Tue | Oct 27, 2020

McCarthy follows art path

Published:Friday | June 23, 2017 | 12:00 AMKimberly Small
Artist Matthew McCarthy with his work at the National Gallery, Kingston.
An interactive graffiti board by Matthew McCarthy.
A large-scale Matthew McCarthy mural.
Street art recreated by Matthew McCarthy.

Visual artist Matthew McCarthy has grown his reputation so much so that his 'graffiti' is invited into historical European spaces for exhibition. His experience has expanded such that, at '20-something' years old, McCarthy has been asked to do a residency programme in the UK.

Early last year, McCarthy's work was exhibited in a gallery in Norway, where he also did a live mural. He described the experience a confidence boost, as his work was displayed along with Leasho Johnson, Ebony Patterson and Cosmo White

"The year before that, I went to Germany, Spain and Belgium, learning the ropes of music and arts festivals, went to nine in one summer, setting up whatever we had," McCarthy said. He sold postcards, T-shirts, prints and on-the-spot artwork

The artist's work, however, is not as inaccessible as being exhibited in a Norwegian gallery. McCarthy is responsible for the cover art of Kabaka Pyramid's latest single, Can't Breathe, as well as his upcoming debut album, Contraband.

By McCarthay's own admission, his base interest is founded in the construction of things. He told The Sunday Gleaner that he began thinking of a professional career with three ideas: "I did always think I was going to do something in art or something in mechanical engineering and I was always interested in social justice," he said.

With that combination in mind, McCarthy enrolled at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts to pursue fashion design. "I really wanted to do fashion design. It's the weirdest thing. This is different from building things. I looked at it in the same way as building things," he explained.




However, after stumbling upon the college's Visual Communication programme, McCarthy's path diverted. "I fell in love with visual communication because a lot of it was graphic design and I thought that could be the basis of everything. I could plan everything way before I had to actually produce it," he said. It is a work process which he has become well-known for 'muralising' it.

As his final Edna Manley project in 2013, McCarthy decided to take a deeper look at Jamaican visual culture through the ways we were represented or misrepresented.

"What captured me when I was young was spray paint," McCarthy told The Sunday Gleaner. "I was really wrapped up in hip-hop and graffiti the culture of it in America. It was an iconic thing for me. I never thought I would use it to paint walls. I didn't think it could happen in Jamaica."

He came up with New Jamaica. With the approach of the 'vandalistic' art form, McCarthy invited the hands and styles of his fellow artists and peers in an effort to develop and make Jamaica's 'street art style, identifiable. "If a company wanted a type of graffiti style, what would be produced was the American style. We have our own, from the '60s and the '70s. People were prideful then. What happened now?" he continued.

"Jamaica had a street art culture, and I wanted to explore what would it look like. I was hoping it would be a catalyst for my friends to start drawing more Jamaican images.

New Jamaica evolved into Paint Jamaica, an idea that also invited hands of fellow artists and peers in the construction of the frequently photographed murals on Fleet Street.