Matthew Stone Talks 'Healing With Wounds'

Matthew Stone Talks 'Healing With Wounds'

The artist escorts V on a personal tour of his new exhibition within the sunny Terrace Rooms at Somerset House to view his staggering new digital paintings

The artist escorts V on a personal tour of his new exhibition within the sunny Terrace Rooms at Somerset House to view his staggering new digital paintings

Text: MANDI LENNARD

Matthew Stone's abstract nudes illustrate interdependency and the central role it plays in how we heal and repair, with power and strength emanating from each limb, a signature characteristic evident in the surreal films he created last summer for his close friend FKA twigs to accompany her surprise EP. Here, he picks up East End neighbor Mandi Lennard in an Uber and they head into town to discuss digital manipulation, awkward workflows, and tangled limbs.

Matthew Stone photographed by Ronan McKenzie.

Mandi Lennard Did you set out to create a body of new work specifically for this exhibition?

Matthew Stone I started developing this work over a year ago with no exhibition in place. In the past I have worked to tight deadlines, but I was determined to give this some space and time to develop properly. When I started applying the idea of wrapping paint-strokes around the body I got really excited by the first test pieces. Looking back now I don’t know what I was thinking! I think with new ideas or ways of working it’s important to have time to push through several rounds of development in private before showing it to other people. I haven’t felt able to filter my work in this way before now.

ML Tell me something about the title, and how personal or even cathartic this new exhibition is and has been to you.

MS The title of the show is Healing With Wounds. It could mean that you are healing whilst you still have wounds, or it could be that you use wounds themselves to heal. That knowing pain can give you a perspective that can help you live in a way that can help others. I’ve been recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and it has influenced the way I think. The new works are informed by what I have learnt and have been part of my own process of relief. We might think of emotional intelligence as an intellectual process, but I want to talk about it’s embodiment.

Being Reliant, Not Being Reliant, Being Not Reliant (120 x 180cm). Courtesy of Matthew Stone.

ML There is a brighter, more upbeat color palette than with your earlier work; how did this come about and evolve?

MS For a few years I made abstract digital paintings, the sense of color emerges from those works. I had been solely photographing group nudes and decided to take a break from bodies. I tried to create a similar sense of movement and tangled limbs with these big gushy colorful marks. When I took photos of bodies, I wanted people to look at them like they were abstract works and to forget the body and when I made the abstract works I wanted people to see bodies in them. Now I have combined the two and for some of the works here, the sweeps of pastel coupled with hotspots of primary color came along too.

ML How long did it take to set up?

MS I had to learn all these different pieces of 3D software and develop my own way of working over the last year or so.  I started off working side by side with people who had experience with CGI and I then picked it up along the way. Now I can do what I need to on my own. I have realized that I have my own ways of using the software. At first I wanted to learn the "proper” way to do things, but I realized that sometimes my own awkward workflows were the only way to get the feel of the brushstrokes exactly as I wanted them. I used to say that I didn’t enjoy making art, just that I felt a compulsion to work and a sense of pleasure upon completion of a project, but I have found a way to work that I enjoy in real-time. I think it’s about learning to relax! Stress seems like a motivator, but actually your brain stops working properly. I have found that by taking time out I eventually get more work done as the work that I do is calmer, more focused and therefore of a higher quality.

Don't Leave Me (120 x 160cm). Courtesy of Matthew Stone.

ML How would you describe the technique of these new paintings, the software challenges, and huge scale of some of them and the obstacles these present?

MS I use around seven different pieces of software to digitally manipulate photographs of my own paint strokes.  So I have a huge digital archive of painted gestures and colors now that I can use. I use 3D modeling software to create, sculpt and pose the figures, before finally lighting them and doing huge renders for printing. Some of the works are so big that I had to stitch several canvases together, maybe bigger printers exist, but I am yet to find one!

ML How does it feel to sell a painting? Are you emotionally attached to each one?

MS Most of the time it’s a good feeling. It’s rare that I want to keep one of my works, but there are two in the show that I will be sad to see go. Even though I am creating these figures from scratch rather than capturing a real person that I have a personal connection to, I feel like I have to develop an emotional connection to them as individuals. A friend explained that to sing or act well you should imagine something emotionally intense while you do it. I remember singing “Try a little tenderness” by Otis Redding in my studio and sounding terrible, I thought about someone I loved and sang it again. It sounded slightly better. I try to do the same while I paint now.

Healing With Wounds (90 x 120cm). Courtesy of Matthew Stone.

ML How many new paintings are there?

MS Around fourteen, but not all of them made it into the show.

ML How do you describe the displays within the the vitrine stands?

MS The perspex vitrines house video of old performances on stripped back LCD screens and some writing I have had published in fashion magazines. Aside from the paintings, I have done lots of other work that lives outside of a gallery system. I wanted to represent the ways that I have used cross-cultural contexts as artistic material and at the same time to protect them from the influence of gallery space. Normally the gallery is the sealed world that other culture cannot penetrate. The process of translating performances that happened in squats and an earnest  manifesto published in a fashion publication into an art institutional context can feel awkward, but I think that is sometimes more of an issue with the institutions than it is with the seriousness or importance of the work that might happen outside of them.

I Can Instruct By Way Of Authenticity (50 x 70cm). Courtesy of Matthew Stone.

ML How important was it to include the few earlier pieces within the exhibition?

MS I didn’t want to at first! Shonagh Marshall who curated the show encouraged me to contextualize the new pieces for the public who are unlikely to know my older work. Now I’m happy with the decision and have enjoyed looking at how they relate to each other.

ML Who is it in the penis close-up painting?!

MS None of the figures in the new works are real people. I think about people I know while I make them but they aren’t 3D captures.

Matthew Stone: Healing With Wounds continues until 29 August 2016 as part of Somerset House’s Utopian Voices Here & Now.

iPhone shots by Matthew Stone featuring details from new works:

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