Artist Rene Matić: ‘This story is about what, if something, will save us’ | Photography

Yoshiko Yap

Two yrs ago, the youthful artist Rene Matić had the much-suitable slogan “Born British Die British” tattooed on their back again. The phrases unfurl in a delicate font across their rippling shoulders in the elegiac black-and-white portrait they then commissioned from 1 of their heroes: the celebrated avenue photographer Derek Ridgers. His early do the job with 1970s and 80s skinheads captured a burly tribal energy typically fuelled by extremist sights. Inked on a Black lesbian overall body, the phrase will become a whole lot much more than a war cry for embattled white males. “[The tattoo] was usually about the in-involving moments of being born British and dying British,” Matić claims. “That’s what my story is all about.”

For the artist, skinhead culture’s roots, when white and British Jamaican children danced side by facet to ska and reggae, and the movement’s later notorious tilt to the considerably appropriate, make it “the great metaphor for chatting about West Indian and white performing-class culture – my culture”. Skinhead insignia is a leitmotif all through On This Rock, the 25-yr-old’s first huge solo present of their movie, pictures and sculpture, at the South London Gallery. So, as well, are crosses and flags, the important emblems of nationhood and church.

However it is how day-to-day people today get to for, use and at occasions overturn these constrained symbols that are one of the exhibition’s main themes. It is an ethos summed up in the title of Matić’s 35mm images series, flags for nations around the world that never exist but bodies that do, an ongoing doc of their life in which id shifts regularly – from their wife Maggie’s fabulous outfits to their nephew Rudi’s childhood passions.

The star of the clearly show while, is the artist’s father Paul, whose uncooked, troubled lifestyle is taken care of with a gossamer touch in Matić’s astonishing initial film, Numerous Rivers. Paul is, improbably sufficient, a Black skinhead, who, impressed by an more mature white stepbrother, first found a perception of belonging and release with area skins in his residence city of Peterborough. This, nevertheless, is significantly from the most incredible thing about Paul. His lifelong wrestle with identity has knotty roots, commencing with the institutional prejudice that divided his father from the white Catholic mother he under no circumstances realized. Childhood abuse, care residences, alcoholism and the pervasive shortfall of chance in a unsuccessful “new town” have all taken their toll. “My whole existence with my father has been tortured by the ambiguity of his earlier,” Matić claims. “I set out, not necessarily to explain to his story, but understand it for each of us.”

Explored as a result of family members’ frequently painful recollections and footage of Peterborough’s neglected housing developments and broken-down churches, the movie could have created grim viewing. As an alternative, it’s as ebullient as it is shifting, shot by with times of liberty, laughter and caring: Paul dancing jubilantly in an or else drab backstreet and clearly loving the camera his sister’s solidarity his sheer charm as a storyteller. As the artist points out, “the crux is a working-class diaspora’s survival and triumph”.

A sculptural installation riffing on the image of the crucified skinhead with bronze Christs inspired by Paul, affirms him as a target with the prospective for salvation and resurrection. “When Paul talks about getting a skinhead in the movie, his facial area lights up for the 1st time: out of the blue, he has a goal,” Matić says. “This tale is about the induce and influence of suffering and suffering, and what, if just about anything, will save us in the stop.”

A few much more operates …

Rene Matić’s ‘Destination/Departure’, 2020
Photograph: Courtesy of the artist and Arcadia Missa gallery

Place/Departure, 2020
“This was partly influenced by earlier photos of fascist tattoos Derek Ridgers experienced taken,” suggests Matić. “I wished to insert myself into that narrative. I came across Derek’s pictures [of skinheads] when I was youthful. I imagine I was hunting for myself, or my dad, in that scene. His work was instrumental in me understanding my lifestyle, identification and situation – and opposition.”

Rene Matić’s Maggie in Orange, 2021
Photograph: Courtesy of the artist and Arcadia Missa gallery

Maggie in Orange, 2021
“This is 1 of a lot of images of my wife, Maggie, and their at any time-altering hair, which acts as a marker of queer time in this sequence. The exhibition explores how faith has offered by itself to me and the men and women I adore. Listed here, the way Maggie is represented is reminiscent of a sort of holy spirit. My gaze is that of pure love and belief.”

Rene Matić’s Maggie in Orange,’ 2021
Photograph: Courtesy of the artist and Arcadia Missa gallery

VE Working day Skegness III, 2020
“This was taken for the duration of the 2020 lockdown when Skeggy came out in entire patriotic pressure. I had been isolating there with my wife and hadn’t observed yet another person of colour for a few months and was feeling the body weight of it. It felt like a dystopia, like some Get Out shit. A single day, I’d been accused of stealing a parcel I was carrying. I stole some flags – which have been everywhere – as a substitute. This is me, knowing that gaze.”

Rene Matić: Upon This Rock is at South London Gallery until eventually 27 November.

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