Matilda White draws on the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements to depict mysterious characters that question our assumptions about, and understanding of, femininity and sexuality. She describes herself as a printmaker and artist, working digitally as well as on paper, and recently branched out into textiles. For her final degree project White created a woven piece entitled A Gender Circus, which uses symbols and tropes from the world of performance to explore themes of gender and identity.
According to the artist, however, it’s only in the last year that she’s started to hone her distinct style. “A lot of people in my class had an obvious style they would go to every time they got a project, but I found that I enjoyed doing everything,” she told CR. “It just depended on the idea I had. Sometimes I was doing a digital illustration that was way more cartoony, or playful, or abstract, and sometimes I wanted it to be really detailed with crosshatching and accurate proportions.”
Some of her approach is informed by an interest in vintage or historical art styles that take more of a graphic or illustrative approach – which she’s gone on to recreate digitally. But White also likes working by hand, and says one of the main reasons she picked Camberwell was because of its printmaking facilities. “They have really old machinery, and I liked the tactility of having to watch myself print it,” she explains. “Whereas all the other screenprinting studios I’ve been to are much more modernised. I felt way more at home at Camberwell.”
Her interest in gender, more specifically femininity, is an abiding one, and something White’s been pursuing since she started studying. Before starting her degree she’d been using sculpture to explore ideas of female body image, which gradually evolved into a dissertation that delved into what it means to be feminine.
“The blanket was taking all those ideas, and all that thinking from my dissertation, as well as all of the pressures that come with gender,” she says. “I was looking at ideas of gender performance, and how it’s one big masquerade game of how I feel when I wake up in the morning, or whatever situation I’m in at the time, and likening that to a circus.”
“I wouldn’t have made that blanket if wasn’t for Covid,” she adds. “I wouldn’t have come out with the outcome I love, but because I was at home with an iPad I could work on, that let me birth this really intricate drawing. I wouldn’t have sat down and dedicated the time to it if I was in the studio, I’d have wanted to play around with more physical things.”
White plans continue exploring this subject matter through her work, but also hopes to work more as a printmaker, possibly as part of a studio.