Published: 7 December 2017
Matthew Alexander is one of the most accomplished landscape painters working today. Thompson's Gallery have proudly represented the artist for over a decade, with particular emphasis on the painter's Parisian, London, and British coastal scenes.
Born and raised in Margate, Kent, Matthew Alexander grew up learning much about art from his father, an established artist and lecturer in his own right. Matthew used to accompany his father's group of artist friends on ferry trips to France where the crew would sketch, paint and draw 'en plein eir'. At first, the young Matthew Alexander didn't click with the act of artmaking; he went as far to say he 'didn't much care for the Impressionists'. His father laughed knowingly, with the understanding that someday it would click for his son.
Not long after this discussion, Matthew visited an exhibition of Impressionist work in London where a Pissarro not only caught his eye, but brought a tear to it. With a lump forming in his throat, the young Alexander realized this was the power of art, achieving the sort of emotional reaction that up to then for him, only music could.
This seminal moment sparked a fire in Alexander, who has since gone on to be one of London's hallmark landscape artists. His most recent solo exhibition with Thompson's Gallery, 'In the Footsteps of the Impressionists' (on until 23rd December 2017) surveys the landmarks which first formed his connections to French landscape and the masters who tread on those grounds before him. Additionally, iconic views around England, from London to Pin Mill, feature as the artist's beloved growing up surroundings.
We recently asked a few questions of Matthew Alexander, to learn more about the artist creating such breathtaking scenes.
Matthew Alexander Exclusive Q&A with Thompson's Gallery
Thompson's Gallery:What is your favorite view or location to paint in your hometown of Margate, and why?
Matthew Alexander: Margate is the town where I was born and is part of the peninsula at the far eastern point of the South East of England which is called the Isle of Thanet. There are many wonderful subjects within easy reach and the area also includes the towns of Ramsgate and Broadstairs as well as many other small attractive villages. Probably my favourite locations are to be found on the coast between Margate and Broadstairs where the chalk cliffs meet the sea. One of the unique features of this area is that there is a rare combination of white chalk cliffs and a sandy foreshore. More often chalk foreshores have a pebble beach, but at this particular area the combination of chalk and sand create fantastic visual effects which can be absolutely stunning when the sunlit cliffs reflect in the mirror-like quality of the wet sand at low tide.
Thompson's: What makes a great artist- natural talent or disciplined training (or mix of both)?
M Alexander: I have a firm belief that anyone can be taught or learn the disciplines of painting and drawing but whether they become an artist is in the' lap of the gods'. Techniques are the language of painting and just as in literature a well informed command of language will inevitably create the conditions for fleunt prose it does not necessarily follow that these techniques will provide the means for a creative or poetic text. In painting the greater one's understanding and facility with the techniques of the medium the more chance the creative talent has to make itself clearly understood.
Thompson's: What has been the most challenging location to paint, and why?
M Alexander: All locations have their challenges and these constantly vary. My interest in trying to depict the fleeting effects of light and atmosphere or to imbue a subject with a specific feeling or light effect are a constant and engaging struggle. There are also the more mundane challenges of sketching in busy streets with crowds of people and the ever present traffic congestion in the larger towns and cities.
Thompson's: What do you do to relax in your spare time away from the easel?
M Alexander: Interestingly, although painting is challenging, frustrating, invigorating, and always thoroughly exhausting I have never looked at it as a job of work and never seen my life as an artist as something seperate from any other life I might live. My life and my art are so inextricably linked that I don't find any need to 'relax' from it.
I do have moments away from the easel, sometimes long periods of creative idleness where I do not touch paints or brushes but during these times whilst walking, motorcycling or sailing my yacht I am constantly looking for potential subjects to paint. Either that or I may be visiting exhibitions of Artists that I admire or I may be sitting reading - probably an art book!
Very occasionally my wife will insist that we go on holiday and forbid me to take sketch book, paints, camera and make me lay on a sunbed for a week! By the end of the holiday, although I have to admit to feeling well relaxed I am 'chafing at the bit' to get back to my studio and the comfort of my art books.
Thompson's: Do you have a kernel of advice, or mantra that you go by?
M Alexander: Making art is 99% perspiration 1% inspiration and although the percentages might vary a little there is always more of the former than the latter. Painting is like making love. If you find it relaxing you're probably doing it wrong!
Visit our London gallery on Seymour Place (W1H 5AZ, 2min walk from Marble Arch Station) to take in Matthew Alexander's exhibition before 23rd December. Contact us with any enquiries or interest at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at +44(0)207 935 3595.