Tag Archives: Stephen Mathewson


Sadly this is my final post for the Fishmarket blog. So forgive me for making it a long one.

I have been involved with the Fishmarket in some way or another for three years now. First as an exhibiting artist and more recently as the gallery curator.

I’ve been deliberating over how to end this blog for the past few hours in between packing up to leave for Hong Kong. I think it’s best to keep it simple so I present you with my own personal Fishmarket Top 10.

In no particular order:-

1. The Instruments of Oblivion – Exhibition

This was my first experience of showing on a truly mammoth scale. I had a tremendous time rising to the challenge of filling the space by building a 30 foot tall volcano and a replica of Northampton’s now demolished castle.

Back in those early days the Fishmarket was run by the indefatigable Jayne West. She had done an inspirational job of turning the Fishmarket into a bona fide contemporary arts space. In fact everyone attached to the Fishmarket project seemed to have contagious enthusiasm, so it seemed natural to remain in touch after my show came down.

The Instruments of Oblivion Live at The Fishmarket

2. Sixty Miles by Road or Rail – Closing Night

When I arrived at the Fishmarket to start my tenure as the curator  the gallery was going through a number of funding problems. The most pressing issue was that we did not have funding secured beyond the first four months of 200, closure seemed imminent.

By the time we got to the closing night of “Sixty Miles by Road or Rail” we had confirmation that the building would continue to be funded. Obviously this was a great excuse for a party!

We also gave away 100 “A love affair with Northampton is a journey into space” T-shirts. It’s always great when I spot somebody wearing one. You’ll have to some serious dredging of ebay to get hold of one these days!

Sixty Miles by Road or Rail Closing Night

3. Feast of Fools – Install

One of the great pleasures of curating at the Fishmarket is the install period. Every install has been different and the opportunity to see a range of different artists respond to the gallery and its spacial eccentricities has been valuable.

This particular installation sticks out in my mind because it was the show that gave us Chris Davies phenomenal “Banjo-Playing Tree Frog”.

While the piece was being constructed in the gallery, I was having serious concerns about how it would be received by the local public. It’s not the most subtle piece of art!

Although I had visions of myself being chased from the gallery by locals bearing flaming torches there wasn’t a single complaint. I was thrilled to find that it was immensely popular.

Chris Davies and His Frog

4. My Heart Spins on the grill – Install

As anyone that has spent any amount of time with Stephen Mathewson and the Brainmanagerz will tell you, there is a very serious danger of “funburn”.

“Funburn” is a symptom of too much laughter, which was in plentiful supply during the preparations for “My Heart Spins on The Grill”.

Booze City

5. Hiker Meat – Opening Night

The Opening night of Jamie Shovlin’s “Hiker Meat” was memorable for a number of reasons.

It is currently the most technically complex show that we’ve hosted at the gallery and it exploits the space to great effect. The photos don’t really do the installation justice, take my word for it – it’s well worth making a trip to visit.

The added performative element on the opening night transformed the Fishmarket for the evening, hopefully it showed people the amazing potential of the place. The exhibition is a great platform for the Fishmarket to continue to build on, and it was great for me to leave on a high.

Jamie Shovlin and Lustfaust

6. Renewed Funding

One of the best days of my tenure was recieving news that we had been given a grant for the arts by the Arts Council.

The news came after a long , frustrating summer without money to host exhibitions. To say that I was excited when I heard would be an understatement. I’m not certain what we would have done to continue our activities as a gallery had we failed in our application.

7. Sixty Miles by Road or Rail – Surround Northampton Fishmarket

“Sixty Miles by Road or Rai”l was my first exhibition as curator at the Fishmarket and as I mentioned previously it came at a point when we were all uncertain about the future of the project.

Bill Drummonds “Surround Northampton Fishmarket” performance helped us drum up renewed support at time when that was exactly what we needed. Aside from that it was a huge amount of fun.


8. Natural Disasters

The Fishmarket is far from being your average gallery. This is in part due to the buildings micro climate. When it’s cold outside it’s colder in the Fishmarket, when it’s hot outside it’s hotter in the Fishmarket.

There have been floods, snow, ice and parching heat.

When rainstorms hit the gallery the sound is incredible. The drumming of the rain on the roof acts as a warning signal for us to man the mops in readiness for asuaging the flow of the flood water!

9. Don Letts

Don Letts’ appearance as part of the Feast of Fools exhibiton was a high point. His film “Carnnival” was excellent food for though and his talk and Q&A afterward was always lively and interesting.

Here’s a clip of Don at work.

10. Steve and Franziska’s Kids day

Steve Mathewson and his colleague from the Vienna Children’s museum and The Brainmanagerz very kindly agreed to put on a childrens day as part of the “My Heart Spins on The Grill” exhibition.

