Creativity Fellowships: Peter Matthews' Grounded

The Cultural Institute, in partnership with the Glynn Vivian, is proud to present Peter Matthews’ exhibition Grounded. The exhibition is currently taking place at the Glynn Vivian but, due to COVID-19 restrictions, can now be viewed and explored virtually.


'Periwinkle' - Peter Matthews

'Periwinkle' - Peter Matthews Images: © Peter Matthews, Grounded, 2020. Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea Photography: Polly Thomas

Images: © Peter Matthews, Grounded, 2020. Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea
Photography: Polly Thomas

Background to the exhibition

In November 2019 the Cultural Institute launched the inaugural Creativity Fellowships designed to give artists of any discipline the opportunity to create new work inspired by a piece of academic research. The artist chosen as the Cultural Institute’s first Creative Fellow was Peter Matthews, an artist whose extraordinary work and methodology immediately spoke to the interests and concerns of marine biologist Dr. Ruth Callaway's study of coastal environments. 

Peter Matthews and Dr. Ruth Callaway, an artist and a scientist, both had spent years immersed in observing, experiencing and thinking about littoral landscapes. What might happen if their respective forms of looking were brought together? How might the vision of an artist effect the perspectives of a scientist, and how might the knowledge of a scientist alter the practice of an artist?

These were just some of the questions we took into this Creativity Fellowship. What none of us could have known was that a third participant would join the collaboration in the shape of Covid-19 and all its associated consequences. As such, this exhibition is as much a creative response to that unsettling, thought-provoking time we all experienced as it is to the qualities, tones and essence of Swansea Bay.

The Process

Dr Callaway introduced Matthews to the massive tidal range in Swansea Bay - which exposes large parts of the seafloor for a few hours each day – and her passion and detailed research with reef forming worms that live there. This discussion and collaboration was the starting point for the new work.

Matthews’ normal way of working involves immersion in the sea, with paper attached to an artist-made wooden drawing board – his materials include waterproof pens, but also the material of the sea itself. This performative, meditative act involves many hours (or even days) spent working in solitude in the sea, moving with the sea, drawing and painting. 

Dr. Callaway says of the collaboration, “Working with Peter Matthews during his fellowship forced me to take a step back and look at my work from a different direction. The question of purpose, scale and also societal relevance came much more into focus.”

The new works in the exhibition present a marked and tangible new development and direction in Matthews’ work. The global pandemic has of course changed and altered the course of this fellowship. As Matthews says, “My sensibilities to scale and distance, time and space have been deeply affected during the pandemic and throughout the fellowship, as well as my physical connection to objects and things, particularly how we make sense of the world by touch.”

Working in and around Swansea Bay, and on the Atlantic coast of Cornwall, the new works that can now be viewed online span sculpture and works on paper, to film and painting. Sculptural pieces have also been buried under Swansea Bay ready to be dug up and displayed in the gallery’s Atrium, and work has been made directly from clay in Swansea Bay.  

The exhibition has been supported by the Arts Council of Wales, Craft Council and the Pollock Krasner Foundation and will be available to view online until Sunday 28 March 2021.

You can also read more about Peter Matthews’s work on his website: