Artist Matt Small talks portraits

Dated: 10 December 2021

This week, Woodhouse art students have been fortunate enough to take part in art workshops with acclaimed London artist Matt Small.
Head of Art Sharon White told us “It’s great for our students to meet a practicing artist, someone who actually makes their living as an artist. Not just to understand what the difficulties and the challenges of that are, but also to see that it is possible if they’ve got the passion and drive.
Matt’s work is drawn from people in his diverse local community in Camden, often focussing on overlooked youth. I think that resonates a bit with our students and makes them feel connected to the artist - as if they are being listened to and are as important and valid as any other subject matter that might be in a gallery.
Matt uses discarded materials that others would consider obsolete, even metal fridge doors or old cookers. He reclaims the metal and uses it in his collages. He’s actually been been working this way for a long time but now of course it's becoming more pertinent. What we are doing in our workshops is kind of a lesser scale of that, using old wrappers, pizza and cereal boxes, magazines... things that would have be discarded - but instead we are turning them into the amazing mosaic portraits.
Lower sixth students have been doing a project on structure and looking at portraits and Matt’s work seems like an ideal fusion of those things. All of the lower sixth students have a had a two-hour workshop with Matt and and will be producing an artist research about him. It’s really nice that, instead of looking in books, he’s actually there in front of them and they can listen to him and ask questions."
The workshops have certainly gone down well with our students...
Lower sixth student Owen told us "I found it interesting how Matt Small finds beauty in discarded objects and always sees potential in them. Each completed art piece has marvel and value which challenges the idea of the objects being useless and obsolete after their intended use. It was a great privilege to be working directly with a practicing artist as it gave us an insight of what a career in the creative field might provide in the future. I will incorporate these new ideas and techniques into my work and be experimental with my art.”
Fellow artist Shriven said “One thing I enjoyed about the workshop was the ability to use materials that you wouldn’t usually use to make impactful artwork."
Student Sunny Rae agreed. “I found it very inspiring using new materials to create art and it has made me think about new ways of creating art that I can use towards my final piece.”
And classmate Atosa said “The workshop was a really fun experience, we got to look at art through a different lens. I really enjoyed making a collage of the face and it has encouraged me to experiment with materials to convey different shapes and tones.”
Art student Erin took a lot of positives from the visit. “This was my first opportunity to do a workshop with a working artist. Exploring his style of working and his artistic background was really informative and it gave me a real insight into pathways into art. I think going forward, I can use this inspiring experience in developing and creating work for my art A level."
And it wasn't just the students who enjoyed the workshops...
Matt told us "I think that you’ve got a fantastic group of students here and it’s really nice to see how the college is helping each of these young people to reach their best. I’m really impressed with the whole set up.
I’ve really enjoyed my visit and it’s really good to give back. Sometimes you are isolated in your own practice, and to do something like this helps me to understand why I’m doing what I’m doing - because even just vocalising and taking about my practice is important for me. I definitely got a lot out of running the workshops and I think it would be good for other artists to do the same thing because it’s very rewarding.” 
Matt graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2000 and has, among many other exhibitions, shown at the Saatchi gallery. In Oregon he created a mosaic of the athlete Jesse Owens from scrap metal for the 2021 World Athletics Championships and he also created the official portraits of the entire England Euro 2020 football squad, recently displayed around the country.
You can see more of Matt's work on his website and instagram page. Links below...

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