It was fantastic to see so many people in the gallery having fun. Steve was generous enough to invite the participants to contribute to his exhibition in the form of wall paintings.

Painting in The Gallery

I’ve had an amazing time working at the Fishmarket, thank you to all of the artists and musicians that I’ve worked with over the past 18 months and a big thanks to all the staff, boardmembers and traders at the Fishmarket for making my time so rewarding.



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Tea Towel

Yesterday we were the proud recipients of our limited edition Stephen Mathewson Tea Towels.

This previous post will explain the significance of the images on the towels.

Not only are they great documentation of a great day, they are also fully functional drying up cloths! You can either frame them or dry plates with them, the choice is yours. At the bargain price of £3.50 why not buy two!

This is a VERY limited edition so hurry while stocks last. They can be bought direct from our office, so either drop by in person or contact us through our website.

Stephen Mathewson Tea Towel

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The Anarchist’s Sistine Chapel

A while back I promised to post some text written by David Quigley. It was produced to accompany Stephen Mathewson’s exhibition. Although that show has since been taken down the text is worth returning to as it captures the spirit of the Fishmarket beautifully.

 “We are what we say and do. We are words, images and sounds. We are unique moments in history, but we are also epochs, generations, socio-economic and cultural clichés. Things appear to us and we make sense of them in pictures, stories, dreams, songs. We make sense of ‘the times’ we live in. We make sense of the way everybody behaves around us. With this knowledge, we create ways of seeing the world but also ways of living and exchanging with others.

To try to stress the simplicity of this exchange. Every image (in stories, in music, in pictures) must function at the most basic level. Of course, over time these things become more complex. We react to more and more experiences. We become aware of more and more paths through the world. There are many voices running through our heads, shaping our thoughts and desires, telling us to go down this or that way.

Art says something and has to speak directly to the viewer, recognizing certain common expectations about what makes art art and not something else. As art leaves the comfort of the studio, it begins to engage with a “general public” but also with the history of art and with others practicing and thinking about art. The problem of the common language for dialogue: where to begin? Beginning must be now. Painted directly on the next best wall, piece of cardboard or canvas. There is no time to waste.

The goal might be to make an anarchist version of the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s La Stanza della Segnatura or some other great monumental work. A stateless and godless Vatican, celebrating the mysteries of life and death, but not based on a religious narrative or social hierarchy. Everywhere around us, there are these epic stories hidden amongst the trash and rubble. But how do we begin to take ourselves seriously enough to be able to understand that fact? This was perhaps the most important message that the legacy of the 20th century left behind for us. Celebrating the uniqueness of a single day, of simple materials and spaces. Everyone an artist! (if only it were that easy!).

Stephen Mathewson’s work lives as a sketch. Open, improvising but also unwaveringly driven by a drunken determinedness. These images are fictitious memories. Recollections of a nonsensical story about our lives. The story, our lives, are both bizarre concatenations of events. A celebration of the random decisions that turn into reality.”

–  David Quigley 2010

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Show’s Over

So, “My Heart Spins on The Grill” and “Abstructavist Drawings” have finally come down.I had high hopes for both and they far exceeded my expectations.

In tribute to Steve’s love of the grill party we held a barbeque in honour of him, the Brain Managerz and the Williams family for all the hard work they put in along the way.

Final Grill Party

No time to rest though. Soon after, I joined Steve in Vienna for the Soho in Ottakring festival to produce work as part of an “Informal Research Lab”. I will post more about that in the coming days.

Right now we are concentrating on our next show – “Hiker Meat” a multi media extravaganza by London-based artist Jamie Shovlin.

The installation will be a spectacular affair. It’s going to be the last show that I will be acting as “hands on” curator so I’m hoping to leave with a bang!

Hiker Meat - Jamie Shovlin

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Month of Mayhem

It has been a long time since I had the chance to take a moment and write something for this blog.

Since my last post I have been in Austria to work on a project with Stephen Mathewson and artist Maura Jasper (amongst other international luminaries!) as part of the annual “Soho in Ottakring” festival, I have been in Hong Kong to look for somewhere to live(!) and I have seen a great deal of excellent art in degree shows across the Midlands… More about all that and more in subsequent posts. I’ll finish with the image below taken from a recent performance in Vienna. Yes, that’s me.

NEXT POST:- Mark Farhall Publication.

The Snowman in Vienna

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Comics, Televisions and Super Peanuts – Part 3.

Just because the show had opened didn’t mean that work was over!

The following afternoon Stephen and Franziska who are both employed by Zoom Children’s Museum in Vienna came into the gallery to conduct a children’s workshop.

