Author Archive for Michael Matthews





Photograph – Washington

USA Tour - Washington (22)


Art Book

ANIMAL RIGHTS - 1992 colage paint on paper3

Michael Matthews: Animal Rites – spread 2, collage and acrylic on paper (2xA4).


Photograph – Washington

USA Tour - Washington (21)


Photograph – Washington

USA Tour - Washington (20)




by michael matthews


Today starts like any other day. I get up lethargically and put on my studio clothes. Without bothering to eat breakfast, I enter the studio. In the studio I casually observe my past artworks are facing to the wall. Their naked stretchers facing my vantage point, I believe the reversed canvases will allow me to engage in new ideas by uncluttering my vision so freeing my mind. As, the days wear on into months, I begin to find the exposed stretcher’s nakedness offend me. It is as if their nakedness, the back of the canvases, is a crude way of showing me their arses, a disgusting but poignant gesture.

My studio clothes consist of a pair of paint-splattered jeans, an old t-shirt, a comforting jersey and paint-splattered boots. My studio is on the second floor of a building adjacent to my house. I design, and built this box-like double storey studio on my own. The ground floor is meant to be the reception, but is an area is underutilised. I think of the ground floor of the studio as a dysfunctional Mall has not developed with the times. The ground floor of the studio has huge front-facing glass doors and windows look out onto a swimming pool. The swimming pool is my Sisyphus’s rock. My job is to maintain and clean it on a daily basis. I am the janitor of the pool’s filtration system. When, I slacken off, the pool changes colour. It turns lime green, and then a dark menstrual colour where foul froth forms on the opaque surface. The pool turns into a quagmire that looks ominous — a dark place where if a child happens to fall in, he or she would be quickly sucked to the bottom and drown in the disgusting scum. So, like a slave I maintain and clean her. Lately I have neglected this chore as I am exhausted at the end of every day.

In designing and building the studio, I make the roof of the floors higher than is usual. I forget to calculate the distance the stairs require in order to have the standardised thirty-two degree incline. I am later forced to double the height of the riser of each stair in order to attain the desired height to the next floor. Climbing up the steep incline of the steps to the first floor is also my daily exercise. I also build a dramatic fireplace on the ground floor. The mantle of the fireplace design is based on a bird of prey. The posts have the two claws of an eagle gripping solid life-sized cannon balls. The lintels are the eagle’s wings and have an Art Deco appearance. I have made only one fire in this fireplace. Unfortunately, the fire struggles to draw and the room filled with a choking black smoke. The fireplace is now filled with logs waiting to be burned. The second floor also has big glass windows but only on two sides; those walls face north. The windows allow the afternoon light to flood into the interior. As the sun sets, the light becomes horizontal; the type of light unravels subtle and beautiful changes in the texture and depth of objects. The horizontal light changes what we see into a magical glowing golden radiance; a romantic luminosity that the Italian masters of the Renaissance, in the fifteenth century, portray in their masterpieces. Shadows stand man-to-man with you if a wall is close by. Over the last few years the windows have become dusty, so the light is softened when they are closed. The effect adds a Da Vinci sfumato haze to the interior. When, I slide the windows open, a clear daylight engulfs the studio. In the afternoon the sun shyly peeps over golden lined clouds, creating a dramatic lens flare effect.

I want as much wall space as possible; but in the end I am happy I sacrifice the wall space to the windows. I use the far wall of the studio as an easel, the light from the windows strike the canvases on this wall at a forty-five degree angle from the right. Fortunately, the ceiling is not completed. I find I need even more height. I saw away the ceiling striates at that end of the studio. This gives me a maximum height of three metres. The greatest width I get is six metres. So I am limited to an eighteen square metre surface, because of all the natural light I get from the windows, I did not install electricity but I enjoy working with music. To artificially control my energy levels I run an extension cord from the house to the studio to provide the power. I place  Bang & Olufsen speakers in the rafters facing down at the floor. I use a DVD player, connected to an old valve amplifier to augment the sound. The result is a bass making my skin pulsate from my head down. The floor is made of raw concrete and I have little else in the studio. I have a table; a shoebox is packed with equipment and art supplies; a swing bench I design and construct but use for the storage of brushes; cloths; oils; turpentine; and paints. I really sit in the studio, preferring to work in motion.

… BUT…

None of this matters anymore!

