Matt Whitfield was born in Middlesbrough in 1974. He lived in Eston and attended school in nearby South bank. Leaving school in 1991 there were very few options. A decline in the heavy industries of the steelworks and the docks meant the opportunities previous generations had enjoyed no longer exisited. The backdrop to his childhood was in decline. A short spell on an ICI youth training scheme offered some hope but with no guarantee of a job at the end of it Matt joined the Army as a means of escape.
A successful 22-year Military career followed during which Matt travelled far and wide. Despite all this travel, Middlesbrough with its heavy industry, rugged coastline and surrounding hills and moors was always the place he called home and he returned to live in the area after leaving the Army.
Matt has chosen to focus his work on his hometown, not for nostalgia or to hark back to some bygone era he would hear his parents and grandparents talk about, but to show the beauty of the area today. The iconic Redcar Blast Furnace, the Teesside skyline with cooling towers and steel bridges watched over by the Cleveland hills, the mouth of the tees with Fisherman’s huts and boats in various states of disrepair. The abandoned steelworks and dockyards rusting and slowly being reclaimed by nature. And finally, integral to all this, it is about the people. The impact on them living in this glorious corner of England.
Matt works in charcoal and soft pastels with limited pallets to try and capture the stark raw beauty of his subject. He is inspired by local artists Len Tabner, David Mulholland and David Watson.