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Artikel: Moses by Matt Small and its art historical parallel

Moses by Matt Small and its art historical parallel

Moses by Matt Small and its art historical parallel

Matt Small is a truly terrific artist, he works in a range of materials and subjects but never fails to work with absolute optimism.  Seeing the best in everyone and everything not only makes Matt and amazing person but also an amazing artist, almost every piece of material used in his works have a past, a story that ended with them unwanted and discarded, but when picked up by Matt’s hand they become a piece of art, be it a colour, a detail, a canvas these sustainable resources are given a new lease of life. 


Where Matt sees the past of his repurposed materials he sees the future with his subjects.  Almost always choosing to paint the portraits of young people Matt aims to see their limitless potential in whatever life path they may choose as a further layer to his works, who will they become, and how will they look back on these portraits of themselves captured in a moment of youth and limitless possibles
In early 2000s Matt Small found another muse in a young kid named Moses, creating multiple portraits of the young man, all eponymously titled ‘Moses’.  Filled with his potential and humanity.

When looking at ‘Moses’ and his future it is hard not to think of the past. Over 300 years ago Sir Joshua Reynolds, founder of the Royal Academy, created a piece titles ‘Portrait of a Young Black Man’ (possibly Francis Barber?). For 1700 it was almost unheard of for not only a young man but also a black man to have his portrait painted at all, let alone by one of Britain’s most prestigious artists of the period.  Laying the foundations for future artists like Matt to pick up the torch and continue to champion and shine a light onto young black men and everything they can grow up to be. 

While sadly the exact identity of the sitter for Reynolds is not known, although suspected to be Francs Barber, we are given the impression he was, as everyone is, as charged with potential and possibility as Matt finds in his sitters as well as the other sitters for Reynold’s and his fellow royal academicians. 

In art history it is impossible to know what goes on in the artist’s mind for sure but some have speculated that the lack of identity on Reynold’s sitter suggest that the individual was not the subject but instead his youth and his race. This mistake and lack of clarity on who we should focus on is one that Matt Small will never make. In no uncertain terms are we told who or what we are looking at, with every piece titled after his subject Matt allows us to feel close to the sitter, and allowing the individual, full of hope, humanity and possibility, to return out gaze.

Moses in 2023 alongside the portrait of himself at the age of 15, his potential achieves (left)

Matt Small collecting and repurposing what was once discarded materials.

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