Over the last few years, I lose interest in the studio and creativity. The dust and rubbish gather; and gather at a rate in direct congruence to my loss of inspiration. Dust collects on the floor and all exposed surfaces. Paper and drawings are strewn all over the studio; mixed with discarded art materials consisting of squashed paint tubes; empty turpentine bottles; broken pencils; empty pens; and chalks — evidence of the loss of my creative struggle and potency. My creativity is now fully impotent; the arteries and capillaries of my creativity are clogged with black thick oily cholesterol.

This day, like any other, is the kind of day usual for me. I listlessly enter the dank dark studio. I want to wait for the afternoon light as it is a dark stormy day. Black clouds block the natural light and the rain thunders down onto the corrugated tin roof. I insert a flash stick into the rear of the DVD player. For over ten years, I composed this music in search of rhythms personal to my sensibility. The rain destroys my enjoyment though; I can not even open the windows for relief. So I pace about in the studio all day, like a caged animal. The next day, and it is still a rain-filled day, I open my sketchbook. I look listlessly at the blank page. I lift my pen…

Nothing, nothing, nothing…

I distract the nothingness in me by cleaning the tabletop, something I have not done in months. At first my movements are random, but as time passes I find I order the surface and clear a small area constructively. I group all the bottles together. The paint tubes I place into boxes and label them according to type, and the solvents I group into a separate category. The empty bottles I line up in a row. I eat my daily lunch of lamb ribs, butter and bread I dip in chilly; nothing the doctor prescribed but the food I like. The open table surface begins to symbolise my impotency rather than to inspire me. The sketchbook lies open, a pool of white nothingness within a larger dark wooden rectangle.

“Where do I start!” I exasperate aloud. “In creativity there is no beginning, no middle and no end.” I wildly look around. “Where does creativity come from, if not from the blood of my soul?”

There is the rain and the electronic sound of the MP3 music on the DVD competing for attention, each subverting the other; creating a cacophony challenging my mind and upsetting my natural rhythms.

“Is creativity a privileged word, a word humans invent to make humans special and different from nature?” I madly go on… “What is creativity exactly?”

I believe creativity is uniqueness. You take a problem and solve it in a unique way; everyone marvels at this solution. I now know this is a lie. I am faced with creative impotency. The act of creation is now boring to me. I am not interested in the creative act anymore. I have no lustful drive and the whole process seems idiotic to me. I am an outsider to creativity. Soon it is late afternoon and I have daydreamt the day away; another unproductive day. As I leave the studio, out of the corner of my eye, I see a creeping movement on the far wall. I look up in the direction of the movement. In the far corner of the studio I see something that frightens me. A huge rain spider comes creeping carefully across the wall. I am terrified; my instinct is to flee or kill it. Reason slowly take hold; I realise if I lose sight of ‘it’ I will be too scared to enter the studio again. It could turn up anywhere. I will have to catch it or kill it now.

I rummage around on the table, visualising where I place the empty bottles and find a glass jar. Carefully, I pick up this glass jar and slowly creep up to the spider, impulsively planning an ambush. In a desperate movement I slam down the glass jar over the spider. After a while, she climbs into the jar and I screw the lid on safely. I place the glass jar onto the table and scrutinise my prize. She is huge, black, hairy and leathery. If, I venture too close to the glass, she rears up onto her four back legs and waves her forelegs at me she exposes her fat ugly mandibles. I have no problem imagining she hates me. She is my captive and has the desire to attack me; to kill me. I have taken away her liberty and I imagine as a hunter she hates the confined space of the jar. I wonder what she makes of the glass. I imagine she sees herself confined by a spell I have placed on her. I am her master. It is soon getting dark and time to leave the studio. I do not know what to do with her; I decide to leave her where she is until the next day. She is trapped in the jar, so I have nothing to fear. I leave the studio secure in this knowledge. I must confess I did not sleep well that night; arachnophobia haunted my dreams.

The next morning, a little earlier than usual, I return to the studio. I am surprised, but happy to see the rain spider angrily waiting for me in the trap. She looks extremely lethargic; it occurs to me the oxygen in the glass jar is exhausting. I get a nail and hammer a few holes into the tin lid, much to the creature’s relief. The bad weather has set in, and the studio continues to be dull and damp. I get myself an old empty five litre paint tin, pull it up to the table and sit on it. This places me at eye level to the giant spider. I spend the day observing her, I observe she has eight eyes, with four eyes facing directly towards me. I measure her crab-like leg span and discover they extend to thirty-five centimetres. After a time, I know she is observing me as well.

