Family photo albums:
During my childhood I would love looking back over photographs in carefully compiled
albums – these helped form strong memories of the time; holidays, friends, families, and travel between Bangladesh, India and Britain. Now I use the photographs as starting points for many of my works, creating a world of my childhood in paint.
I studied Fine Art and English Literature at Exeter University (1998–2001) before my MA in
Fine Art at Central Saint Martins (2007–2009). I clearly remember, during a post-colonial literature seminar, first hearing novelist LP Hartley’s opening line to The Go-Between: ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.’ This line has inspired much of my painting practice.
The people in my life, particularly those close to me all feature in my paintings. When I
paint a person, I feel like I am freezing them in time – that my painted world exists outside of time (where the sun never sets). I have always felt that when you know a person well, it’s easier to paint them: you can call on your memory of the person rather than simply depicting their appearance.
I love the different atmospheres of places I visit. These could be the comfort of a small room or the expanse of a large river-plain in Bangladesh. Each site has a feeling, colour and mood that speak of a specific geography, climate and even culture. All these are elements I like to explore in my paintings. The most common question asked of my paintings is: ‘Where are they set?’
What we remember (and spend time thinking about) contributes to our characters and
personalities. I like communicating memories – there is an element of storytelling throughout my work. Part of the process of painting my childhood is to create a world that viewers can experience. Within that world there is autobiography, but also invention and fiction created through a combination of memory and imagination.
As a painter I like to work with different types of paint; oil, paint, acrylics and watercolour.
Each has its own processes and feel, and I move between them depending on the surface, subject and scale of what I want to paint. It is a lifetime of practice to learn about painting and explore its techniques, approaches and cultural forms.
Contemporary painters that inspire me include Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (nominated for the
Turner Prize in 2013) and Hurvin Anderson (nominated for the Turner Prize in 2017). Past painters include El Greco, Goya and the (mostly anonymous) Fayum painters of Egypt (from around 2,000 years ago).
After finishing my BA, I travelled to India to visit and sketch the cave carvings and paintings in Ellora and Ajanta – these had a lasting impact on my practice and feelings about art. I also take inspiration from Kalighat paintings, Mughal miniatures and 20th century artists like FN Souza and Rabindranath Tagore.
Tagore had a large impact on me – he was a major cultural figure in my childhood (in both Bangladesh and West Bengal), and through my education and adulthood I have continued to study his texts, life and paintings. His paintings focus on people, places and memory, subjects close to my heart.
Having regular exhibitions keeps my practice developing and I welcome the responses of viewers to the work. I currently have a solo exhibition at Huddersfield Art Gallery – it is a large space and inspired me to work on my largest paintings yet, and bring together many works in one space. Each show allows me to test out new ideas and inspires me to create new work.
- Matthew Krishanu is a London-based artist. His latest exhibition The Sun Never Sets is being held at Huddersfield Art Gallery, Princess Alexandra Walk until September 15. Entrance is free. For more information, visit Twitter & Instagram: @matthewkrishanu, www.matthewkrishanu.com and www.kirklees.gov.uk/museums.