Published: 14 October 2019
Ahead of his highly anticipated new solo exhibition at Thompson's Gallery London, British landscape painter Matthew Alexander speaks on his practice including colour technique, plein air versus studio work, and his surroundings in hometown Margate.
Thompson's Gallery: In your opinion, what is the key to consistency as a painter?
Matthew Alexander: Do you mean consistently good or consistently bad (laughs playfully). Well, I feel that in order to continue to make art that has a relevance to me I have to be excited at the prospects of the new work.
If the work interests me before and during the execution then the chances are that it will come to be exhibited and would therefore have passed 'muster' i.e. would have satisfied my own critical standards.
I hope that this process leads to consistently good paintings, although I am always happy to hear if this is not the case.
Thompson's Gallery: Do you prefer painting en plein air or in the studio? Describe the pros and cons of each.
Matthew Alexander: During the early part of my career I used to think that work produced 'on-site' had some mystical elevation as a purer form of painting, as that was the mantra of my mentors at the time.
With much struggle against this received wisdom I have come to understand that one must plough one's own furrow and in so doing reject some of these apparent tablets of stone.
I have always continued to make occasional sketches en plain air but much prefer to work in the studio in order to produce more significant works.
An analogy with music would be to the composer who makes numerous small studies over time as and when ideas come to him and then combines them into a symphony in the studio.
The painting then comes from within, from memory and experience without the clamour of observable facts.This then is my preferred way of working.
Thompson's Gallery: Audiences greatly admire your understanding of colour and paint application. Are there any tricks or tips you could share on this topic?
Matthew Alexander: I love the idea of tips or tricks - if you find any, please send them to me! Understanding colour - there is absolutely no substitute for time spent at the coal face. Years of mixing colour will eventually lead to a degree of control and understanding but unfortunately - there is no shortcut.
With regards to paint application, variety really is the spice of life! Oil paint has many wonderful qualities - warm and cool colours, transparency and opacity, diluted or impasto, brushed, scrubbed on or applied with a knife or finger and I like to utilise this wonderful variety to keep vitality in the work.
Thompson's Gallery: Your hometown of Margate is an up-and-coming creative area. Do you have a favourite place to spend time or paint around town?
Matthew Alexander: Margate certainly seems to be on the "up" and about time too. The Turner Gallery has seen many creatives move in - what JMW would have made of some their ART heaven only knows!
The area has a wonderful coastline and the low lying landscape and huge skies are great for my purposes and redolent of the wonderful Dutch and East Anglian landscape artists of the past that I so much admire.
The coast between Margate and Broadstairs at Kingsgate and Botany Bay are my favourite places to paint. I have painted the white chalk cliffs reflecting in the wet sand so many times I could probably paint them in my sleep but I never tire of the challenge of trying to convey the magic of this unique combination.
Matthew Alexander's solo exhibition opens 30th October and runs until 16th November. Contact Thompson's Gallery London to register interest at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44(0)2079353595.