Matt Lambert - 'KIND'
This weekend I attended 'KIND', at the Fishing Quarter Gallery, a collection of 24 new art works by Brighton based artist, Matt Lambert. Lambert is an accomplished artist, having graduated from Brighton University with a degree in Illustration in 2003, he is now an internationally known and collected artist and has been named in the Telegraph Online’s "5 British Artists to invest in" 2016.
The immediate impression of 'KIND' is that it does not show like a singularly themed exhibition. There are various different projects displayed together as one exhibit. The works are separated into collections that fit together in style and subject matter which are related to the charities that Lambert is involved with.
Shortly after leaving university Lambert started up the charity Pass It On Africa, which has helped build and expand 5 educational facilities in Africa. This has had a huge impact on his practice as an artist:
“Spending time in Africa has provided me great source material for my portraits. The privilege of witnessing first hand both the day-to-day concerns of the developing world and my own culture has been surprising. Excess and greed is present in both extremes but so is hope and kindness. The cultural disparities are huge but at the same time there are behavioural universals that transcend culture and this is what drives my ideas.”
Painted portraiture is the key medium Lambert uses throughout his work, yet the style and execution used in each project is totally different. As the subject changes through out each collection, the style changes alongside it.
The portraits of African children are expressive and impressionistic with vivid blue and earthy colours. These paintings feel joyful because of the freedom in the lines that are not constrained, to creating something that has to be precise. But, comparatively Lambert’s illustrative paintings of Superhero action figures are much more controlled. The lines are filled and the dimensions are specific, so much so one painting is show with an action figure sitting on an instruction manual illustration of an IKEA flat pack chair. The dramatically posed action figure as a subject is fun and ironic. The pose alongside the dark backgrounds creates the sense of playfulness but also a feeling trapped and anxious.
The most striking works for me were the portraits of children dressed as Superheroes, especially the painting, Will You Just, with the words ‘Man up’ scrawled on a black and white painting of a child dressed as a superhero. This image really resonates, we all have a memory that relates to a feeling of weakness in adulthood where suddenly we appear to regress and desire the comfort we were given whilst we were young children, but it is not acceptable for us to show that type of weakness now. Here, Lambert has expressed this feeling remarkably, in what I can only describe as a very honest exhibition.
The series of Superhero themed works are related to HEROES RUN, a Superhero themed family fun run along Brighton seafront that was started in 2005, following on from Pass It On Africa. This was the starting point for his work on masks and exploration into identity.
“Some of us feel compelled to hide aspects of ourselves. It is not that we have nefarious intentions to deceive, it is simply human nature. It is how we have learned to interact in our social groups. Some masks are attitudes, some are literal costumes. Not all are bad for us, but the further removed the veil is from our core the more trouble we tend to find ourselves in. We learn mask adoption early in life and my superhero kids series signify our first steps into our alter ego existence.”
I know I could definitely keep writing, exploring and thinking about Matt Lambert’s work, but it is very much one to see for yourself. 'KIND' inspires self-reflection which is something that more recently, we are learning is extremely important during our development as humans. Matt Lambert’s show invites you to discover and follow his journey through his shifting styles, use of materials and powerful themes that appear throughout this exhibition.