Born and bred in the diversity of London’s Camden, Matthew Small’s work has its origins rooted in urban chaos, decay and human potential. Trained as an illustrator, Matt gained a first-class BA from Westminster and subsequently an MA from the Royal College of Art in 2000. He was also winner of the Villers David Art Prize in 2001.
Freed from the formality of his training and by painting directly onto found materials, Matt brings physical elements of the city’s detritus directly into his work, including metals, sometimes in powerful relief. The people he paints are also found, filmed anonymously on the streets of London. In this way, Matthew focuses on creating portrait painting at its best, when the identity of the sitter is less important than the power and insight of the piece.
Colour and materials play a central role in Matt’s paintings. The anonymity of the subjects is set against a rich media narrative. These are the invisible individuals of the city’s crowded streets, with their human complexity and potential expressed in complex colour and materials. Matt believes in social inclusion and that all individuals have something of value to contribute. Matt’s portraits tend towards the marginalized and voiceless in society. By painting portraits of individuals on the outskirts of society, often young black men, Matt Small encourages us to spend time with people we might usually overlook.