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Matthew Tate at the Menier Gallery: Lost in Shadows

If there’s one thing that unifies illustrator Matthew Tate’s thought-provoking and diverse body of work, it’s the quality of mystery across all the disciplines in which he practises. Even the black and white landscapes in Vietnam seem steeped in a narrative that we, as observers, cannot quite penetrate. SEEN particularly liked the Vatican photographs in black and white, the monochrome lending these sacred spaces something of Hammer Horror, with the arm of a statue reaching out in supplication or blessing.

canada Matthew Tate

rome Matthew Tate

The triptych of prints ‘This Will Kill That’ that greets the viewer upon entering the gallery is outstanding. Inspired by the philosophies of Victor Hugo, the figures within hint at the mythic underpinnings of this essay, encapsulating drama and epic scope. SEEN also liked the Grief trilogy of prints which embodied the three stages of grief according to Buddhist ideals. Painted in ink and bleach, the pictures had a stark simplicity that resonated powerfully. Grief comes to us all, in one form or another.


Another stand-out for SEEN was the blue tiger piece that Tate created during his residency at King Edward’s School, Witley. Using images and objects found in the V&A, Tate has extended their meaning, while at the same time shrouding them in something undefinable; a transformative act that seems infinite in its possibilities. Each observer brings their own interpretation, of course. As Degas said ‘Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.’ For SEEN, much of Tate’s work spoke to her on a personal level, being familiar with with Tipu’s Tiger from early childhood.

PEACOCK Stages of Grief (Anger)

I think the power of Tate’s vision lies in his use of story in the sense that his themes are universal (grief, history, landscape) but he brings a particular aesthetic appreciation of these images and therein lies the mystery of them. It seems an unconscious process yet SEEN wonders if that is not the purpose of art – to render the living world and its images in such a way that it connects to us on a conscious level while still retaining its inherent mystery.

Matthew Tate’s exhibition is on until the 8th April; another in a series of always interesting work going on at the Menier Gallery, in an area of London that is constantly evolving. SEEN will be watching Tate’s career with great interest.

Menier Gallery
51 Southwark Street

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