New Visuality In York Contemporary Art Gallery According To Mcgee: Interview With Matt Fletcher.

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‘New Visuality’, facilitator of exhibitions for some of the UK’s most exciting young artists, has already worked with Shine; the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and that colossal behemoth of all things cultural and caffeinated, Starbucks: now it locks its increasingly capable horns with The Northern Line’s favourite contemporary white cube art gallery, According to McGee in the centre of York. New Visuality has sourced four artists, all based in York, for what it calls its ‘canon of contemporary creatives’. I talked to New Visuality director Maria Rogers over white wine and the River Ouse from world class view ‘City Screen’ to find what the future holds for the new enterprise. “Matt is mischievous in his use of content, colour and texture”, she points to a print of his work in One & Other’s inaugural magazine, “He ingeniously captures youth culture with a intelligent naivety, something you can’t quite fake unless you’re in there, in the middle of it and absorbing it. He’s the real deal.”

I remember Matt’s work from the successful McGee exhibition ‘Hidden’, the collaboration with nationally recognised social enterprise One & Other. His work stood out as witty and confident, with none of the arty angst naval gazing normally associated with one so young (Fletcher is poised to begin his studies at Edinburgh College of Art), so before my scheduled meeting with him at VJ’s, one of York’s looser limbed bars, I popped into see the always hospitable and quotable Greg McGee to ask him what he thought of the walls being handed over to Fletcher again. Greg was unsurprisingly upbeat, “We’re a gallery that takes great pride in its own discretion. We know instantly when a work of art belongs here and when it doesn’t. It’s an instinct we’ve honed for 7 years, and it’s served us well. We loved Matt’s work in ‘Hidden’, we loved how his work has been nurtured and honed at York College, and when the opportunity to work with New Visuality was provided we quickly realised we were singing from the same hymn book. Maria Rogers has a sharp eye for contemporary art, and she sees the same potential in Matt’s work as we do, indeed as she does in the other 3 artists she’s chosen. The worst thing for a gallery like ours is to close ranks with an opposing force. New Visuality and According to McGee are sailing in the same direction, and that’s as much great news for contemporary, hungry creatives  as it is for art likers and viewers who don’t get chance to see the top slice of practising artists. Not everyone has the wherewithal to pay for a train ticket to visit the Tate. New Visuality is bringing the goods to town, and that can only be a good thing.”

An indirect comparison to the mighty Tate’s ranks must surely be a compliment. I turn up early and spot Matt Fletcher a mile off. Current artists are damn right supposed to look this trendy! With well worn garbs from York’s own ‘Sarah Coggles’ and loafers happily unfixed from socks, the young man who Ails McGee calls ‘the prince of painting’ is blithely unfazed by the reputation rumbling about his forthcoming involvement with New Visuality’s exhibition. We sit and talk over beer (him) and wine (me). How does he see his work evolving? “I see my work evolving vastly,” he says, shuffling into the conversation in fifth gear, “When it comes to painting I move quickly, I don’t like to fixate myself on a style, I just like doing what interests me at the time of holding the brush. I love visual culture and most of my paintings will have something in them that excites me at the time. For example my painting ‘Aravian Nights’ features like gold Arabic text that reads ‘Acid house’. Why? because acid house is cool and I like Arabic writing, in this sense my work is anti-intellectual. Also I become more interested with different aspects of painting, at the moment I’m considering technique and colour more than I am the subject matter, which is what you can see, I hope, when you look at the paintings in this exhibition.”

It seems a short exhibition, I point out. Warming to the conversation, he interrupts me, “What’s a short exhibition? In my mind a long exhibition is just a good chance for a set of exciting work to become stale. Don’t get me wrong, I want as many people as can possible to see my work, but when you see the paintings in this exhibition, you’ll get what I mean, this isn’t a typical show, it isn’t going to wait around for you. This is the start of something, it has an explosive nature. Have you ever seen a drawn out explosion?”

I’m not sure if this a rhetorical question, but he doesn’t wait for an answer, so it must have been. He segues quickly into saying how provocation for the sake of it is a waste of time, “I guess it depends on how we define provoke, if by provoke you mean to agitate or draw out a reaction, not at all. When anyone looks at my paintings I want them to get on board with me, I want them to feel part of something, something I’m at the front of. Why would you want to anger someone? That’s been done. I want people to look at my pictures and think ‘I get this kid’”

Fletcher is a fascinating interviewee, in that his charm is matched by an increasingly happy belligerence. The future is, I wager, an exciting prospect for this bristling young man: “Well literally speaking, I’m moving up to Edinburgh to study at Edinburgh College of Art. The future for my work? Who knows! I’m going away to Berlin soon so I reckon I’ll draw a lot of inspiration from stuff I see and do there. Gimmie a few years and I’ll take the world.” Such McGee-esque braggadocio stands him in good stead, especially with the gallery that has gone so far in representing him.

The next decade’s wave of artists. Talented, naughty and argumentative. You hear it here first.

By Viv on June 1, 2012


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