b. 1940, United Kingdom
Matt Rugg was born in Somerset, England in 1935. He studied at King’s College, Newcastle from 1956 where Lawrence Gowing was Professor. He was taught by and then worked with Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton. With a Travelling Scholarship awarded after gaining a First Class degree, he visited collections in Holland, Germany and Belgium. As Tutorial Student he taught at Newcastle for two years, and was then appointed by Kenneth Rowntree as Lecturer in Painting for a further two years, before moving to Chelsea and establishing his studio in South London.
During this period his work was included in group shows including the Arts Council’s Young Contemporaries and travelling exhibitions, the London Group, and at the ICA. As a teacher at Chelsea School of Art from 1965 he influenced painters and sculptors, going beyond Pasmore’s Basic Form syllabus, and encouraging students to discover their own materials and ways of making. He also contributed to the education of students at other art schools in the roles of External Examiner and External Adviser.
Matt’s first one-man shows of constructions in wood, and later in metal, at the New Art Centre in London in 1963, 1966 and 1970 won critical acclaim. This led to other solo exhibitions including in Milan in 1965 and other group exhibitions including Paris in 1967. During this time his work was acquired for public collections including the Tate Gallery, the British Council, the Arts Council, the Contemporary Arts Society, and regional collections. In 1978 Matt was a prize winner in the 2nd National Exhibition hosted by Tolly Cobbold/Eastern Arts. This signalled a change of direction in his work, constructing in galvanised wire and sheet metal in linear form.
At Chelsea School of Art, Matt taught in the Sculpture School when the department was led by George Fullard (1963 – 74), Geoff Dudley (1974 –84) and Shelagh Cluett (1984 – 2007). Chelsea’s Sculpture School was characterised by a free interpretation of the subject, often painterly and poetic as well as industrial.
Since leaving Chelsea in 1994 Matt has continued to work to commission. Abstract drawings in mixed media and suspended galvanised wire sculptures form the main body of his work. Some of this work was shown in a solo exhibition at the Chelsea Futurespace gallery in London in 2011 with the title Silent Notation and a short introduction by Phyllida Barlow. A larger solo exhibition of 45 sculptures and drawings shown at The Cut visual arts centre in Halesworth, Suffolk in 2017 was also well received. Matt continued to work in both his studios producing sculpture and drawings until his death on 6 June 2020.