Getting to know Christchurch designer Matthew Gallowayby Corinne Smith on 25/07/2012
This week Design Assembly talks to Matthew Galloway, a graphic designer living and working out of Christchurch. You may already be familiar with his independent label’s quarterly art and design publication ‘The Silver Bulletin’. Issue 7 was released earlier this week and Galloway has now taken residence in Dog Park, an art project space for three weeks. With his Risograph and A2 photocopier he will produce an entirely new publication: The Silver Bulletin 7.5. This edition will be made of content generated in direct response to, and in continuation of issue 7. By shifting the circumstances of production, this project is an investigation into the impact of location on the producer, product, and viewer.
Tell us a little about your background and how you came to establish ‘The Silver Bulletin’?
I graduated from Ilam School of Fine Arts with a BFA majoring in Graphic Design in 2008 and after a brief stint at a Christchurch advertising agency (the financial crisis got serious soon after I was employed… so naturally I was the first to be made redundant) I decided try and start up my own studio. A couple of years of small successes and a heap of learning followed and I made the decision in 2011 to go back to Ilam and do honours. Its fair to say at this point I was feeling increasingly cynical about commercial graphic design. I’d seen the way that big agencies fall into formulaic ways of working in order to meet deadlines and keep within budget, and I’d maybe had one too many bad experiences with clients squeezing the life out of my design. Looking back now, this time was incredibly formative for me—it has shaped the kind of design I want to do and the kind of people I want to do it with. By the time I started honors, I was very interested in the self-initiated design project, and that is where The Silver Bulletin came in. Another big factor was the earthquakes. The second day of the 2011 university year at Canterbury was February 22nd, an event which had an instant and lasting effect on the cultural fabric of Christchurch. All the bars, gig venues, galleries, and project spaces were suddenly gone. With a heap of the city’s cultural activities put on hold, I wanted to look at how a publication—printed, un-tied to a specific location, distributable and a holder of content—might work as a way to continue discourse amongst the arts community, provide a different venue for work as physical venues weren’t around, and in the process become an archive of thought and activity during an interesting time in the history of a city.
Impressively, you are involved in all aspects of ‘The Silver Bulletin’. How do you determine the theme/content for each issue?
Yeah, it’s important to note that The Silver Bulletin was/is a research output for me, and as such forms part of the line of inquiry I started following in honours last year, and now into my masters. From a production point of view, The Silver Bulletin is an investigation into the role of the designer—how that role might be extended to included printer, editor, writer, publisher and producer, amongst other things. I have a real belief that the object is designed better, and exists in the certain way it does, because I’ve led every step of the process. I also think that what you start to see is a dialogue between production, content and design. The way it is produced and printed effects how I think about the formal aspects of the design, which is obviously informed by the content and vice-versa. To put it another way, sometimes you’ll get the example of a book where the designer has been pulled into the process right at the end, and never really gets a chance to understand the content, so the design and the content seem worlds apart. By initiating every aspect of the Bulletin, I hope the opposite is true. Although, of course, every issue has its problems—but again that’s the beauty of the project—there’s always the next issue to hopefully resolve those problems, and find new ones.
Because of this way of working, the theme and content for each issue is really defined by myself and the circle of practitioners/friends I’m constantly engaging with. I started out thinking that the publication was specifically a Christchurch publication, but have begun to realise its simply like that because Christchurch is where its being produced. The earthquake, and how it is effecting the arts in Christchurch, can’t help but be a re-occurring theme… because that’s what is happening to and around the contributors. I think rather than the publication being tied to a specific location, its more so tied to me and my interests. I like the idea that I could go somewhere else, engage with an entirely different group of people, and produce an issue that would be quite different, but still very much The Silver Bulletin. I feel more comfortable with that idea now I’ve made a few issues… perhaps due to a stronger editorial sense of what the project is/can become?
The devastating earthquakes in Christchurch have undoubtedly presented the local design community with new challenges and opportunities. I found the following paragraph from ‘Creating the River of Arts’ in the April/May issue particularly interesting:
“Retention of young creative people needs to be a primary focus, and we must generate opportunities for them to be active agents for recovery and work collaboratively with Christchurch communities to create stimulating public art. Many have already left the city in response to the loss of studio spaces, exhibiting spaces, galleries, homes and part-time employment options following the earthquakes.”
