How to describe Matt Whistler? We could play it really straight and say he’s an artist. Or a performance artist. We could say he’s a comedian. When I asked him he said “Say I’m a modern day Charlie Chaplin. An eco clown. A walking artwork.” It might just be easier to say “all of the above”. A mischievious comedian with a creative free spirit. But if you scratch the surface there’s a serious message about the environment and waste.
“It pains me to walk past things that have been discarded. I just look at them and thing “What can we do with that?” (We met Matt outside Objet D’ials during the last / worst days of the bin strike and someone had left a huge pile of flattened cardboard boxes next to the throbbing pile of bin bags.
During our chat, he’d created a gallery exhibition of them, a sculpture, there was an idea to line the pavement with the cardboard and slogans and… Did any of it happen? Some of it, maybe all of it, maybe none. It doesn’t matter. There’ll be another idea along in a second. Talking to Matt is like talking to the little silver ball inside a pinball machine.
Matt’s recent projects have ranged from painting an old locomotive near Glastonbury, an exhibition of his dot-based work (“I don’t know what happened but I broke through to the other side and I haven’t stopped doing dots since”), a cafe in the Marina (“I went for a coffee there and just thought ‘Hold on a minute, there’s a canvas here. There’s a cafe in a really nice area next to the sea’…”) and a project involving painting – breathing new life into – the covers of hundreds of albums he found in a skip.
But it’s as his latest creation Artist Dotty that there’s most fun. An oversize character in a whose looks nod in the direction of Leigh Bowery but who, like so much of Matt’s work, treads the line between absurdist and message. Dotty has a habit of appearing where you least expect him. Right now you’ll find him on the back of a series of jackets in “Objet D’ials”.
Is Dotty a classic absurdist device to created to highlight the madness of our society – in this case, waste and the environment – or a very strange bloke in a green screen onesie? “Let’s say an eco clown whose job it is to make people look, laugh and maybe think.”