Matthew by James Earley
Original oil Painting
100 cm x 76 cm
It was August 2017 when I visited my home town of Southampton. It was a hot and sunny day and the streets of the city centre were full of shoppers. I noticed what appeared to be a pile of rags, a rag doll perhaps lying on the ground invisible to the busy shoppers. This “rag doll” was Matthew. I spent some time sitting with Matthew, talking about his life so far and finally sketching him in preparation for this painting.
I always like my paintings to develop from my initial reaction, the first impression of this scene was to be the skeleton of this painting.
I made some changes to the original scene. I wanted to make the sky appear darker as though a storm was coming, I added graffiti to the white wall by adding a cartoon picture of Jesus Christ on a cross being controlled as a puppet. I wanted this to suggest how people in power have used religion and twisted its true meaning to justify their pursuits. These pursuits have tended to be motivated by money and this fast and aggressive pursuit of material things have caused many to fall by the way side and ignored as a pile of rags. I also added the slogan “You are here because the outside world rejects you”, I saw this slogan in an old and derelict Mental Hospital and I really wanted to use this to show how mental health issues have helped create a flood of homeless people, mental problems that are a by product of an environment which puts pursuit of wealth above kindness and humanity. I also wanted to put more of a focus on the drops of water on the ground and ultimately raise the question; are these drops of water or tears?
Finally the red headed girl in the back ground is really important in this painting. I wanted to show her reaction, a reaction of disgust and amazement and allow this reaction to battle with the emotion of Matthew who appears to smile and yet his eyes are swollen with pain.