A look inside the V&A ceramic studio with artist Matt Smith

Hear from Matt Smith, V&A Ceramics resident October 2015 – March 2016, about how his visit to the Spode factory in Stoke-on-Trent inspired him to create a new ‘soundscape’, a visual melody singing to the current state of the factory. A collaboration with composer Dimitrios Skyllas has resulted in an aural composition based on this new work. Matt’s work will be displayed at the Museum during London Design Festival (17-25 September) and the world premiere of this new aural piece for the closed factory will be performed live by the composer on Friday 23 September at the V&A’s Globe space.

In March 2016, we were pleased to invite Collectors to a special studio visit and talk by Matt Smith, the 2014 winner of the Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramics Prize, who has spent the last 6 months (October 2015 – March 2016) as the Ceramics Resident at the V&A’s ceramic studio, supported by Maurice and Rosemary Lambert. 

Matt Smith’s work as an artist has often taken the form of hybrid artist/curator. Using clay and its associated references, Smith explores how cultural organisations operate, practicing techniques of institutional critique and artist intervention. He is interested in how history is a constantly selected and refined narrative that presents itself as a fixed and accurate account of the past. By taking objects from one context and repurposing them in new situations, or creating ‘lost objects’, Matt Smith is interested to explore how historical narratives and alternative identities can be brought to light. Of particular interest to him is how museums can be reframed from an outsider perspective, and often this outsider perspective is taken from an LGBT viewpoint.

What is often of most interest to me is what is undisclosed about an object’s history. Moving the focus from descriptions of an object’s material or date of manufacture, I am drawn instead to the emotional bonds between objects, makers, viewers and collectors in order to examine what these collections can tell us about human experiences.”

– Matt Smith

His solo interventions that have addressed these themes include Queering the Museum (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 2010), Other Stories (Leeds University Art Collection, 2012) and Milk (Aspex Gallery, 2010).  Over the past three years, Smith has co-directed and curated Unravelling the National Trust which has seen over thirty artists working with contemporary craft (including himself) commissioned to respond to the histories of the National Trust properties Nymans House, Uppark House and The Vyne.

In 2014 Matt Smith was awarded the inaugural Maylis Grand Ceramics prize and in 2009 received the ARC Award for Craft from Aspex Gallery. Smith is currently completing a practice-based PhD exploring the intersection of contemporary craft practice and queer identities at the University of Brighton where he also lectures.

He regularly shows his work with public collections (A Place at the Table, Pallant House, 2014; Subversive Design, Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, 2013; DIY A Revolution in Handicrafts, Society for Contemporary Craft, Pittsburg, 2010) as well as talking internationally about his practice (Tate Modern, the V&A, Valand Academy Gothenburg, the University of Bremen, Konstfack Stockholm and Bergen Academy of Art and Design). Smith also collaborates with The Young Masters in the ongoing-tour, which included a highly successful presentation at COLLECT, 2015.

Click here for link to the V&A ceramic studio page.

The Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramic Prize was inaugurated in 2014 in order to support ceramic artists working in innovative ways, showing great skill as well as an awareness of the heritage of ceramic craft. An expert panel of judges comprising Show Director of COLLECT, Daniella Wells; curator and collector, Preston Fitzgerald; and collector Maylis Grand, presented Matt Smith with the winning prize of £1,500 during the event at Sphinx Fine Art. Two further commendations were awarded to Korean artist Jongjin Park and Israeli artist Zemer Peled.

Maylis Grand commented:
“We were looking for a young artist who successfully mixed the aesthetic and techniques of the past to re-invent a modern and vibrant work of art. Matt Smith succeeded in creating several original pieces, which fitted the brief perfectly.”

Notes from a love song Clef.jpg

Notes from a love Song: Clef, 2016

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