Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Something To Look At: Matt Underwood

Matt Underwood's work might have been an Instagram discovery, it might have been twitter, it might even have been through some of the greetings cards I've seen around of his woodblock prints. Wherever it was I've amassed a small collection (maybe 6) of his prints, and bought a few more as presents. Delivery is currently free from his etsy shops, and a lot of his prints come into the 'is that all?' price category, depending on the size and complexity of the print.

The work available via Etsy is currently bird, plant, or cat based, and images do not entirely do the colours justice. New things appear regularly, and I think there are still tote bags available with his 'Night Patrol' hedgehog on them.* Follow on Instagram to get an idea of the range of his work beyond the woodblocks and what's currently in the Etsy shop. There's also a website but I don't think it gets updated particularly often.

Printmaking in all it's various forms fascinates me, being able to follow the stages of various works in progress is one of the many things I love about Instagram. It also underlines how comparatively cheap a print can be against the amount of work that goes into it. When it comes to woodblocks there's something about the flatness of the image that I find particularly attractive.

Matt Underwood's prints make specific references to the Bloomsbury group, particularly through the use of particular fabrics as backgrounds. I think that tote bag hints at the Bloomsbury habit of decorating every surface available too. The Bloomsbury lot weren't the only artists who did this though, and I see as much Peggy Angus in some of these things as anybody else.

I can't look at a woodblock print without thinking about Japanese woodblocks either, and there's something about Underwood's cats that puts me in mind of German expressionism, as well as a more general 1930's feel. I'm specifically thinking of John Hall Thorpe, and perhaps Clarice Cliff ceramics, as well as reading Adrien Bell. Not that I see these prints in a particularly nostalgic or sentimental light, or think that's what Underwood is doing - it's more that I think he's looking at things in the same way, and maybe delighting in some of the same details.

It's that delight in small things and details that I particularly respond to in his work - it's the delight in looking, and seeing things freshly - a favourite cup, or view, flower, fruit, or the habits of cats as they go about their business.

*I'm really tempted by this, a tote bag is always useful, it's yet another thing to go on the when I'm back at work wish list.

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