Artist Interview: Matthieu Leger

Since graduating with a First Class Honours from Falmouth, Matthieu has gone on to have successful exhibitions across the country. His work concerns aspects of the psychological, and his Borderland series marks a return to graphite drawing for an artist who has worked in various mediums. Works from this series are featured in Antlers’ Spatial exhibition, and to coincide with the show, he has given us an insight into his process and the ideas behind his work.

Matthieu Leger - Elephant - Graphite on Fabriano - 120cm x 90cm - AVAILABLE

Matthieu Leger – Elephant – Graphite on Fabriano


What are the main influences on your practice – and this Borderlands series in particular?

My practice is mainly influenced by ideas of the creative psychological space and I approach this using symbols, semiotics and metaphor in order to create fabricated imaginary places. With regards to the Borderlands series, I wanted to create a series of drawings that describe part of a room orcell with a wall and floor space in a psychological non-place.

I chose the title of the series to symbolise this view:

bor•der•land (ˈbɔr dərˌlænd)


1. land forming a border or frontier.

2. an uncertain, intermediate district, space, or condition.

Matthieu Leger - The Escape Artist - Graphite on Fabriano - 111.5cm x 145.5cm - £1,500

Matthieu Leger – The Escape Artist – Graphite on Fabriano

Can you explain your process in more detail?

The drawings all start the same. I staple paper from a roll of Fabriano 220gsm onto a large mdf drawing board and mask around the edges of the board using tape. This gives me straight edges to work from but also I am able to write little notes to myself on the masking tape.

There are two distinctive stages in the drawing process:

Firstly I grab a pencil and slowly shade the whole surface a mid-tone of grey to work from. Sometimes I will avoid areas that need to be very white, but for the most part the entirety of the paper is covered its very boring, but quite meditative and I can start to think as to where the drawing might lead. From then I grab a rag (or my hands) and smudge the hell out of it to make it smooth. From there I decide whether or not I will spatially draw a dividing line in the drawing offering in this way a floor space and a wall space, an inkblot shadow might then be added along with concentric circles.

From then commences my dialogue with the drawing. Using pencil, erasers, white sprit, rags, paint brushes, blending sticks, my own hands, and sometimes white pencil; Objects are drawn, words, phrases and symbols are added and removed, graphite is added and erased and pushed and pulled. My drawing in this way becomes akin to painting. Some things will be drawn and rendered in detail whilst other things will remain more abstract and ambiguous.

The drawing evolves through this systematic yet organic process. I have a vague idea of what I might want to draw at the very beginning of the piece, and the beginning of each drawing starts similarly, but there is never an absolute idea of what the end result will be.


How do you select all the different elements in your work – text, still-life objects, animals, and the inkblot shapes?

All the different elements of the drawing come together intuitively once the main subject of the drawing has been planned out. When I start drawing I try allow myself to work instinctively, if phrases and words pop into my head for some reason, I will write them down, the same goes for numbers and the naive drawings that might be drawn.

There are certain important symbols and elements that I keep returning to in the drawings: tally marks, origami boats,numbers, mechanical diagrams, inkblots, concentric circles, pills, the Penrose triangle,antipsychotic skeletal diagrams, the outline of a hand, climbing holds, each help to suggest certain things.

For example: The climbing holds hint that the walls in the drawing might be higher and continue further than to what is revealed in the drawing. In a similar manner, text or circles that continue off the page aim to suggest that the walls extend from what is presented in the drawing. Tally marks indicate that some person might be stuck or have been stuck waiting within this particular place for a period of time, yet remain absent from the drawing. When words and images appear back to front, upside down or the wrong way round,when shadows are manipulated, or when I mess around with the scale of subject matter, I’m implying the psychological nature of the work and the fact that what is being presented in the drawings is independent from the confines of our physical world.

There is a huge variety in your art, from works like 755 Pills and instillation art like Rafts. What made you return to graphite drawing? 

I have always worked across different disciplines and I find personally that in doing so, to not limit myself in the art making process, can help widen a creative vision. Put simply, some ideas are just better as sculpture whilst others are better manifested in other ways. The Rafts are a great example of this: as physical and sculptural objects, they can be interacted with and approached in a completely different way to the drawing. Having used recognizable objects in their construction they have the possibility to feel ‘real’ or even part of this world, despite coming from some other place entirely.

Being interested in ideas of the creativepsychological space, there is often in my workan element of exploration. A return to graphitedrawing in ‘The Borderlands’ series was purely a continuation of this psychological exploration.

Drawing for me was the only option forward. I had these ideas in my head that wanted to manifest themselves and the honesty and immediacy of the medium allowed me to work in this way. I could free myself from things like: drying times, or colour, like for painting;or even to have my studio space cluttered withwooden pallets and large oil barrels! I had paper and pencil and the act of drawing allowed me to be instinctive to what was going on in my head at the time.

Matthieu Leger - Show Me How You Love - Graphite on Fabriano - 102cm x 138cm - AVAILABLE

Matthieu Leger – Show Me How You Love – Graphite on Fabriano

How do you decide on the titles for your Borderland series?

The inspiration for the titles will vary. Some will remain simple such as: ‘Machete’ or ‘Elephant’, a simple word purely describing part of what has been drawn. Other titles maybe a little more ambiguous or take from art history, have religious connotations, a piece of automatic writing that occurs on the drawing itself, lyrics from a song I’ve listened to whilst producing the drawing, or spoken narrative from a film.

Most importantly, the titles for the Borderland series are meant to help in the reading of the drawing or to direct the visual narrative in some way.

Mattieu Leger - Jacobs Dream - new scan

Matthieu Leger – Jacob’s Dream – Graphite on Fabriano


What do you hope viewers will take away from your art?

Because of the psychological and open-ended nature of my work I would hope that the viewers form their own understanding of it.For me there is no definitive ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. The questions that are thrown up by the viewers in their own personal reading of the work is ultimately what matters most, and to an end, what is most interesting for themselves as well.


For more information about Matthieu and to further images, please see his artist page and the current exhibition.