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Posted 15.12.19

Matthew Raw brings Plymouth Zoo-inspired installation to Central Park

By Naomi Girdler

Matthew Raw, in front of the installation at Central Park

Paris-based contemporary visual artist Matthew Raw has developed a semi-permanent installation hosted in Central Park, following research into the history of Plymouth Zoo, which was once located in the park. The installation can be found in the shelter next to The Golf Hut, on the main promenade of Central Park, and features artwork by pupils from Plymouth School of Creative Arts (PSCA).

Opened in 1962 and closed just 16 years later, Plymouth Zoo served as a quarantine centre for animals arriving in the UK from overseas. Matthew used the story of an elephant temporarily held at the zoo as a starting point for pupils of PSCA to consider ideas of migration, transience, containment within a pre- and post-Brexit landscape and the experience of quarantine, creating their designs in response. The children also had the opportunity to print the tiles themselves using facilities in Plymouth College of Art’s ceramics workshop, assisted by graduates of the college, Laura Brooks and Benjamin Kew.

Matthew’s installation in the shelter by the Golf Hut in Central Park

50 designs that the students produced during this period have become motifs for a series of ceramic tiles that have been installed as public art near the zoo’s former home in Central Park, as well as featuring in Matthew’s recent solo exhibition in The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art, ‘Tactile Change’.

The ceramic tiles, designed and printed by pupils at Plymouth School of Creative Arts

‘Tactile Change’, which ran from September to November in The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art, was funded by Arts Council England and was commissioned by The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art and The Box Plymouth (the city’s major new cultural and heritage centre, set to open in 2020).

‘Tactile Change’ also featured ceramic prints taken from carved wooden blocks and large-scale interactive doors, with the elephant tiles forming part of the installation ‘Routemaster’; an arrangement of large-scale doors and fences deployed around the Gallery that directed and restricted the movement of visitors through the space.

Matthew said: “Working in Plymouth has been a delight, learning about the history of the city and the forces that have shaped it over the past century. I’m fascinated by the mixture of buildings new and old, and by people’s relationships to the notion of progress in the city; the things they hope will change and the things they want to stay the same. I’m impressed with the way things are done in Plymouth.”

Matthew’s involvement with PSCA stems from a mural project he is currently undertaking in collaboration with architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios.

Matthew said: “I’m working with architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios on my largest commission to date, part of a large mural on their new Arts & Humanities building at the University of Warwick. When I found out that they also worked with Plymouth College of Art on the design for Plymouth School of Creative Arts, a school with making at the epicentre of its curriculum, I knew that I wanted to work with children there for this project.”