Louder Than War present the new ‘Ups & Downs’ art exibition put together by Manchester artist Matt Carroll and his sister Maria, as the exibition stands on view at Salford gallery right now I caught up to ask Matt on his thoughts on its reaction so far. But more importantly on colaboaborating with his sister Maria who has Downs Syndrome and who has helped in creating some of the collections stand out pieces within this innovative art collection.
ground breaking art exhibtion by Central Station’s artist Matt Carroll & his sister Maria Carroll, who happens to have Downs Syndrome
Working alongside brother Pat and Karen as ‘Central Station’ back in the mid 80′ into the 90’s designing era defining album cover artwork for Factory Records biggest groups, his work is something which very much defined an era within music and as well as the British artworld itself. A resume which includes designing the full discography of cousins Shaun and Paul Ryder’s Happy Mondays record releases, and Black Grape. As well as album artwork for James, Northside and other groups/artists.
But also for creating standout portraits for the Coronation Street 50th annervesry back in 2010 and of course for staging highly acclaimed exhibitions showcasing Central Stations very own distinctive style and vibe to the likes Bowie and Jagger, who called in for private viewings… so now Matt collaborates once again with family, this time with his sister Maria who has downs syndrome – and the results are really quite amazing as Maria’s naturel artisitic talent and eye for colour spearheads this ground breaking art collection and exibition at Salford Gallery… which is open to view right now, until June 4th.
above – Shaun Ryder joins Maria and Matt at the ‘Ups & Downs’ exibition at Salford Gallery.
Hi Matt and thanks for talking to LTW…’Ups & Downs’ is a real lively collection of work, the paintings are wonderful , the colours and effect are both exciting and rather striking. First off the exhibition itself and your own thoughts on the reactions and coverage so far?
Matt Carroll – Thanks, yeah the exhibition has been really well received,and attended in great numbers, the Gallery are really pleased, we have also had some great press in the Observer on Sunday Magazine & Guardian, the Big Issue and others which we are grateful for. But for us one of the best would be the coverage in the Downs Syndrome Magazine because this means we have made contact with the downs syndrome community in a more direct way.
It really does seem like there’s a style that runs throughout the Carroll artwork, something which Maria herself shows through her work like the Happy Mondays ‘YES PLEASE’ Back cover artwork which she created for the bands last album. And though your obviously a tight family and know Maria’s work better than anybody what would you say has the ‘Up’s & Down’s’ exhibition taught you about her art and her creativeness?
Well for one we as a family have always been aware of Maria’s creativity skills in more ways than just art. She is also very quick witted and has a great sense of humour, no but yes we have always been aware that she has artistic skills, with a number of birthday cards that she has drawn for family members over the years. Even going back to the painting that she did as a kid on some very early green striped on yellow background computer print out paper we were given and that used to come folded into one big block pile of paper. We’d also used draw on or make paper planes to throw at each other as kids – the painting of some flowers (that we used on the back cover of the Mondays Yes Please album ) we had on the wall of our office at 42 – 44 Sackville street Manchester for years. It can be seen on the photo of our office back in the day in the Book -Factory Records: The Complete Graphic Album. But with this collaboration working on each piece together I think we have both seen the marks and blobs we make together can work to make a whole. We have a very similar style in the free flowing way we apply the paint..we both like to be bold. I introduced Maria to large brush’s and didn’t want us to get bogged down in detail, just the feeling and the freedom.
above – Salford Flower
Maria doesn’t hold the same restrictions of and perceptions of where and when to apply colour, which is something we both share. I remember as a little kid in infant school, the class being asked who has a colour TV ( nobody had colour TVs back then). I put my hand up, I thought we had a colour TV but it was black and white, I’d been filling in the colour that wasn’t there. Maria also does not carry the same history of art baggage around with her, she has no inhibitions or worries and is the same with art. She doesn’t carry any load of influence from anywhere else, its all just completely natural. In fact I learn a lot about daily life from Maria.
That’s actually a really interesting way of looking at it, not being tied down to latest trends or by the established way of the art world could be one reason why working alongside you Maria has created striking and original pieces of art?
