Tough Moment – Matthew Hilton’s inaugural sculpture exhibition at Paul Smith
Always thoughtful, with a clarity of form and rigorous attention to detail, Matthew Hilton and his studio are world-renowned for their product design output. We are now rewarded with his first sculpture exhibition, ‘Tough Moment’ at Paul Smith Albemarle street in the heart of London Mayfair’s gallery district – until 30th October 2023.
A Royal Designer in Industry, Hilton’s understanding of engineering and all the stages of manufacture is much respected. It is now that we see the fruits of his labours when he has allowed himself the freedom to explore materials and form, shedding off the constraints in fulfilling any specific functional needs of the end user. He creates pieces that are reassuringly and seemingly familiar, that celebrate industry and the interaction of man and machinery and the hand of the maker. Striking and satisfying, they make you stop and stare.
Is this a tough moment, any nail biting?
The title Tough Moment has been carefully considered, it represents many things, some more obvious than others. Clearly the materials are tough and heavy, the making is tough and heavy, but also the process of creation of these sculptures, from ideas has been tough, I have had to question myself, analyse things, work on allowing my mind to explore more, dig and mix up stuff. It is partly a function of my age and the stage I am in my life, I go to lift weights regularly and try to eat well, making things is like that but for my head.
And, some of the pieces have references to intimate relationship, to the duality and singularity, the pushing away and coming together, splits, joins and what is between.
The glue and the space, the attraction and rejection.
I hope people will recognise those elements but also I know that people will see different things and in the end I can do only what I can do. This being my first ever show I am supremely interested in how people will respond.
The work is a genuine reflection of myself and I hope that observers will recognise that reality and passion. Art is obviously a subjective and personal experience, and people will engage with it in their own unique ways.
Have you always been working on sculpture in the background?
I am a bit obsessive and I have been searching for a purely creative outlet for a long time.
I know the roots of this show are from 7 years ago because I have sketches dated from then. Of course, I had no idea at that point where I was headed. That is one of the exciting things about making work like this, I have no idea where it leads.
Which materials / processes excite you?
I use sketching and model making to arrive at the forms, then transit to digital tools and then back again, to and fro. The craft and tech is interwoven.
I have been attempting to make objects of beauty which are industrially made, or at least they begin manufacture that way. There is also a lot of hand assembly of components and hand finishing, so it is partly the combination of technology and hand skill or craft. But the roots are in industry. I am using heavy and very tough materials but dealing with soft light gentle subject. This should be evident to people, I hope.
Do you allow yourself a shed, or is it strictly studio or workshop?
I work in my studio, and other peoples workshops and foundries. Also at home a lot. If the shed is meant to represent a place of my own to escape to, I don’t feel the need to do that. I can do that anywhere, just need to get engrossed in the work.
Can you tell us a little about how you approach to designing three rugs for Christopher Farr.
Designing this range of rugs with Christopher Farr was a completely new experience for me. It is a very different approach to designing product in three dimensions, where my work is usually framed by a tight set of criteria – ergonomics, structural integrity, jointing and joining of different components etc. At first, I found this new sense of freedom quite intimidating. I have always drawn in a sketchbook and taken thousands of photos, and over the past four years I have spent a lot of time making drawings on my iPad, both for specific work orientated design and also artwork for prints or sculptures, which one day I might have made. This visual record seemed the natural place to begin and whilst exploring the abstraction of those drawings, I found the beginnings of a concept for the rug designs. When the team at Christopher Farr suggested having each rug made in a different location to celebrate the skills and experience of the makers in Afghanistan, India and Turkey and add a layer of materiality and craft, this was something I was really keen to explore. Rugs and carpets make me think of the ground and of landscape, soil and earth and the visual impressions of where each of the rugs are made – bare trees, stony earth, sand and distant mountain ranges, as well as hazy, shimmering groups of people and animals – all began to inform the development of the sketches. This is a collection of designs that reflects the importance of origin, through the inspiration as well as the craft.
Matthew Hilton / Tough Moment
Paul Smith, 9 Albemarle St, London W1S 4BL
Exhibition until 30th October 2023
Mon-Sat: 11-6:30pm; Sun: 12-6pm