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The following is from the interpretation card for the exhibition – written by Edward Lucie-Smith, an internationally known writer, poet, art critic, curator, broadcaster, anthologist and photographer.
How is one to place the work of Matt Bray, a young painter who represents a new generation of artists now emerging here in Britain, who have grown weary of the conceptual dogma of the previous generation.
Since just past the middle of the 20th century, new groups of artists have regularly emerged here in Britain, in non-metropolitan settings often receiving scant justice from London-based critics. Though Matt Bray eschews any link with these groups, his work is, I think, best considered by looking at it against the kind of background they provide.
What Matt – and artists of his generation – are proposing is that classic Modernism of the early 20th century offers things to which art should now return. He declares that his primary interest is “the meeting ground between abstraction and figuration.” This means that he can be regarded as being not only post-Kandinsky, but also as post the Abstract Expressionism that saw a complete dissolution of fixed forms. Bray says, “When I began painting I was not an image maker, but rather I just slopped paint around, interested in the material itself and the effects it created through chance, gravity etc., though that quickly became boring and the figure crept into my work and has remained ever since.”
The High Modernist artists he most readily reminds one of in his single-figure paintings are the first generation of German Expressionists. Recently, however, Bray has been experimenting with subject-material that seems, certainly at first sight, to have little connection with the past: “Images of androids and aliens; Star Trek has been my main depository of characters.” He adds. “I have been exploring the idea of the dichotomy of subject and object in relation to the humanoid figure, and aliens and androids seem to be a uniquely interesting subject for such enquiries as they are not human, but not so far removed as to be unconnected.”
It seems to me that what gives real strength to Matt Bray’s painting is that it maintains links to sources in the remoter past as well as re-engaging with the first impulses of the Modern Movement. Bray remakes Modernism because he has deliberately chosen to be a painter, when there are now so many other tempting choices open to the would-be contemporary artist – video, performance, installation, the purely conceptual. He also remakes it because he considers and makes use of the complex moral and intellectual choices offered by the Pre- Modern, things that the initiators of the Modern Movement sometimes recklessly ignored.
Award-winning jeweller Sian Bostwick creates delicate wearable pieces inspired by literature, fairy tales and the Kent countryside. Glass artist Kathryn Roberts makes timeless, innovative handcrafted pieces that capture the natural fluidity of the medium.
Saturday, 26 January 2013, 12.30-3pm
Join artists Wolf Howard and Matt Bray to create your own sci-fi inspired canvases inspired by the robots and monsters in the exhibition. All children must be accompanied by an adult.
Saturday, 9 February 2013, 1-2.30pm
Join artist Matt Bray for an informal illustrated talk about his exhibition, his approach to painting, his inspiration and his techniques.
Advanced booking for all gallery activities is essential. To book phone 01634 338319 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Rochester Art Gallery and Craft Case is located at 95 High Street, Rochester, Kent, ME1 1LX.
Posted by Natasha Steer on behalf of Matt Bray and Rochester art gallery.