The next day I enthusiastically go to the studio. I want to see how she is doing. I discover on an internet search the night before that my spider is a Huntsman spider, a member of the Heteropodidae family, known for its speed and effective method of killing their prey ruthlessly. I climb the studio steps with an unfamiliar spring in my step and am pleasantly surprised to see her. I realise she must be hungry, so I hunt down a cockroach. I place it alive into the jar. While waiting patiently for her to eat, it dawns on me I can not keep calling her spider; she needs a name. I watch her movements and her delicate dancing gaiety inspires me to name for her. I name her Arachne. According to Greek mythology, Arachne is a beautiful Spider woman with a talent for weaving. Unfortunately, in her arrogance she challenges the goddess Athena, the Goddess of creativity, to a weaving competition. Obviously, this ended badly for Arachne. Now my spider has a name I find I have a growing fondness for her. I relate to Arachne as a person. Arachne begins to mirror my life. She lives in a glass jar; my glass jar is the studio. We both now live in glass jars.

As the days pass, I find my fondness for her blossoms. I have a companion and a friend. Every day I enthusiastically return to the studio; search the room for food; hunt it down; feed the live food to Arachne and then clean the jar. I even start to talk to Arachne and bounce ideas off her. I find I start jotting down and sketching these ideas in my sketchbook. Fresh ideas flow into me. I find my muse in an unlikely place. Most of all, I find myself sketching Arachne for hours and hours as I fall in love with her. Over the weeks, I fill pages and pages of detailed sketches of Arachne. With a black pen my favourite a 0.5 Vbol. I get a smooth clear fine line and quickly hatch it into a chiaroscuro form. This form is worked with an aggressive scribble line creating the required leathery textures of Arachne‘s skin. I am now a master of detailed foreshortening. Having eight legs and eight eyes, with an oval shaped body, Arachne allows me to explore the different formal relationships of line and shape. I experiment with placement and finally place the jar in different viewpoint positions.

Every day I understand Arachne’s moods better. I spend hours imitating her movements with my fingers. Using my fingers as legs, I learn to move like a spider. I draw my fingers in a spider-like animation. The studio fills with hundreds of drawings, in a variety of mediums, as I spend every moment making passionate love to my beautiful muse. I envision a masterpiece one day. At this point I believe I am free from the bonds of my impotency. In my joy I stretch out a one metre-square drawing page. In my enlightenment I place the glass jar on top of a bottle so I have an ant’s eye view of Arachne. I begin creating my masterpiece in charcoal and pastel, using all the skill and knowledge I have. The work is slow; I struggle with it for days; days become weeks. I sleep in the studio now with no time for anything but my work. I am in a delirious creative frenzy. I use the charcoal to create positive lines; the eraser cuts out clear negative lines; layers are overworked and then pastel used to make the hairy and velvety textures of Arachne’s sensuous skin. I work day after day without rest or sleep.

The day comes when I am about to complete this masterpiece, when suddenly I see a creeping movement out of the corner of my eye. Unbelievably the drawing has come to life. The drawn spider leaps off the page to my utter amazement. It shivers as it stands in three-dimensional relief and glares ogle eyed at me. The giant spider is alive and I jump back in surprise and fear as it rears up. I see its giant fecund mandibles snapping wildly at me. In slow motion the giant spider approaches me as I cower against the far wall. It leaps off the table and one of its legs knock the glass jar off. Arachne’s sanctuary shatters in pieces on the floor. I rush forward instinctively to save her. The giant spider rears up and sinks its poison beak-like mandibles directly into my heart. I experience an extreme stab of pain exploding my existence and fall lifeless to the floor. As, I lose consciousness, I see the bastard approach Arachne. I am sure this monster is going to eat her.

When I wake, sometime later, the studio is dark, the room illuminated by random flashes of lightning. I am lying in a dark pool of my blood. Barely able to move, I look about the studio. The studio is almost unrecognisable. It is filled with hundreds of glistening webs from corner to corner embalm me. Before I black out again, I see thousands of transparent eggs in the webs. It is days later I wake with a feeling of desperation. My mouth is full of baby spiders, and they are choking me. The eggs have hatched and the baby spiders are crawling into my open mouth. I encounter absolute pain as they ingest my living flesh in their frenzied desire to feed. I roll over and claw at my mouth and chest.

I choke and gasp in a desperate attempt to breathe…

Then I lose consciousness…

I wake with the late afternoon golden light on my face. Looking around the studio I observe the glass jar shattered on the floor.

Arachne is gone!

My masterpiece is destroyed!

I spit out the last pieces of my drawing onto the concrete floor.



Sketches – Washington2NewYork


Michael Matthews – pen, collage on paper (A4)