As Central Station we have always had our own agenda, which is freedom of the mind, and Maria is following in this tradition. As I said Maria has no pre conceptions of what art is, this is a great freedom given as there is no trace of how or what art is. Its from the soul in much the same way as I have always seen art, its from the heart.
above, the now infamous Central Station offices, Sackville st, MCR
How about the publicity you, Maria and the exhibition has caught over the last 6 months. Its been really well received hasn’t it, on many different levels. But what would you like to think the images and the whole idea behind it can influence in other artists and those who have Downs Syndrome maybe?
I think one of the things that the exhibition achieves is freedom to express yourself, who ever you are, where ever you come from or what ever background and this applies to everyone – not just people from the downs syndrome community. Creativity is not a gift given to the privileged few, we all have it.
To be honest a lot of the paint we used was from Quality Save, and got to say I like a Quality Save brush. It has good freedom in its strokes (ha ha).
One thing that this exhibition brings is that we all carry disabilities in one way or another around with us all our life, but most people with Downs don’t because they are free in some ways, from the oppression of so called normal life. Maybe that’s why they are so loving, have the biggest smiles and give the best Hugs.
This is also the ‘first’ collaboration Exhibition held in the history of art between a (so called) established Artist and a person with Downs syndrome – so we are proud of that fact.
above – Remembrance
Painting and art has become important to Maria as she has got over the passing of your parents, and I know your parents were a big influence on you and Pat regarding art. Taking you to see Lowry’s work at Salford art gallery as kids, I guess your parents would be really pleased to see you and Maria come together to create such a fine collection.
Yeah as I have said before, Mum and Dad were everything to Maria. She had spent almost every day of her life with them up to that point, it was and still is a massive blow to her, so this has been a great way to try and divert her attention and give her focus. It has proved to be very therapeutic, and has given Maria a great sense of achievement. As kids I remember the first time I went into Salford art gallery on the way home after our Pat had his plaster removed from a broken arm just up the road at Salford Royal Hospital (now Flats). He (Dad) took us to see the old street called Lark Hill Place in the museum, and then into the art gallery to see the Lowry art works. I remember loving one painting of a sea scape, it was just tones of grey black and white that came together in a fine line to represent the horizon. I just thought it was unusual I had never seen anything like it before.
I also remember what seemed like a massive Lowry print (Sunday Afternoon) of Peel Park that we had on the wall in the front room at home. And the day an old family friend of mum and dads from Salford who used to call round to fix the hoover, and him saying he knew Lowry! This I thought this was unbelievable as a little kid, how could anyone know someone who had painted this. And this around the time of the 70’s seemed to us like a long time passed, but also someone famous too!. Though at that time I had no idea really who he was, it was just a great massive print on our front room wall. But years later I found out that he only died in 1976 and would of still been alive when Ronnie was talking to me, about him. The other great thing and the connection of why Mum and Dad would be so pleased about our exhibition at Salford Art Gallery is that they only lived down the road from the gallery, off chapel street salford. Dad lived on Meadow Road and Mum just down the road on what was Rosamond street just past Adelphi. So Yeah Mum and Dad would have loved the fact that me and Maria have an exhibition at Salford Art Gallery, they would be so proud of Maria and really happy.
above – ‘Red & Purple flowers in pots with dots’
What kinda effect would you say putting the exhibition has had on Maria, and is it something you think she might want to do again, in some form?
This has given Maria a new found confidence, and a greater connection with the outside world She has more confidence in mixing with people on the same level – as she now says to me ‘I am an artist’ , or when she hears the word artist on telly she always now says ‘like me I’m a artist’. Or also ‘me and you artist Matt’.. or Sonny Jim as she calls me. Or batman or pain in neck or just what she normally calls me ‘a pillock’ or ‘you crackers’. People like Maria can bring great joy to someones life’s when they get to know them and spend real time with them. Maria is an unknown education and wisdom that has been one of the greatest funniest things in my life.
