Week 5 Response – Engaging with the Past












Who are some other contemporary artists who use traditional materials, genres, or subject matter from the past? Why are they engaging with the premodern?

Matthew Simmonds has a Bachelor of Art History specialising in art and architecture of the medieval period and is trained as an architectural stone carver. He previously worked on the restoration of several major British national monuments, including Westminster Abbey and the cathedrals of Salisbury and Ely. Later, he developed his own classical ornamental carving style in marble in Pietrasanta, Italy, 

The thought of using marble or stone as a medium would immediately be directed to the Greek marble sculptors from the past. However, Simmonds specialty in marble updates this traditional medium and technique. Moreover, from his past work of restoring cathedrals, his work is mainly inspired by sacred buildings such as baroque basilicas and Ancient Roman temples. These scenes engages with the premodern works of art by adhering and capturing the specific art styles and medium of their time. Thus, by using traditional themes of the past, we understand what sacred buildings are about and what gives significance to a space. Moreover, his work features architecture on a small scale which reminds me of the Mughal miniatures as it depicts artistry and creativity on an intricate level yet in small area of space too. Due to his past work of restoration, his work is mainly inspired by sacred buildings such as baroque basilicas and Ancient Roman temples. 

Simmonds’ principle is to highlight how “Nature overpowers architecture, as if it encases or envelops it”. The beautifully carved interiors alludes to buildings as fossils, carved and trapped inside the rock, therefore, humbling the architecture we once revered as without nature, we would not have such works of art today. By enveloping these scenes with nature through the stone, it creates some sort of balance within nature and the man-made.