Matthew Stone is an artist, shaman, photographer, performance artist, curator, writer, optimist and cultural provocateur. Graduating from BA Painting at Camberwell College of Arts in 2004, Stone spearheaded South London’s art collective, organising guerrilla art exhibitions, throwing notorious squat parties and generally putting Peckham on the art map.
Who or what first inspired you to follow your chosen career?
Ultimately my family and my teachers. I don’t come from a background with a lot of money. I got a job washing up in an old people’s home when I was fourteen and haven’t had any financial support from my family since then. But I feel privileged to have come from a home that actively nurtured my creativity. There is a history of people going to art school in my family, so I felt confident to do the same. I have worked hard, but ultimately I believe that my successes stem from that early knowledge of creative careers, being told that I was important and that I could contribute to society.
What are you most passionate about?
I love people and thinking about how they relate to each other. I think that whilst religion in its established form, has largely ceased to be of relevance, the same gaps that it was initially designed to heal, remain. I think about whether art can do this, every day. If it can it won’t be through this small idea of an artworld that only exists to sell expensive objects. I think we need to always think bigger, to try and bounce off of infinity. We don’t need an artworld, we need an art universe.
Which piece of art/design/performance/communication/fashion do you wish you had created?
I am a student of the Dutch artist Louwrien Wijers. She worked with Josephs Beuys and interviewed him extensively. There is one interview that she takes, at Beuys’ request, onwards to Warhol with the same questions. Amazingly Warhol then suggested she also pose the questions to the Dalai Lama. It’s a rare and fascinating piece of art history and a collaborative artwork in itself. I interviewed her about it here.
Do you think arts education has an important role to play in Britain’s cultural life?
Absolutely, yes. For those who believe in competition and not compassion it can be difficult to trace art’s worth. But as John Ruskin said: “Industry without art is brutality.”
What advice would you give to aspiring creatives?
Even after the vicious, immoral and dramatically short-sighted education cuts, you can still afford to go to art school, if you want to. Whilst you will be left with a disgusting amount of debt once you graduate, you only pay this back when you earn enough money to do so. Whether you go or not, go to nightclubs, talk to strangers, find unlike-minded people (who you still like) and try out everything.