That’s great, and the fact she recognises herself as an artist too is fantastic. How about the paintings that have stood out in the ‘Up’s & Down’s’ exhibition so far, and why would you maybe say that is?
I think a lot have people have liked the boldness of the exhibition, and found it Positive, and Optimistic. In fact below is a letter that we received from a young woman and mother of 3 boys, two of which have downs syndrome.. it says everything.
“We’ve just seen your amazing exhibition at salford gallery and were blown away by the art work we particularly like the cat with big ears, the tulips and the kids doing stuff and animals!!! Having always been fans of the Monday’s and the accompanying art work we were chuffed to find ourselves in Manchester this weekend when we read the article in the guardian.”
“We were wondering if u were thinking of reproducing any of your work as we would love to have some for our home not only because we love your pieces but as a constant reminder and inspiration for us as a family. You see we have 3 wonderful little boys and 2 of those little boys are Otis and Eli who are twins and who also have downs.”
Thanks again so much for the colour you have brought into our day!
Indeed it is, must be rewarding to recieve such reactions to the artwork. So which would you say are your stand out pieces from the exibition?
As I said there powerful words that say everything. But for me I love all the art works for different reasons and the meaning behind each painting, but my favourite if I had to pick one would be ‘Ned Kelly’ (below), for its bold simplistic almost minimal abstract look.
And I’ve just asked Maria and her favourite is ‘Beach Fish Boat’ (below), Maria says – ‘More Stand Out’
Matt – Which I wanted to look like a massive stained glass window zinging in the church Sunlight.
How about some of Manchester known faces, from both the art and music wrolds…who up to now has been down to check the collection out?
To be honest I’m not to sure who has been to see the exhibition, but I do know that Shaun and Paul have both been to see the exhibition and loved it. I also know that a lot of music fans who know our work via Black Grape, Happy Mondays and all the Factory Records stuff have been to see the show. And also a wider mix of the community of Manchester and Salford who might normally not visit an Art Gallery have been to see the exhibition.
So where for you does ‘Up’s & Down’s’ figure in your own career, you’ve created some memorable defining artwork for Factory bands like James, Northside as well as the Happy Mondays. and Black Grape..and what do you have maybe planned for the future and your art?
This for me stands up with the Best. I will continue as always to make art, its the only thing I can do. We are hoping to take this Exhibition to other parts of the country, and we are also in talks about taking it to New York, for which we will be working on new works for. And I will continue to encourage Maria to paint and draw.
above – Multi Sea Scapes
Collaborating with Maria has turned out as real success and maybe something of a first – an artist with downs syndrome part of such as exhibtion like this, who has shown what art can really mean to people with mental disabilities, wouldnt you agree.
I also think its important to remember all the people like Ken and Margaret Cooke and thousands of others who work tirelessly every week to run Gateway clubs for those with disabilities and the mentally handicapped throughoutt the UK and the rest of the world with MENCAP. These people have made the life of people like Maria worth living through sport, music and so many other activities, not forgetting the Great gateway clubs on a Friday night full of dancing happy people. Maria has been attending for over 40 years and has won many medals for her club in swimming and dominoes and the like over the years. She won Gold in the 25 meter backstroke in an international swimming competition held in Switzerland – Geneva many years ago all thanks to the Gateway and Mencap.
This Exhibition is dedicated to the Memory of Our Mum and Dad Tom and Mary Carroll and Our Sister Mag and the rest of the family for all there support
Check out the ‘Ups & Downs’ exibition open til June the 4th at Salford Art Gallery Peel Park, Crescent, Salford M5 4WU
if you would like to buy a Pigment print from the Exhibition on 100% Cotton Rag 305gsm Hahnemuhle paper. Signed, limited edition print. please contact the gallery or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
above – Daffs with Blue Varse and Red Flowers
above – All into the infinity and Beyond
above – Crying Girl
above – Abstract 9 Daffodils
above – Cat with Big Ears
check out more interview with Matt on ‘Up’s & Downs’
Carl Stanley Twitter – https://twitter.com/Grimupnorth74