I have photographed the landscape around my home in Sheffield for over 35 years. A long time ago I arrived at photography through painting and drawing and a fascination for the act of mark making. My images are made within my own immediate environment and until recently I have not travelled at all to make work. I prefer to engross myself in the varying landscapes that I observe on a daily basis, constantly working and reworking what is directly around me, revisiting the same sites many times over many years. In this way, the work is in continuous development. Each new image informs the next. There is no ‘project’ – no ‘end’.
I’m continuously drawn to the city’s edges and its dormant, forgotten, negative spaces. Fragile areas on the urban borderline. Areas once excavated, mined, farmed, harvested, industrialised, dumped on, contaminated, and left. In the 1980’s this landscape was brutal, and the images reinterpreted the ravaged surfaces of a steel city as it fought decline and pondered an enforced economic and social side-step (Groundwork, Industrial Valley). In recent years the images appear to re-present a rampant, untamed nature, yet are all post -industrial landscapes in one way or another. Their (often ancient) place names are loaded with such history.
The images in Chora were made between 2004 and 2011 after a long period away from producing any work. Terrain Vague represents work made since, and still being developed. The images are made in flat, neutral light, and whilst light abounds these conditions enable the ‘materiality’ of the subject to be the only consideration. All peripheral information and most references to topography are discarded. There are no skies or horizons and few focal points – in cases no ‘landscape’.
My interest is in complex, immersive and layered images that reveal information on drip-feed – images that need to be lived with, scrutinised, revisited, invested in. The fine rendering of the subject through the photographic process is fundamental, and the large print scale and high resolution has become a completely impractical and expensive imperative. Innocuous arrangements of materials and artefacts are heightened merely through being photographed, resulting in the marks, the colours, the botanical, the detritus, the chaos, and the implied history and context all fighting for attention.
Matthew Conduit’s imposing images have a quality of permanence and of powerful materiality. Whether the lens captures the immemorial stone of Wirksworth’s impressive quarries or the profuse wildlife of untamed woodlands in a more familiar England, Conduit translates the overwhelming visible stimuli that surrounds us, through a photographic production that is both realistic and intensely conceptual. Whereas the horizontal composition of the images asserts the stability and compactness of the real, the acute awareness of colours, lines and variations within the frame realise an enticingly sensuous abstraction. Therefore, Conduit’s approach to specifically human imprints is more inclusive than actually dominant. In the artist’s generous and encompassing vision of the physical density that surrounds us, the presence of human beings is made manifest only through the account of disseminated traces and time-swept relics, bold and monumental yet as fragile as the intricate flora that bursts from the mesmerizing tableaux of his Chora series. – Violette Alfonsi, 2012
A limited edition book featuring Matthew’s Wood Land work has been published by Contours. Please contact Matthew directly through his website for more details.
ABOUT MATTHEW CONDUIT
Born in Nottingham, Matthew Conduit studied Art at Mansfield College of Arts and then completed a BA Hons Fine Art at Sheffield Polytechnic in 1981. Thereafter, he exhibited his work widely around Britain into the early 1990’s. Matthew became Director of the Untitled Gallery in Sheffield and relocated the gallery from the suburbs to its current location in Sheffield’s city centre in 1988 (now Site Gallery). He then worked for over twenty years developing the cultural industries sector, and developed strategies, buildings and facilities to support the sector and creative producers across the UK, including the Workstation and Showroom in Sheffield.
He returned to making pictures intensely around 2004, and in 2009 received an Arts Council England award to develop and prepare new works for exhibition. ‘Chora’ was exhibited at the Sheffield Institute of Arts in 2011, and was his first solo exhibition for over 20 years. A limited edition book ‘Chora’ published by Contours was also launched at this time. Matthew continues to produce new work from his studio in Sheffield.
Unless otherwise stated, all words and images in this article are © Matthew Conduit