From the work that brought him overnight success, Allow me to Observe, to his most recent solo show, 'Surrender', Matthew Hindley seems to be obsessed with the things that we cannot control. From that early work which chronicled the involuntary levels of excitement of its subjects, through to the large sculpture that dominates his latest exhibition displaying a 'cute' loss of bodily control, and with many works exploring the inner world of his subconscious, Hindley has managed to use technology as well as traditional media to tell us very sad stories with a wonderful sense of wit, self-doubt and exquisite artistic sense.
For a while considered primarily a new media artist, being one of the earliest practitioners of the now up-and-coming area of physical computing, Hindley has steadfastly maintained his right to work in traditional media, such as drawing, despite some earlier objections to this form from critics, gallerists and even friends. That Hindley was right in doing so is evidenced by the critical success of his recent forays into the realms of painting and sculpture.
Hindley has never limited himself; feeling free to work in fashion, video or whatever else works, in effecting his own brand strategy. Deeply interested in the cult of celebrity, and especially how celebrity comes to haunt those who are celebrated, he uses images taken from trash media as well as internet spam to programme sad but moving works about the famous. Moving from such external functions he now seems to have found a more interesting subject matter: the psychopathology of everyday life.
Hindley uses numerous modes of production to achieve his artistic strategies: indeed there is a hardly an artistic discipline that can truly be called foreign to him. While he is chiefly associated with new media, especially as a pioneer of the exciting new terrain of physical computing, he has recently become celebrated for his dense, somewhat macabre drawings that utilise fine-liners, iridescent inks and gouache to convey complex, textured subconscious worlds filled with obsessive archetypes and other-worldly constructions on a base of popular culture references.
In addition he has produced high-quality digital prints, canvas paintings, and in his most recent exhibition, sculpture. A new venture with fashion designer Richard de Jager, saw him launching a fashion label, HA-ii, that combines some of his signature images (such as flying bats) and his stock of text phrases (NO FRNDS) in an exciting new terrain of street fashion.
At the moment, I am not wanting to discuss meaning, or process in my work. I am focusing on developing an artistic platform, and freely making a wide number of experiments. I am learning a lot from mistakes and striving to make stronger work all the time. I want people to realise that there is a strong intentionality behind the choices I make in terms of medium and subject. In essence I am trying to stake out my little piece of territory in the vast art arena; building a 'brand' that is Matthew Hindley if you like. My greatest ambition as an artist is, like Murakami and Koons, to make the transition from underground to mainstream while still maintaining the edge of that 'underground'.
'Living parallel to his more public presentations, and inhabiting his sketchbooks, are two-dimensional innovations that reveal another lifeform to Hindley's production. The figures in these decidedly wonderful aci-fi/techno-fantasy/otherworldly drawings, with a Japanese-meets-extraterrestrial edge to their rendering, appear, literally, wired or ominously possessed � but oddly gentle all the same. It's a slightly scary but very beautiful universe.'
Tracy Murinik in 'Bright Young Things', Art South Africa, Autumn 2003
'I feel attracted to his 'boy with a chemistry set' approach and I'm interested in the way he harnesses functional objects and processes, not without a sinister edge, to create situations which are thought-provoking and evocative.'
Paul Edmunds, reviewing his Cold Room solo show on Artthrob, November 2002
Hindley is showing his latest solo show, 'Surrender' at Bell-Roberts Gallery in Cape Town until September 3. Comprising a series of drawings, oil paintings and a large, almost cartoon-like sculpture of the lower half of a female figure who appears to have peed in her panties, the exhibition is at once profoundly dark and strangely cheerful: it is as if deeply serious, disturbing issues have been given a bubblegum edge. The recurring image of a figure on an analyst's couch, at times weeping and at times bathed in his own urine, may give some clues to meaning. From September 7 he will be participating in a show of artistically converted LG air conditioners, also at Bell-Roberts.
In June 2004, along with Richard de Jager, he launched his fashion label HA-ii, incorporating knitware, tracksuit-inspired street fashion and semi-formal but edgy couture. Considered by several observers to be one of the strongest elements in the somewhat controversial group show, 'Contra Mundi', curated by Andrew Lamprecht, at the AVA in Cape Town in May - June 2004, Hindley produced a small 'salon' of digital prints that interrogated the darker side of celebrity. He also showed a drawing made by incising and colouring the reverse of a mirror, a technique he has made his own and one which is drawn from the sort of art made by street hawkers in Cape Town. Before that he showed a large mirror installation incorporating frequent subject, Charlize Theron, at the Klein Karoo Nationale Kunstefees in Oudtshoorn.
