Drawing on life’s dark experiences and turning them into a successful artform

The Twins Macabre

Local illustrator Matt Syms has just launched a new exhibition at Trinity Theatre entitled Ragnarök. Eileen Leahy caught up with him to find out about his show and what motivates his artistic work

Can you tell us a bit about the concept behind your latest show?
The body of work is called Ragnarök, named after the series of doomed events found in Norse mythology. It describes a great battle which results in the death of a number of Norse deities and the submersion of their world under water.

How did you translate this mythical tale into your own art?
I created a series of images which replicate a deck of Tarot-style playing cards in which a different character from Norse Mythology is represented, such as Odin, Thor and Loki. It is a unique perspective on a familiar subject which is executed in graphite pencil and then digitally remastered with colour.

Are you a full-time artist?
Like most creative individuals I have to do other jobs on the side, but I have been extremely fortunate to be involved with Trinity Theatre as one of their associate artists. This is an opportunity that allows me to create visual work for their shows, such as last Christmas’s Oliver!


Which illustrators influence you and why?
I have always been greatly inspired by James Jean, especially his graphite and digital work. He did the covers for the Fable comics and has beautiful line work. And then of course there’s the 20th-century American realist painter Edward Hopper, he is simply THE man.

Where does your inspiration come from?
My mind usually wanders off into the realms of fantasy most times of the day. Films and music usually get me thinking. When working on this exhibition I listened to a lot of orchestral music and also David Bowie’s last album, Black Star.

Does inspiration come easily to you?
Yes, but not when I’m looking for it. As soon as I need a great idea, I can guarantee it won’t be there. Conversations with friends are usually the best places to find inspiration.

The Well Bible Stories Retold

As well as illustration, do you practice any other artistic mediums?
I’ve played guitar for 16 years and I’m also an actor, but I don’t actively pursue it as a job as it’s such hard work. You have to really live that profession. I am toying with the idea of getting into painting again and I would definitely like to get back into life drawing classes.

How long does it take to complete one of your illustrations?
That’s a difficult question. It all depends on how much detail is involved, and how well I get the drawing right from the start. It can be anything from two hours to four days, but I am usually pretty quick once I get going.

The Twins Macabre

What’s next in the pipeline for you?
I have a comic book I am working on that I’ll be finishing once the exhibition is over. I’m also getting involved in a very exciting project with the London-based comedy duo The Twins Macabre, who have been writing a comedy musical called Gamechanger.

What advice would you give to any budding artists out there?
If you’re a sculptor; sculpt. If you’re a painter; paint. If you’re an actor; act. If you love playing guitar, then find a street corner or band and play. If you have something you love doing, then just do it, and keep doing it. Don’t excuse yourself!

Matt Sym’s Ragnarök exhibition is on at Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells until June 26.

For more information visit: www.trinitytheatre.net

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