“I am concerned primarily with abstract imagery and the translation of drawn marks into cloth. By making work that is pieced, patched and assembled, I aim to create pieces that explore repetition, pattern and the disrupted or dissonant journey of line and image across and through the surface of cloth.”
Matthew Harris was born in 1966 in Kent, and now lives and works in Stroud, Gloucestershire. Harris studied at The Hereford School of Art (1982-4) and Goldsmiths College of Art (1984-7). His work belongs in the Crafts Council Collection, The Whitworth Museum and Art Gallery and the International Quilt Museum, Nebraska (U.S.A).
Matthew Harris makes abstract works in paper and cloth which are rich in colour, texture and rhythm. His practice draws on a wide range of textile traditions from Japanese Shibori Cloth, Kuba Cloth and Shoowa Velvets from the Congo, and talismanic Henna Cloth from the Atlas Mountains.
Using techniques of painting, patching, darning and stitching, he delights in pushing the bounds of his medium into new territories. For the cloth works, strata of cotton and muslin are layered, pleated and cut into, before being opened out and re-joined, in new configurations that are then hand stitched with a waxed linen thread. The works made from paper are also sewn and stitched, in a manner akin to the cloth. In both his paper and his cloth works, Harris welcomes the juxtapositions that come about as he begins to layer and realign his material – their sense of progression and discordance, bringing energy and dynamism to the final works.
Today, Harris’s work is underpinned by a strong interest in music. Music first started to feature when Harris was introduced to the highly individual language of notation employed by the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. Since then, he has found inspiration in the work of John Cage, Igor Stravinsky and Moreton Feldman, amongst others. Harris’ approach to musical scores is from a purely graphic experience – he is drawn to their visual formality and formal structuring, which recalls traditions in textile arts and indeed the history of abstraction more broadly. In his response to these musical works, areas of pattern are made to break down and then re-emerge so that the eye is led through the fabric, as through a piece of scored music.
Harris’s work is marked by its sense of time and space which is structured, but fluid, and always with the possibility of setting off according to a new variance or direction. Interested in slow and subtle changes, both in the making and experiencing of his work, Harris says: “I like the time it takes”.