Many creatives know that life is full of unexpected moments and not all of these moments have a joyous air to them. You might find yourself in a situation that ends up changing the course of your future, whether you are conscious of it or not. But it is how we deal with these situations that separates us.
Matthew Gillett is a full time visual artist and a part-time surf coach. He spends half his time in Sydney working on creative projects and half his time at his namesake gallery down at the Scarborough Hotel.
In 2008, Matthew experienced a traumatic event while at work that set the wheels in motion that began his evolution as an artist. Not giving into self-destructive tendencies, he turned to art, his saviour, his solace.
‘It was another day at work that ended with somebody king hitting me in the back of the head. The outcome of that was brain haemorrhage and the by-product of that, which I wasn’t aware at the time, was depression and anxiety,’ Matthew said.
‘During that time, I became quite introverted and I only found solace in my art. I didn’t really have the patience or mental stamina to sit down and watch television, the art became a refuge essentially.’
For Matthew, medication wasn’t his preferred way of becoming mentally sound. He dived into his creativity and found meditation and got back into surfing every day. This has become his recipe for staying level headed.
‘Some people look at my art and think it is really, really dark. But usually when they hear the story, they can see a lightness to it. There is a lightness to me when I talk about it,’ Matthew said.
Matthews’s inspiration comes from experiences, he doesn’t look at something and reproduce it. His work all comes from a place within him, things that he experiences, which he expresses through his art to find understanding and balance within himself.
‘My latest inspiration has actually been the break-up of a relationship. Most people think inspiration can be good, most people attribute it to be a positive experience. But at the moment it was a negative experience,’ Matthew said.
Matthew started by sketching the answers to questions he didn’t understand in exams, which evolved to painting on surf boards for his friends to painting anywhere he could find an audience.
‘I gravitated to a medium that I feel extremely comfortable with, which for me is oils on canvas and oils on linen. I just like the texture and the smell and the feel of it… everything,’ Matthew said.
With access to his studio at all hours, if an idea manifests he feels a compulsion to get it out of his mind, otherwise, sleep won’t come.
‘I get weird ideas, I stand in front of the canvas, rarely do I have a pre-conceived idea, I just start mucking around. If it feels like a mistake, I keep fixing it and working on it and then I end up with a finished piece,’ Matthew said.
‘I never went to art school. Every time I discover a new medium or technique, that self-discovery is what pushes my creativity. It’s really important that I muck around and play a lot as it all amalgamates together and I end up with some really cool stuff.’
Matthew had his last big show in 2013. His aim was to try and put art in front of the eyes of regular people. On a Friday night, on Oxford Street, he created a pop up art gallery to entice people to come and have a look.
‘For me, I wanted people to look at it and not be afraid to have an opinion. You can like it just because it is blue and you like blue, it doesn’t have to be overdone,’ Matthew said.
He decided to paint 13 works on boards that revolved around these varying forms of a skulls. Mixing bright colours to make these skulls look like different colours of ice-cream mixed together, all revolving around the number 13 that has always been cropping up.
On Friday the 13th, 2013, Matthew exhibited 13 works, on 13 boards, using 13 skulls and pricing the works at $1300 and 13 cents.
‘I built a huge cupboard which covered the doorway to the venue. I had girls dressed in the theme of Alice in Wonderland. They would open the cupboard and the audience would then walk down the stairs into a maze with all of my works,’ Matthew said.
‘The idea was to get people’s attention off the streets on a Friday night, get them to come through the cupboard, find themselves in an art space, be moved by the work, buy them and take them home.’
‘Like all my shows, I like to have some kind of story or social experiment to them.’
Matthew’s gallery, the Matthew Gillett Gallery is located on the south coast, 55 minutes out of Sydney. It is located inside of the walls of the Scarborough Hotel. A pub built in the 1800’s, perched on top of a cliff, with stimulating views of the ocean.
‘The idea was to put it somewhere where people were already going and enable the viewers to form opinions. I also wanted to give other artists the opportunity to show there as well’ Matthew said.
‘As an artist, I am more than happy for people to say they hate my work. I want an emotion to be evoked, that can be negative, positive, love or hate, whatever it might be, if you reach any of those, as an artist, I think you are doing your job.’
Matthew has a busy year, working towards a big exhibition that is coming up next year. The idea being a visual representation of an artist journey from 2013 right up to the present.
‘It will be 14 works that were created overseas which were all captured on film using time-lapse photography to document the creation of each piece. Each finished work will be accompanied by a 2-3 minute video,’ Matthew said.
Matthew painted in some amazing locations in Indonesia. He climbed Krakatoa, right up to the rim and spent five days painting there. He got permission to paint on the grounds in one of the oldest temples in the world, Borobudur.
‘The audience will get to see my whole journey through depression and coming out of the other side. Then they will come into my new works which will give you a really good indication of an artist journey,’ Matthew said.
‘I think my work is stronger now, it’s definitely more mature. So there is a very strong contrast to these works with the present works,’ Matthew said.
‘I want the audience to see the evolution of my artistic integrity essentially. I think that is what this will do, right through to techniques and styles, it will be interesting.’
For Matthew art has been very therapeutic and he highly recommends everyone to pick up a brush, dip it in and strike the first blow, it’s really that simple. Just give it a go and do not feel discouraged.
‘I think everyone’s got it in them. If it makes you feel good, than do it,’ Matthew said.
‘I’ve had a brush with death and I just figured that if I am here now and I’m healthy, I might as well be doing what I want to do. I live day to day, hand in mouth, I like what I do now and I am comfortable with that.’
If you want to find out more about Matthew Gillett you can follow him on Instagram @gmister or visit his website www.matthewgillett.com or www.fostered.com . Visit his gallery and say hello, who knows you might feel inspired to paint after that.
‘I don’t think I will ever find inner peace, but I am definitely in a better place. I think everyone’s going to have demons at one point or another but knowing how to deal with them is key,’ Matthew said.
‘I’m definitely in a better place than I was 2 years ago, 1 year ago, so for me the evolution of that is gradual but it’s definitely moving in the right direction.