Matthew Smith aims to be transparent about his artistic methods and ‘faithful to a certain representation of the production process, of how it feels to make art.’ It is the production process itself that governs the outcome of the work; the artist arriving at his gradational transformations of mass-produced domestic and industrial items through a series of logical steps. His practice is based on the belief that ‘you don’t ever really have an idea… you just end up making a number of decisions and you come up with the work.’ This chain of decisions is informed by existing circumstances even as it establishes its own conditions of possibility. The resulting work is neither predictable nor totally random, but materialises with an idiosyncratic inevitability.
Though Smith is frank about his process, he is determined to remain mute about the meaning of the finished pieces. Or, rather, he affirms only their resistance to meaning. If some artists attempt to choreograph their audience’s response, Smith stipulates only what his viewers should not do, which is to apply any concrete meaning that he has so deliberately kept at bay. Smith’s aim in all this is to ‘eliminate the possibility of a “surplus value” of meaning’ in his art. And yet, a latent cacophony of associative noise builds up behind the works, almost as if thrown into relief by his rhetorical strategies. There are record sleeves neatly tiled, some from the artist’s personal collection with the covers meticulously torn off, others with intact covers bearing generic skyscape images (Untitled, 2007); two white duvets squishily folded on a spartan shelf-stack (Untitled Work, 2009); a cluster of wooden tables stretched over with cotton table cloths on three sides, one long side left gaping (Semi Comfortable, 2008); round mirrors covered in coloured paint (the Typical Work series, 2008); hyper-detailed photographs of country field mud in all its leaf-strewn glory (Untitled Images of Mud 2009-10); big plastic dustbins precariously roped into vertical formation (When There Was Someone Else, 2011); and plumbing pipes superimposed on a blown-up tulip bulb (Proper Rigmarole, 2012).
Rather than presenting a static collection of works at Open Heart Surgery, Smith will commandeer a toilet block to experiment with the anarchical arts and philosophies of glam rock. In this project the teenage high of playing truant in the school toilets amplifies the attitude of rebellion against social norms that spiked the musical genre’s glittering spectacle. These elements combine to create a lively, shifting platform for a diverse collection of activities.
Matthew Smith, (born 1976, in Burton-on-Trent, UK, based in London) gained his BA Fine Art from Sheffield Hallam University (2003), and his MA Fine Art from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (2005). Recent solo shows include Limoncello, London (2013, 2010); Lüttgenmeijer, Berlin (2009); Mary Mary, Glasgow, Rivington Arms and White Columns (both New York and all 2008), plus international group shows including Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Turin, Chez Valentine, Paris and Office Baroque, Antwerp (all 2010).