Monday, 14 November 2011

Matt Underwood, British printmaker

Matt Underwood
(born 1971)
British painter and printmaker.

How come some pictures seem to stick more easily to the mind and memory then others? The answer lies probably in the way how the brain functions when storing information in the memory. Pictures are a most powerful form of information.
You’ll have to intensify your casual glance into some more serious prying to help emerging from the blotches of color two of these very beautiful, almost exotic, but commonest of garden birds. The title is also not making it easier and  consumer friendly for your brain. Unless you’re French. Carduela Carduela, also called Gold Finch and Thistle Finch. Chardon, French for thistle. Hence the Chardonnerettes. Little thistle dwellers.
By now the image will be firmly stored in your brain. For eternity probably. Try again with next "Demoiselles".
Ready? But there’s really more to it. Besides the form, the blotches of color, there’s also something familiar and comforting with these colors and their combinations used by Matt in his paintings and printmaking. Here's (in this link) is some great insight and explaining. And I'll bett, by now, you've completely missed the 3 damselfies (in three very clever different views of perspective) and the flowering irisses in the above print. It's because you, like me, were focusing on the kingfisher (fr. Madame pêcheur). And the Title didn't ring a bell either. Demoiselles, Damselflies. There's more to Matt as there's more to each of his prints. He is also a keen birdwatcher, botanist and naturalist. And has a good sense of humour.  
Jane's poppies. 
Look again carefully: there is a surprise hidden in these poppies 
(two surprises actually)

These colors (hues) are literally "all over the place" in the 1904 Panama-Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco and it has everything to do with Japonisme  (Link) Thanks to Jules Querin (1860-1922), please, do read the small but interesting article in the Link), designer, lithographer, colorist and illustrator. They are the traditional Japanese color combinations (as in real life not real harmonies) used for centuries in Japanese art and design. 
Colors for the PPE 1904, Jules Querin
Influential Art teacher  Pedro the Lemos (1882-1945) knew. And it is of course also the pallet of his teacher and Godfather of Modern Printmakers Arthur Wesly Dow (1857-1922) and that other student of his William Seltzer Rice (1873-1963).
Pedro the Lemos
Artur Wesley Dow

Oriental musicians, Wassily Kandinsky 1907
Modernist Russian/French artist Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) became fascinated and was caught by abstracted forms, light and color at his girlfriend’s, German painter and printmaker Gabriëlle Munter (1877-1962). He quite revolutionary invented and combined expressionism with these color combinations into painting and printmaking. Compare his above Oriental Musicians with Matts Chardonnerettes. And wonder.
Study in colors by W. Kandinsky
So a very distinct line, an artistic umbilical cord, can be drawn from traditional Japan through the earliest of Modern Printmakers, through the birth and developpement of expressionism to contemporary British printmaking. 
Early blossoms
With Matt’s permission and cooperation I share with you some of his wonderful prints today. He obviously (and actually) is acquainted with that other icon of British contemporary printmaking Robert Gillmor.
Grandpa Ott (L.) and  Swallows and Poppies (R.)
Matt is also participating in this recent book: Wildlife in Printmaking. Tell the family. It would make just the perfect Boxing Day present for many print enthusiasts. I've packed mine already. And here are my last examples and Matt's first ever attempt on printmaking, the Winter visitors (do look them up in any birdbook, it's november!) And Irisses (do look for the 2 surprises) 

Follow Matt for more great art surprising prints in future here:
Link to Matt's Website  
Link to Matt's Blog

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