Matt Stokes is an established British conceptual artist. He creates films, installations, and events that stem from extensive engagement with subcultures and informal communities—particularly those related to music.Read More
The Cornwall-born artist who is now based in Newcastle and Gateshead has lived and worked in North East England since 1993. In 1997 he completed a BA Hons in Fine Art at Newcastle University. His practice stems from an interest in the ways collectivities, especially music subcultures, shape people's lives and identities.
Matt Stokes' artistic process begins with extensive long-term research into a particular setting or group. He meticulously gathers information, stories, and significant materials. Working closely both with communities as well as composers and musicians, this research evolves into context-specific collaborative projects.
The resultant films, installations, and events this generates celebrate the groups involved and challenge assumptions about their way of life. Often, Stokes will present the final fruits of his inquiry in the form of enigmatic films shot with a 16mm camera. There is a particular emphasis in Matt Stokes' work on investigating histories and subcultures relating to music. This is done, however, within a broader overarching exploration of collectivity and identity that crosses multiple settings.
Matt Stokes' Cantata Profana (2010) six-channel film installation introduced the heavy metal subgenre of 'grindcore' to an art audience. In it, six singers are presented performing a piece of classical music using a chorus of abstract screams that would be familiar to death metal concert attendees. Similarly, in More than a Pony Show (2017), Stokes looked at the Plymouth punk scene and live music venues. The five-channel video installation showed five local punk bands each play a song in a different location bearing significance to the rich history of the Plymouth punk scene.
The relationship between people and location is often a key element in Stokes' practice. In 2015 he organised and filmed Stone Frigate (LARP): a Live Action Role Play event near the now-flooded site of HMS Standard in the Tyne Valley. Costumed participants re-enacted scenes from when HMS Standard was in operation as a Royal Navy psychiatric rehabilitation camp during World War Two.
In This Liberty (2017) Matt Stokes focused on the rich 687-year history of Hexham Old Gaol in Northumberland—thought to be the oldest purpose-built prison in England. Collaborating with musician Richard Dawson, Stokes told the story of five characters from the jail's long history through filmed performances of five songs inspired by traditional border ballads.
Matt Stokes' unique projects have found critical acclaim, earning him the Beck's Futures prize in 2006. His work has been exhibited to audiences across Britain, Europe, and the United States. Stokes has also produced works for several public and corporate commissions.
Dead Sea Deaf Sea, Workplace Gallery, London (2017); Energy Flash—The Rave Movement, Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (2016); Objects To See Further: In Focus, The Mining Institute, Newcastle Upon Tyne (2015); Give to Me the Life I Love, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne (2013); Cantata Profana, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2011); Real Arcadia, Lüttgenmeijer, Berlin (2008).
Good Night, Storage, Seoul (2019); Idea of North, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2018); Energy Flash, Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (2016); Up Close and Personal, De Hallen Haarlem, Netherlands (2014); Contemporary Art Club, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2012); Out of Site, Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, Israel (2011); See This Sound, Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz, Austria (2009).
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2021