the act of making.


Vanda would often say that half way through the day you should stop and have a read. She would hand me a poem or text to think about in relation to whatever I was working on. Some of them, like Toby Litt’s ‘Without an edge there would be no middle’, and ‘Without a middle there would be no edge’.


Our conversations were often focused on a formal analysis of the artwork. She was not afraid to speak her mind yet I never felt like I was a student during our conversations. Vanda talked frequently about colour, composition, work ethic and the value of the studio as a place of personal discoveries. She seemed to encourage a creative rather than an imitative process; she taught me a lot about colour. She exuded an infectious confidence and a boldness that avoided being overly precious.









I’m interested in how you react to other painter’s work? Do you adapt when you see other peoples work? 


Sometimes, I think it is easy to forget how seriously uncool it was to make paintings - abstract or otherwise - ten years ago. It was "Ok, but not Cool”. But you can see that attitudes come full circle, painting is fashionable again. I don’t think consciously adapting to trends or other people’s work is healthy but is hard to pin down where elements in your practice originates.


I think I liked the naïvety of being a student, you don't necessarily know everything; you are free in a sense from having too many voices or influences. Playing around and learning about art I found I often would try out things I was seeing in galleries, a kind of trying on of other people’s clothes to see how they fitted, I kind of liked this early monkey see monkey do period.


With Vanda, I felt like I was being potty trained. Basically, in contemporary arts education the ‘teaching’ of the process of a disciplines like painting does not generally take place. I feel like teaching in art education is more like being in therapy, it was more about making you think than do. I felt with Vanda I was given a window into a particular way to paint, which I then adapted for my own purposes, I feel that this dialogue with her constitutes a kind of "hidden curriculum".










Little Emerald Green 2018

28cm x 22.5cm

Oil on board

Abstraction and painting in general has a rich history, how do you relate to that?


It's nice when others identify what they think are the influences in your work, but it can also be cutting and off putting. People, who should know better, used come into the studio when I was a young graduate and comment that the work reminded them of Howard Hodgkin or Alan Davie. As a painter, you do become aware that you are connected to a large tradition.


In the last year, as part of my PhD, I’ve interviewed around eighty artists about their education. Most of them are abstract painters, ranging from those who were part of the Situation group in the 1960s, to painters related to the YBAs in the late 1980s. Having a dialogue with painters like Jeff Dellow, Gary Wragg and John Walker has been interesting. This research has brought lots of other painters to surface; its a joy to find out about people's work and how they link together through influences, teaching and generations. 


So, what’s your process of beginning a work?


When painting I might have a feeling for what the painting should aspire to look like. This could be a texture, movement or a quality that seems to be ambiguous. Generally, I start with creating a colour and applying it to the surface of the canvas and then responding to what I’ve done and building up the painting.


I create paintings in different ways depending on what has been on my mind; I had a residency at the Rugby Independent school and my studio was in a large room that also housed the school’s natural history collection. The collection had some beautiful examples of Lepidoptera from East Asia. In my breaks, I'd read books about the butterflies and moths; I was interested that every day or night they had to raise their body temperature in order to fly, butterflies sunbathe, whilst moths spend ages shivering. I wanted to make paintings that oscillated between feeling calm and shivery. I don’t think it was overly intentional, but these paintings also had a lot of pattern which I think crept into the paintings from the outside world.


A lot of the works that I’ve been creating lately refer to an experience I had on a residency at the art centre in Aberystwyth in 2012. I remember going for a walk. There was a closed down HI-FI shop and it had windows that had been whitewashed with fluid so people could not peer in. Within the whitewash there was genuinely beautiful movement and mark making and I remember thinking to myself that the window was miles more interesting than the painting I was making in the studio. The next paintings I created seemed to incorporate this experience.


Another example would be that - I went up to the islands of Lewis and Harris on the west coast of Scotland by ferry, we were totally immersed in this fog - both an empty and filling experience at the same time and I have an interest in making paintings that feel like this void space. I think the conflicting urges to make paintings that are full of activity and paintings that are almost void of any kind of information creates an interesting creative tension.









You mentioned that some large paintings weren't going well, can you explain what you mean?


When painting it can seem like everything is going well, and then all things slow up, you lose interest in ways of working, and your feeling of a painting can go ‘shit-good-good-shit’, without anything changing. Returning to a painting can give you that freshness when you look back at it a few years later. With these recent smaller works, there is a kind of urge to re-visit interests and ideas from older paintings that have worked well.  

- Matthew Macaulay in conversation with Bruce Asbestos

Exhibition supported by Arts Council England

Matthew Macaulay  Bright Smudge 2018   28cm x 22.5cm  Oil on board

Matthew Macaulay - Exhibition Installation View

Matthew Macaulay

Bright Smudge 2018 

28cm x 22.5cm

Oil on board

Matthew Macaulay - Exhibition Installation View

bottom of page