Lindisfarne inspires Matthew’s unconventional nautical creation

Matthew Walmsley outside his Boathouse, Boatshed, Gallery instalation which is opening at Paxton
Matthew Walmsley outside his Boathouse, Boatshed, Gallery instalation which is opening at Paxton

HE’s turned a skip into a seaside; bails of hay into a caravan and a stack of wood into a bedroom and for his latest trick, Berwick’s Matthew Walmsley has transformed an upturned boat into an art gallery for visitors to Paxton House to cast an eye over.

Strictly speaking that isn’t entirely true but to anyone who goes along to see his creation, ‘Boathouse Boatshed Gallery’, it will seem to all intents and purposes that that is exactly what Matthew has done.

Matthew Walmsley looking into his Boathouse, Boatshed, Gallery instalation which is opening at Paxton

Matthew Walmsley looking into his Boathouse, Boatshed, Gallery instalation which is opening at Paxton

The sculpture was first unveiled as part of Berwick Gymnasium Gallery’s ‘Sculp It’ exhibition last year and after it was well received by arts fans from the local area and further afield, Matthew decided to give it a new home following discussions with Paxton House’s director, Claire McDade.

Until recently, Matthew was the curator of the Gymnasium Gallery but has now found himself with more time to devote to his own art, rather than organising other people’s, after the popular hive of artistic actvitity was forced to close.

He took Lindisfarne as the inspiration for the ambitious ‘Boatshed Gallery’, which staggeringly only took around 10 days to put together from materials costing little over £10.

“I have a tradition of presenting sculptures with a hidden surprise,” he told ‘Life’.

“I like my work to have a hidden quirk and I like to play on the juxtaposition of things that people wouldn’t typically associate with one another.

“The sculpture is actually made from an old shed and is made purely from recycled materials. As well as using wood from the shed I used old scaffolding planks and things I gathered from my visits to Lindisfarne- pots, nets etc.

“When putting it together I tried to use the same principles you’d adopt if you were building an actual boat- I did a bit of research on the internet before hand to get a few ideas.

“The main difference is where a boat builder would use tar pauling I’ve used canvas. I very much had the ‘make do and mend’ mentality when I was putting it together- I’d like to thank Simon Heald who was a great help with that part!”

To describe Matthew’s art as straight forward would be like a travel agent promoting Antarctica as a sun, sea and sand holiday- it’s definitely not.

And speaking to Matthew last week about some of the highly imaginative installations he’s dreamt up and brought to life in his career so far, it’s clear that this is something he clearly thrives on.

“I want my art to have elements of intrigue,” he continued.

“People should look at my art and think they are looking at something quite simple but then realise if they scratch the surface there’s a lot more to it.

“One of the best examples is an installation I did in the middle of the field. To the naked eye it just looked like a pile of straw bails but it actually had a door on the side which led into a caravan done out with in authentic Victorian decor.

“And then there was ‘Daytrip To The Seaside In a Car Park’ which was basically a skip with sand and a pool of water on top where people could and paddle sunbathe and inside the skip was a fully functioning tourist shop- that was in the middle of Chelsea.

“Another one I was very proud of was a sculpture that essentially looked like a stack of wood on a building site but inside was a bedroom, very much like a sparer room at your granny’s house in the 1970s.

“If I was asked to shout across a crowded pub what I did I’d shout ‘I build holidays’. I think my creativity comes from building dens as a youngster and the fact I’ve retained that sense of child like playfulness.”

Going back to ‘Boathouse Boatshed Gallery, Matthew said he was very keen that his uncoventional art gallery featured work from local artists so adorning the walls of the upturned boat is work from Ladykirk’s Humphrey Wakeman and Lowick’s Deidre Green amongst others.

“As well as showcasing my own creation I was keen to expose other people’s work so I’m continuing the role of gallery curator in my own exhibition.

“I gathered the work by looking at what Lindisfarne themed art people were selling on ebay and by contacting artists I knew had painted there.

“I wanted to have variations on the Lindisfarne theme so there’s pieces on Lindisfarne being discovered by the vikings; its landscape and of course the iconic castle.

“Even though Paxton House has a different fishing background to Lindisfarne- with its strong links to salmon- I’m really pleased that the ‘Boatshed Gallery’ now has a home here.

“Around 5,000 people saw the structure when it was part of ‘Sculpt It’ in the Gymnasium Gallery’- a 79 per cent increase on audience figures. It was incredibly well received and I hope that with the footfall Paxton House gets there will be a good response to it here too.”

‘Boathouse Boatshed Gallery’ will launch at Paxton House with a picnic this Saturday, April 14 from 12-2pm and be on show until October 31 from 11am-5pm.