Coinciding with his on-going ‘More than a Pony Show’ exhibition in The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art, artist Matt Stokes recently visited BA (Hons) Fine Art students to lead a careers talk.
Matt Stokes’s practice stems from a long-term inquiry into subcultures, particularly musical ones. He is interested in the way music provides a sense of collectivity, acting as a catalyst for particular groups to form, shaping and influencing people’s lives and identities. Speaking of his practice, Matt said, “My work comes from an interest in communities, moments and events that bind people together”.
Matt's latest piece of work, ‘More than a Pony Show’ as part of We The People Are The Work, highlights how he immerses himself in an area of interest, through which collaborations with informal communities arise.
Working with local punk bands, Stokes explores the legacy of protest and resistance, whilst charting the decline of live music venues across the city by filming the bands as they perform at sites of musical historical significance across the city, including the Van Dike Club, where David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen and The Sex Pistols played gigs.
Detailing how he initially saved up money for his practice by working as a blacksmith's assistant, something which he had no prior experience of, paired with working in a pub each evening, Matt explained how a career doesn’t always have the smoothest of starts.
“Dialogue between artists is so important, it can be hard to find but within the art college it’s happening all the time.”
– Matt Stokes, Artist
But perseverance is key, and his first big break came after submitting numerous applications for opportunities and residencies through arts and culture magazines such as A-N.
Matt was granted funding and support to develop an audiovisual piece that would be screened in three cities, Manchester, Nottingham and Hull, as part of Now Festival. He went on to create an interactive choral version of Wandering Star by Lee Marvin, to be projected in the city centres as a karaoke-style sing-along for festival goers.
“That piece of work got me a whole load of other opportunities. I had shown I was able to make a project work, within a budget and to the highest quality possible” Matt explained.
"Throughout the talk, Matt Stokes gave an honest and detailed account of his career trajectory, how it has developed, including invaluable, rich anecdotes and advice for aspiring creative practitioners whatever their level"
– Steven Paige, BA (Hons) and MA Fine Art Programme Leader
Opportunities soon followed to create a piece for a gallery in Austin, Texas, to coincide with the music festival SXSW. He was also approached by chart-topping British band Maxïmo Park, to produce a music video and accompanying artwork for their song Brain Cells.
Matt finished the talk by discussing his top tips for writing a proposal, stressing the importance of thoroughly researching your audience, developing a structured schedule and an achievable budget.
“Be ambitious but make sure it’s achievable, make sure you can sum up your idea in two lines, and always allow an element of intrigue so the commissioner doesn’t quite know what they’re going to get.”
BA (Hons) Fine Art student Molly McCarthy commented after the talk, "Not only did Matt Stokes' talk provide an inspirational insight into the nature of his practice, but the information he provided about successfully navigating a career within the arts was really helpful and encouraging."
More than a Pony Show is available to see in The Gallery until 18 November, the exhibition is free and open to all.