When it all comes right

Yesterday was one of those days when you get a hefty reminder of why we do what we do. Sometimes you step into another person’s life, just for a short while, and try to have some impact on their future. Matt was one of those.

Uzma and I have known Matt for 19 years. Coincidentally, he was 19 when I met him. We were teaching media at Northampton College and Matt joined the A-level Art Film & Video course. He’d never made a film before, but it was obvious he had an eye for it. His first exercise in moving image created something extraordinary – admittedly more by instinct and accident rather than design, but there was something undeniable at work there.

Within eight months he’d had his first solo show at a gallery in town. That show led to an invitation to meet with Dr & the Medics (I think) to discuss a music video. Matt didn’t do that – he wasn’t ready. He helped us set up Don’t Look Now, which became Threshold a few years later. He helped Jimmy Willis set up Pedestrian Arts, still running and now based in Leicester.

After the course he did with us, he did his degree at Newport. He edited Lost Reels, his 3rd year film at our studios – it won an award, it got accepted into the Central St Martin’s British Artists’ Film & Video Study Collection. He got a TV commission. We’ll pass over the work for Goldie Looking Chain and Dirty Sanchez and the video post-production work for a national newspaper – nothing wrong with a bit of work for hire and all of it great experience but none of it gave Matt a platform for his voice as the artist he was becoming. It did however pay for him to do his masters degree at Central St Martin’s.

He graduated last year. He’s just exhibited in Venice and Liverpool Biennale as part of the 2014 Bloomberg New Contemporaries showcase. I was at the private view yesterday for the Bloomberg show at the ICA in London. I’ve never seen it so packed – queues outside the door for half the night.

Matt comes from a council estate in Northampton. At that time he had no qualifications to speak of and no real plan of where he was going. The last 19 years have been tough for him. He and his brother are the hearing sons of two profoundly deaf parents, his father is losing his sight. Until recently, his mother hadn’t seen her own mother for over fifty years since she’d emigrated to Australia. You can imagine theirs was an emotional reunion. Matt made a film about it. He won’t mind me telling you all this because his family and his relationship with them are what his artwork is about.

Matt is now the age I was when we set up Threshold/Don’t Look Now.  I wonder where he’ll be in another 19 years.

The Threshold crew are proud to know Matt and to have had something to do with the direction of his career. We are equally as proud of having some involvement in the journeys of other individuals and their success stories, but Matt’s story demonstrates for others that it can be done; despite the financial, social and physical obstacles life may place in your way. And Matt’s story is also a very clear reminder for us as to why we at Threshold do what we do.

Barry Hale – in a post ICA glow, November 2014