Matthew Wang: art student

Estimated reading time:5 minutes, 6 seconds

Everyone has a story. What shall we do to this wall? That was the question at the heart of a collaboration between art student Matthew Wang and a dozen members of Islington Age UK’s art group. The answer led to the creation of a striking photo mural at Market Road. Interview by Nicola Baird.

Matthew Wang (c) MW

Central St Martins (CSM), now based in Granary Square at King’s Cross is part of the University of the Arts – an art school with an impressive reputation for cutting edge creativity and collaboration. That’s how final year art student Matthew Wang, who had experience doing big murals, met 10 keen artists from Islington Age UK. Together they made a massive mural behind the Market Road football pitches on the rear of Attic Storage’s wall. The only stipulation was that it had to be removable in one tug.

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“I asked if Age UK would like to work on this wall. I wanted to open up the project to people who were physically closer to the wall and had lived in this area for a long time, maybe their whole life,” explains Matthew. “I had no preconceptions. Age UK was surprised about this – I had to convince them that it would be a nice thing to do.” From the start Matthew didn’t want the group, who meet regularly at Age UK’s Drovers centre, to think of themselves as his assistants. “I wanted us to develop something from the start together, and hopefully that’s what it felt, inclusive from the beginning,” he says about the three-month project.

Matthew’s work is not specific to any medium, but arises from a method of working that takes on everything as potential material. “I think about this as a sense of nomadism – a visible method of working which is not defined to a niche,” he explains.

Matthew Wang and Islington Age UK met once a week to make a temporary exhibition on the wall behind Market Road football pitches. (c) MW

“Photography came up during our weekly meetings,” says Matthew recalling how it all started with the Wang collaboration with Age UK “and that’s how the idea to create a photographic design was developed. “I printed out small sheets in a grid and then we put these up, one sheet at a time, using wallpaper paste. I didn’t set out thinking I’d like to make a big mural, my interest was about working across generations. I wanted to test what it is like when someone not from the UK enters a community attempting to set up a space of exchange and what kinds of affects it would create. I had a personal interest in the project! I wanted to see what would happen between a number of encounters between myself and others. How do we co-effect each other? It might not be tangible, might be temporary or something that takes shape 10 years down the road – a gesture, a story or maybe as a result of our conversations that make you feel the world differently – those moments that affect you. So, the fact that the form it took as a mural was only because it came up as an opportunity,” he explains.


One of Matthew Wang’s art projects in Islington, the Martin Luther King Adventure Playground on the corner of Sheringham Road by Freightliners Farm, spotted on instagram @islingtonfaces

Places Matthew Wang likes in Islington

  • I do a lot of walking, it’s partly a student thing, hunting for cheap food starting at Waitrose by Central St Martins (CSM) and all along Caledonia Road. I know when the Co-op, Sainsbury’s and Tesco reduce their foods and I try to get a cheap deal.
  • I like walking the whole stretch of Liverpool Road.
  • I like the Parkland Walk – it’s a straight line.
  • Since I worked at Martin Luther King (MLK), one of Islington’s children’s playgrounds, in summer 2016, Paradise Park has grown on me.


Matthew Wang: “I didn’t set out thinking I’d like to make a big mural, my interest was about working across generations.” (c) MW

When Matthew explains more about his life to date, this determination to overlap a number of artistic skills and figure out what influences people, becomes clearer because he’s “lived nomadically” for years.

“I was born in the US, lived in Singapore, then moved around Asia and a few places in Europe.”

Now 29, Matthew’s living in Islington and has got to know the southern part of the borough up to Holloway well as he walks to and from CSM. “I experience places by walking: Holloway’s quite a fascinating area. It has a strange energy and awkwardness. The prison (Holloway) is so close to City and Islington College and the abandonment of the prison is strange too.” It’s possible there’s an artistic idea being brewed up – but whether it is or not, Matthew’s determination to create multi-layered, dynamic art was a big hit with Islington Age UK art group. And it’s clear he really enjoyed meeting these Islington characters, just as much as they enjoyed working with him.

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird dot green at gmail dot com. Thanks to Andrea Sinclair at Islington Age UK for suggesting this interview.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola