Friday, 30 May 2014

Mathew Sawyer at Spacex until 12th July

He would probably hate it but ‘quirky’ is surely the right word to describe Mathew Sawyer. His work is wry and amusing, but also warm, familiar and even, in a way, nostalgic ... and I mean that in a good way.

There are more serious underlying issues in his stuff but they are well wrapped in a sugar coating of comedy. He is the slightly odd but amusing bloke next door who you wouldn’t mind having a pint with.

This is Sawyer’s first solo show in a public gallery: A mixture of work spanning a number of years which includes paintings, ‘art documents’, a bit of sculpture, some digital artwork and a couple of videos. It’s all quite interesting – even if there is nothing which really shocks or surprises.

The more I think of it, the more I think that ‘quirky’ is the right description of what he does – although at times I get an uneasy feeling that he is straying into Jeremy Beadle territory with his anonymous intrusions into the lives of strangers. The most appealing of his pieces I found to be the one about the owl in his garage – until it turned nasty and (spoiler alert) the owl encountered the snake.

If you see him playing guitar with his band you realise that he is actually from a different time. At 37 years old he has been doing his stuff, music and art, for well over ten years - and I suspect he seemed out of his own time when he started. Musically, he’s difficult to place. He seems familiar but didn’t we stop listening to this kind of stuff years ago? 

He can, perhaps, be likened to a sort of melancholic Billy Bragg - but without the politics or the edginess (and that’s not really Billy Bragg, is it?). He appears slightly worried throughout the set but is also amusing, reassuring and comfortable – even when he starts singing in Exorcist-like voices. By the way, check out his video in the gallery foyer and you will see him ‘out-Oursler’ David Bowie by seven years, just by sticking his head through a hole in a box.

This sounds as though I disapprove. Don’t get me wrong: Even though the art and the music seems familiar it’s all enjoyable - and surely it does no harm to revisit more comfortable times?

After all, the underlying questions about how people relate to one another, and the need for community and support are, more than ever, relevant to our lives today - aren’t they?

So, check out his stuff at Spacex. I defy you not to smile wryly ...

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