Sourcing the subjects for paintings is a very specific process for Matthew. Features such as aged skin or prominent bone structures grab his attention and he sources the models at random. The London Tattoo Convention earlier this year has sparked a new venture with subjects of all ages bearing tattoos of varying magnitude and detail.
The main feature for Matthew is how the face will work under a chiaroscuro lighting effect. The photographing of the subject takes place in a blackout studio with just a single spot light manipulated and used to sculpt the structure of the face and body. This is a distinguishing element of Matthew’s light-dark powerplay.
Aluminium panels are used as the canvas, and are primed with acrylic base tone wash before a pencil drawing is done as a guide. Matthew deconstructs the layers of the skin before starting, as it is the forensic layering of the skin he wishes to mimic with the oils. The base layers are started looser and coarser, and as these layers grow the detail becomes more refined and intricate, weaving colour tones and fine detail together as they reach towards the surface of the painting and skin structure. Matte varnish is used giving a natural and realistic quality to the skin tones, enhancing the living breathing quality of the hyper-realistic style. Around thirty layers of oil paint are built up which means the painting process is a long one, especially the drying time of each layer. This allows Matthew to revisit the work with a fresh eye, correcting and altering as he goes and reflecting the time and layered quality of the skin it mirrors.
The completed paintings are hung in a black studio and light with ERCO narrow beam spot lighting of different effects, rather echoing the start of the process with the photography session. A set of specifically tailored lights are directed, manipulated and sculpted towards the painting dramatically illuminating certain features and casting other aspects in darkness, enhancing the tenebristic aspect he so admired in Caravaggio and other Old Masters.
“The focal point of my paintings are the eyes. You can really draw out the sentiment and character and I concentrate on the eye as a window into the history and emotions of a person. The photo shoots are long and often silent, as well as in a blackout studio casting a sombre atmosphere with just a single light. I think this really allows the subject to relax and get lost in their thoughts and feelings, which is when I find the most evocative and intimate expressions come out; those which I wish to capture in painting."