In 2001, Matt Forster spent 2 years travelling abroad, immersing himself in painting, sketching and reading art history. He spent extended periods in Mexico, North America and Asia, before he settled in Otago, New Zealand. In 2003 he returned to the UK with a wide array of work, and has continued to develop his art further still.
ON your website you say that it is the instantaneous spontaneity of watercolour that appeals to you, could you tell me a bit about your discovery of watercolours?
I’VE been painting since I was 12. I’ve always loved to draw and drawing is some of my earliest memories. I first sold a painting when I was 12 and at that point thought that this could be the thing for me. I painted all the time while I was at school and held exhibitions every summer that sold really well. This is how I founded my time at university studying sports science, oddly enough. I think I always knew that I was going to be an artist and I’ve been a professional since 1997.
It has always been the immediacy, the instantaneous spontaneity of watercolour, that has appealed to me. It is the most underrated, misrepresented and misunderstood of all the painting mediums. In theory of course its simple; you can only lay a darker colour on top of a lighter one. The implications of that have taken me 20 years to begin to overcome. I’m a watercolour purist; I use no white paint, no highlights, no masking agent, only the paper. Unlike other painting mediums, with watercolour there is no room for error, there is no pause, no rewind, only forwards, and no means of correction. It must be executed perfectly the first time around, like an actor on stage. This makes its performance as a medium all the more impressive, what it can do, the emotions it can stir, the visions it can achieve, at its alone.
YOUR geometric patterns are intriguing, how do you come up with the inspiration to produce them?
I have always been interested in a range of subjects, crucially always painting for myself and my own enjoyment. I think this shows in my work and is fundamental to my success so far. Everything has a form, a tone and a colour, so what is the difference between a figure, a tree or a bowl of fruit? If it has light and colour anything can be a subject, as long as it has visual appeal to me. In 2017, I decided to take on colour and colour contrast in a serious way. It’s a fascinating and complex subject so I decided to use a simple geometric cube in repetition as my form. The combinations and patterns are infinite; it’s very exciting, and it appears to be well received whenever I exhibit them.
I love the bold style that is evident in so much of your work, what would you say is your min influence for this style?
MY use of watercolour is fairly unique and it continues to develop all the time. It’s perhaps characterised as being very bold with strong contrasts. This is true and I liken it to black and white photography. A good watercolour should work as a black and white, and I always photograph my work to test this. Colour, in a sense, is a bonus, the key to watercolour is tone.
WHAT is your favourite pastime (other than music and art I guess) and how do you think that it influences your art (if at all)?
I don’t seem to have too much spare time these days, I’m lucky enough that I get to spend so much time actually painting and I work well over 60 hours a week on average. When I do have spare time, I enjoy being outside walking, particularly in the mountains. Just being outdoors and observing always gives me inspiration. I love sport and swim a lot, but the only sport I allow myself the time to immerse myself in is Rugby Union.
WHERE do you see yourself in five years time? Is it more difficult to plan your future as an artist than perhaps it would be if you work a ‘typical’ 9-5 job? How do you work around that?
THERE is simply no point in planning too much, I just keep following what I enjoy doing painting, and I’m always looking out for new ways to expose my work. Technology is moving at such pace, who knows what will be available in 5 years time? I think it’s crucial to embrace anything that can gain a wider audience for my work. There are a multitude of opportunities with which to do this and I try to spend a lot of my time in marketing my work – not in a hard way, just getting the paintings seen, they tend to do all of the rest of the work themselves. Ten years ago, I was a regional artist at best, I suppose I could say that I now have a national presence and sell globally. In the next five years, I would like to attend some of the major art fairs, to establish myself within the higher end of the market in London and develop more of a presence in Europe. No prints though, it’s all about producing truly original work.
Photography by Oliver Fowler