"Ionawr" A Stunning New Exhibition by Rodney Matthews
13th January - 24th February
Rodney Matthews was born in 1945 in Paulton, North Somerset. Fascinated by nature from an early age, he spent most of his time outdoors studying the local flora and fauna, picking flowers and bringing home squirrels, magpies, snakes, frogs and toads! He enjoyed art and related subjects at school, but had little interest in academic subjects, such as mathematics and English.
He worked briefly with his father, helping out with light engineering and wrought ironwork, but soon found himself to be too accident prone for the position. Encouraged by his artistic father, he applied for a commercial design course at the West of England College of Art, Bristol. He was accepted upon presentation of a small portfolio of bird drawings in pencil. His tutor was Anthony Rossiter, painter of English, in particular North Somerset, landscapes. Rossiter’s gift for drawing plants appealed to Matthews and he still remembers his maxim: ‘If you don’t understand it, take it apart and look at the inside.’
Upon leaving college, Matthews worked for an advertising agency, before turning freelance in 1970. During the early part of this decade he broke into the fields for which he has become famous – posters, book covers and record cover design. More than 90 of his images have been published worldwide, selling millions in poster format, as well as on international editions of calendars, jigsaw puzzles, notecards, postcards, t-shirts and even snowboards. Since his first record sleeve for Thin Lizzy back in 1969, he has produced over 130 record covers for well-known rock bands, including artists such as Asia, Magnum, Nazareth, Praying Mantis and Rick Wakeman.
Matthews has ventured into other fields. In the 1990s, with the late Gerry Anderson of ‘Thunderbirds’ fame, he completed ‘Lavender Castle’, an animated children’s series. Produced at Cosgrove Hall Films in Manchester, England, it was purchased by the ITV for the UK, but is now in the hands of Dreamworks. Matthews has also supplied concept designs for computer games by Sony/Psygnosis and Midway, as well as contributing concept designs to the 2005 movie ‘The Magic Roundabout. Matthews, the musician, is currently working on his own album, playing drums alongside Jeff Scheetz on guitar, John Payne (Asia) on bass guitar, Oliver Wakeman (Yes) on keyboards and multi-instrumentalist Pete Coleman – each of the tracks is inspired by his own images.
Matthews’ originals have been exhibited throughout the UK and Europe. As a regular exhibitor at the Chris Beetles Gallery in London’s West End, he met English comedian, actor, writer and producer John Cleese. With a particular fondness for Matthews’ illustrative pieces, Cleese has become a collector of his work, owning several ‘Alice in Wonderland’ originals and commissioning ‘Take Him Inside’ from ‘The Wind in the Willows’.
“Michelangelo, Manet, Monet, Matisse, Munch, Modrian and Matthews. All my favourite artists begin with an ‘M’. And so, Rodney Matthews is generally acknowledged to be among the greatest artists that have ever lived. Need I say more?” – John Cleese, 2008
This exhibition ‘Ionawr’, the Welsh word for January, encapsulates Matthews’ artistic career as both a science fiction and fantasy artist. His rich creations, which he considers to be exaggerations or extensions of natural forms, found in the surrounding countryside and wildlife, features strange creatures, exotic plants, lavish landscapes, as well as fantastical cities and machines.