– Deborah McCormick Director of Art & Industry Trust and SCAPE Christchurch Biennials a founding member of Arts Voice Christchurch and The Arts Representatives on the CERA Community Forum.
‘Creating the River of Arts’, ‘The Silver Bulletin’, April/May 2012
It seems the local design community themselves have proactively responded to the new found challenges – for example www.chchcreative.co.nz. What are your thoughts on this?
To be honest… I can’t help be a little skeptical at this point. A year ago, things like www.chchcreative.co.nz were popping up. People were energised by the prospect of a new city, of doing things differently. And I think there was a wave of positivity that was half coping mechanism and half naivety. It’s now becoming clear just how long it’s gonna take for things to get back to any sense of normal. I know a bunch of galleries and cafes for instance who have been thinking they’ll be back in their old building and up and running within ’2 or so months’ for the last year… ha ha, and they’re still no closer. Don’t get me wrong… there are interesting things happening, but man have they had to work hard to get happening; a heap of red tape to wade through. I’ve seen lots of friends and young artists begin to leave, and to be honest why wouldn’t you? There’s not too many places to show work, there’s nowhere hiring young designers either.
Having said that, it does all make for an interesting set of circumstances in which to be making work and trying to get on with things, its definitely coloured the Bulletin in a certain way, and I get excited about the kind of archive of material /thoughts/discourse the project is becoming; as we’ve all heard on the news, the situation here is pretty unique, so can’t help but generate unique content.
A typical day looks like…
A mixture of commercial design and research towards my Masters. I’m lucky enough to have a nice office all to myself at Ilam, where I spend most of my time. I also do a bit of teaching of the Ilam under graduate design course.
Tell us about your upcoming publications ‘Points of Departure 1’ and ‘ABC – The End’.
Points of Departure is four interviews I conducted with New Zealand designers engaged in a similar kind of practice to me. It includes The National Gird, Clouds, Catherine Griffiths and Bruce Connew, Kelvin Soh and David Bennewith. Its in the final stages of editing, I’m hoping to take it with me to the New York Art Book Fair in September.
The ABC book is going to be a retrospective look at ABC Gallery—an artist run space in Christchurch that was about the only one still standing after the earthquake and subsequently became an important venue for artists in the city. Unfortunately the building it inhabited was knocked down to make way for a new office block… a kind of delayed effect of the earthquake. So the book looks at the year it was in existence, brings together the work showed during that time and the writing generated around it.
What are you working on right now?
Aside from the two books mentioned above, I’ve released The Silver Bulletin 7. This issue was released at a new art project space in the city called Dog Park. Now I take residence in the space for 3 weeks, bringing in a Risograph and A2 photocopier, and attempt to produce an new edition of the Bulletin. This new publication—The Silver Bulletin 7.5—will be made up of content generated in direct response/continuation to the content in issue 7. People will be able to see the publication take form in the space over the 3 week period. The project as a whole is called This is an Invitation and is on until the closing and release of Special Edition 7.5 on Tuesday 14th August.
When you are not designing you are…
Hanging out with my family—I have a 21 month old girl and a 2 week old boy. It’s keeping my wife and I pretty busy to be honest! Not as much time for design at the moment…
I see you’ve had a typographic poster exhibited recently in Marker, at Ramp Gallery in Hamilton. Can we see your work exhibited elsewhere soon?
Well, there’s the fore-mention show at Dog Park. I’m also going to be writing for The National Grid #8 and my work will be coming up to Auckland in July-August for an Elam-Ilam exchange show. I have a couple of other projects on the horizon that I probably can’t speak for, but you’ll see.
Visit matthew-galloway.co.nz to view Matthew’s portfolio of work, and download your digital copy of The Silver Bulletin at o-s-x-x.com. If you are in Christchurch you can get involved in The Silver Bulletin 7.5 by visiting Dog Park.
All images: Credit – Matthew Galloway