In October 2002 he completed his studies at the Michaelis School of Fine Art. Under the supervision of Malcolm Payne he produced a phenomenal show of physical computing works, such as Infra-Red. This comprised a sculptural form that emitted light in the infra-red range, not observable to the human eye. Viewers entered a darkened room and could see the sculpture televised on a monitor by means of a spy camera that was capable of detecting this light. Viewers in direct presence of a sculpture could thus only visually experience it by means of new technology.
This disturbing conundrum illustrated the relationship between people and art and the new mediation of new media. Other works incorporated spy cameras, a rolling ball with a camera embedded in it that wirelessly transmitted images to a bank of monitors, and other similar new media works. The exhibition saw Hindley being awarded the Michaelis Prize, the highest honour that the art school awards.
As a newcomer he achieved almost overnight success with the showing, in 2001, at the World Wide Video Festival in Amsterdam, of his Allow me to Observe. This video work shows footage taken by friends of the artist while hooked up to a camera mounted on their heads. The camera is linked to a set of electrodes that monitor the subject's level of excitement. Only when the levels reach a certain pitch does the camera begin operation. The subject has no control over this.
Each went about various activities, such as riding by car in a busy city, cycling downhill, having sex or buying drugs in Amsterdam. The final footage is automatically cut on the basis of the wearer's state of arousal. Hindley entered this work to the festival after the winding up of Blades Media, one of the very first web design companies in South Africa. Founded along with his business partner Daniel Levi, the company achieved enormous success, but then fell foul to the dot.com bust. Levi has subsequently gone on to become what many industry analysts regard to be one of the top 10 directors of advertising commercials in the world.
As winner of the competition for a major new piece of public sculpture for Iziko South African National Gallery, Hindley will begin installation of Speak Naturally and Continuously.... This work, based on a piece shown as part of his participation as a finalist in the 2003 MTN New Contemporaries Competition at MuseuMAfricA, takes text picked up by concealed microphones in the Company's Gardens and 'translates' it into a continuous stream that will be displayed on a long LED board on the facade of the National Gallery. The work is at once edgy and very democratic, signalling the very public-centred approach that Iziko SANG is embracing.
Matthew Hindley was born in Cape Town in 1974 and lives and works in that city. After a hiatus of several years he completed his BAFA at the Michaelis School of Fine Arts in 2002.
'Surrender', Bell-Roberts Gallery, Cape Town (solo)
'Contra Mundi', Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town
Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, Oudtshoorn (solo)
'Sondela: A Decade of Democracy', National Center for African American Arts, Boston, USA
'Show us What You're Made of II', The Premises, Johannesburg
'Picnic', Bell-Roberts Gallery, Cape Town
'On the Road Again', Engler & Piper Projekte, Berlin and Landshut, Bavaria
'MTN New Contemporaries', MuseuMAfricA, Johannesburg
'Homing In', Albany History Museum, Grahamstown
'Meeting: Art in the Watercloset', Galerie Puta, Cape Town
'Mooimark', Market Theatre, Johannesburg
'Infra-red ', The Michaelis Gallery, Cape Town (solo)
'Matthew Hindley' The Cold Room, Cape Town (solo)
'In No Particular Order (Vol.1)', 16th Recontres Video Art Plastique, Normandy, France
'Orientation/Demarcation', Centre for African Studies, Cape Town
'World Wide Video Festival, Arti et Amicae', Amsterdam, Holland
'YDEtag', South African National Gallery, Cape Town
'Maud Ricketts', Museum of Temporary Art, Cape Town
'Softserve 2', South African National Gallery, Cape Town
'ChannelToo', Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town
'Clickhere, Internet Based Art Forum Art', based in London, United Kingdom
'Softserve', South African National Gallery, Cape Town
24.7, Johannesburg Art Gallery
Iziko South African National Gallery
Murinik, Tracy. 'Matthew Hindley', 10 Years 100 Artists, edited by Sophie Perryer, Cape Town Bell-Roberts Publishing in Association with Struik, 2004
Lamprecht, Andrew. Picnic [Catalogue]. Cape Town: Bell-Roberts Publishing, 2003
Murinik, Tracy. 'Bright Young Things: Matthew Hindley', Art South Africa Vol. 1, No. 3, Autumn 2003, p. 43
Edmunds, Paul. 'Matthew Hindley at the Cold Room', Artthrob No. 63, Nov. 2002. www.artthrob.co.za/02nov/reviews/coldroom.html