The weather was great, a good-sized crowd turned up and everyone was eager to take part.

Stephen Mathewson addresses the crowd.

After quickly getting to know everyone, Steve talked to the children (and teenager) about himself and his art. Introductions aside the group got down to the serious business of joke cracking and comic drawing.

Silence descended as the concentration increased!

Steve, Franziska and children make comics.

As the afternoon progressed the children were encouraged to paint on larger pieces of paper. The lure of sitting around the gallery painting pictures was too much and I was compelled to join in!

After a few rounds of painting on paper, Steve upped the ante and told the children (and a teenager and a few adults by this point…) that he wanted them to paint directly onto the gallery walls and be part of his exhibition.

Painting in the gallery.

A series of television sets with blank screens had been painted on the walls of our cinema and the plan was to invite the children to paint their own T.V. show on the screen. It was great to see everybody so absorbed in their work – children and adults.

The Grown-ups.

Thank you to Steve and Franziska for an excellent day! Click on the image below to see all the finished televisions.

The fruits of our labour.

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Austrian Potato Salad and the Opening Night – Part 2.

Following on from my post about the lead up to the opening of our current shows – “My Heart Spins on The Grill” in the main gallery and “Abstructavist Drawings” in Gallery 2 – it’s time to move on to the day of the opening.

As with all shows, no matter how much planning you put in there are always an enormous number of things that need to be done at the last-minute. One of the biggest tasks of the day was preparing the food for Stephen Mathewson’s grill party.

We had strict menu instructions from Steve – chicken legs, tiger bread (not made of tigers – see here) and Austrian potato salad. Steve has an aversion to mayonnaise but still has a passion for potato salad. Fortunately, Austrian potato salad is mayonnaise free and luckily for us Dieter Preisl drummer with the Brain Managerz, artist and all round nice guy is a master of the aforementioned salad.

Volunteers (thanks to all of you!) were sent out on mammoth shopping expeditions and by mid afternoon the ingredients for the grill were assembled. Tamsyn from the excellent Nook cafe very kindly assisted Dieter and together they created something marvelous.

While all of this was going on, Stephen Mathewson was still hard at work attempting to finish his wall painting before the show opened.

Stephen Mathewson finishing his wall painting minutes before opening the show.

The painting was completed just minutes before we opened the show and the paint was still wet when the public began to arrive!

Steve still had work to do. Not one to shirk his responsibilities Steve disappeared to concoct litres of sauce for the chicken – giving the public a rare opportunity to eat his art!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the gallery I was hanging the final painting of the show. Once that was done, it was time to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labour.

Josh hangs the final painting.

Mark Farhall’s selection of drawings were looking exquisite in Gallery 2. For the opening night Mark had provided me with a compilation of vintage science fiction music that he wanted played in the space as ambient sound while visitors took in the work. Think theremin. The effect was excellent and helped put the work into context, sadly we aren’t able to play the music at all times.

Mark Farhall and his Abstructavist Drawings.

Out in the Fishmarket garden, grill master Dan Brodie was doing a fantastic job of cooking vast quantities of chicken to Steve’s exacting instructions. He was ably assisted by our volunteers who deserve our thanks for giving up their time to help us.

Cristina Pedreira and Mark Farhall enjoy food from Stephen Mathewson's grill.

For thefistst time in a long, long time the weather was glorious. The sun was shining and the gallery was looking vibrant. It was a great way to celebrate the first show of the new year and a great way to open an exhibition. When the sun began to go down the musical entertainment came out.

The opening act was the incredible Mrs Pilgrimm who sang and played cello. If you weren’t there you missed a beautifully intimate performance. Click here to find out more.

Following on from Mrs Pilgrimm were Stephen Mathewson’s Brain Managerz. The band were excellent, their tunes being the right balance of rough-edged and beautifully crafted. It was a treat of a performance and a great addition to the exhbition, even if it was just for one night.

I mentioned earlier in this post that drummer Dieter Preisl is also a fine painter. The Brain Managerz are not just an excellent band, they are all talented individuals in their own right.

Brain Managerz bassist Franziska Abgottsponn is also a member of Viennese mega-band Thalija, I highly recommend the album “Thalija II” on Pumpkin records. Franziska also makes music under the name “eloui” find out more about her prolific output here. Guitarist Thomas Geldmacher is a researcher with the Austrian Green Party, oenophile and has played with more bands that I’ve had hot dinners. Trumpeter David Quigley not only has the tone of a young Lee Morgan he is, amongst other things, an expert on Carl Einstein. Take a look at David’s book here.

David very kindly wrote the text that accompanies Stephen’s show, I’ll post that in the coming days.


Stephen Mathewson with Brain Managerz performing at the Fishmarket.

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