In this week’s blog post, we hear from Sunderland-born artist Matthew Dowell as he explains his latest piece in collaboration with Spaghetti Factory.
When Spaghetti Factory first commissioned the work, which is my first public commission, they said there was no set theme, and it was a space for me to decide what I showed. It was very freeing to be so unrestricted but also daunting!
I decided to make something relating to a project I have been working on since 2019, that looked at how different spaces in Sunderland have changed over time and asked what does this mean for the people who live in them? Up to this point the work has mainly been on the computer screen so it felt like the perfect opportunity to see it printed BIG and be in the city which it’s about.
It started by collecting over 100 postcards of Sunderland, mostly Seaburn and Roker, Fawcett Street and the top of Mowbray Park looking down into town, from the 1900s to the present. Postcards give us a snapshot of a place but when you look at them all together you start to notice the changes that are occurring in each – that seem small but together give a bigger picture of the changing landscape. Next I researched the history of the places in the postcards (with some fantastic help from the staff in the new local history library) and collected memories from friends and family.
With the written memories and postcard imagery I started to experiment on Photoshop and combined the two. At this stage there was a lot of trial and error but working digitally with scans of the postcards meant I could try a lot of different variations and was able to keep the original postcards. The layering technique I used can make the image look too busy so the simpler the idea the better! It was important to include the text WEAR HERE, I love a bit of wordplay and doing that helped to acknowledge our relationship to the space and as a form of ownership. It is a celebration of home, community, and local identity in a positive way, meant to highlight shared moments and histories.
The support from Spaghetti Factory and Sunderland Culture has meant that I have been able to continue my artistic practice, support artist studio costs and most importantly bring this work that is about Sunderland back into the city.
More information on Spaghetti Factory, here: https://spaghettofactoro.weebly.com/
My website: https://matthewdowell.com/
My instagram: @matthewjamesdowell
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