Expressive portraits as scrap metal mosaics question societal values


# portraits

July 19, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Matt Small, shared with permission

In the heart of Matt small‘s practice is the idea that “there is always potential in everything”. Tending towards an overarching theme of disregard for subject and material, the British artist chooses pieces of oxidized iron, pieces of patinated copper, and wrinkled strips of aluminum that have been discarded to construct his metallic portraits.

Expressive and emotionally charged, the gnawed mosaics combine rampant overconsumption and widespread tendencies to throw away what is viewed as obsolete or undesirable with the way adolescents are marginalized and consequently not viewed as viable members of society. “Because of their social background, young people are overlooked, disregarded and not invested,” says the artist. “When I marry the discarded item and paint a portrait of a young person on it or use the material to construct a mosaic face, I hope the viewer sees that everyone and everything has a right to be viewed as valuable and valuable . It’s only up to us to see that. “

Detail from “Jake” (2020), mounted metal on wooden board, 35.5 “x 35.5”

In conversation with Colossal, Small References Urinal by Marcel Duchamp and the way in which the readymade sculpture turned longstanding values ​​as a fundamental concept upside down, he draws from his own practice. By turning rubble and seemingly useless material into significant works, he hopes to raise questions about the arbitrary valuation of objects and people alike, explaining:

The junk has value because of what I’ve done with it, not because I say it’s valuable. The rusted tin can becomes a tone on the face. The shiny metal sets a highlight on the forehead. All of these worthless items have been incorporated into something that someone may now appreciate, and the potential of this junk item can now be realized.

Small, who lives in his hometown of Camden, is currently working on vanguard, which takes into account the role of artists from the Bristol area who have been an oversized influence on UK street art since the 1980s. The extensive exhibition of memorabilia and dozens of original works is open at M shed until October 31st. When in London, look for a large-format wall portrait of young British entrepreneur, Jamal Edwards, who Small in Acton is working on, and follow the artist on artist Instagram to keep up to date with his latest projects.

“Jake” (2020), mounted metal on wooden board, 35.5 x 35.5 inches

# portraits

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