Featured Image: Matt and Graham, 2018
This September, in the centre of Burberry’s flagship London store a “dirty great scaffold” has been unveiled, built to showcase designer Riccardo Tisci’s new Autumn collection. At first glance, visitors would be forgiven for thinking the store was still under construction, but in fact the three-storey high scaffold, is one of artist Graham Hudson’s most recent installations. Constructed from industrial scaffold the artwork Sisyphus Reclined was built with the help of his friend and long-term scaffolder provider, Matt Bowler from Milton Keynes.
Artist Graham Hudson, 41 and Matt Bowler, 36, first met at MK Gallery in 2009 where Graham was commissioned to install his work titled ‘A Considerable Extension in Time and an Insignificant Extension in Space’ which consisted of a multi-levelled framework of scaffolding and pallets. Having approached several scaffolding firms who had turned him down, it was Matt Bowler from MK Scaffolding and Vantage Event Structures who accepted the commission and since then, Matt and Graham have collaborated on seven different projects, Burberry’s being the most recent.
So how did a Scaffolder from Milton Keynes and an artist from Kent end up having such a close working relationship? Graham explains “when I first met Matt I really liked his craftmanship but also his openness. It’s quite a rarity to get people in the scaffolding industry to take art seriously, but Matt responds intuitively so it’s collaborative”. Graham is a regular visitor to Matt’s Old Wolverton business premises where both Vantage Event Structures and MK Scaffolding are stationed. Matt explains “Graham and I sometimes work out elements of his installation in the yard using the scaffold and then build them on site, which is really exciting”.
Since their collaboration at Milton Keynes Gallery almost a decade ago, the two have worked together in Milan for Fendi and in London for Comme de Garcon at Dover Street and Selfridges, where an explosion of scaffold poles were delicately poised in the shop window and an 8ft crane digger was installed along with a statue of Venus de Milo statue in Selfridge’s interior. Other collaborations have seen them working for Japanese gaming company Nintendo and most recently for Burberry.
The world of fine art and fashion is a far cry from Matt’s roots as a scaffolder from Great Linford, where he set up his own scaffolding company Buckinghamshire Scaffolding Specialists (BSS) in 2002. By 2011 Matt had created MK Scaffolding along with an events company Vantage Event Structures, which now caters for big national events such as Chelsea Flower Show, Silverstone, Wimbledon and the Hyde Park Festival.
Did Matt ever envisage he would move into the world of fine art? “No not really, but we love a design challenge and have always been attracted to the creative side of the events business, so when Graham first approached us, we were really excited to get involved”. Graham admits “it’s quite difficult to get people in the scaffolding events industry to always take what you’re doing seriously, but with Matt it’s different”.
Graham studied at the prestigious Royal Academy of Art and from there his talent was soon spotted and star rose quickly. In 2007 his work All My Exes Live in Tesco’s caught the attention of art philanthropist Charles Saatchi at whose gallery Hudson showcased. From there Hudson was invited to LA, New York and Australia to showcase his work and in 2012 he was given residency at the prestigious Museo d’Arte Contemporanea (MACRO) in Rome.
Scaffold is a medium preferred by a growing number of artists, not just Graham Hudson and Matt’s scaffolding know-how has been called upon by installation artists, Israeli artist Eyal Burstein and German born Carsten Holler for their projects at the V& A Gallery and The Hayward Gallery respectively.
Sisyphus Reclined will be on display at Burberry’s flagship London store until January 2019.