Kirsty Matheson - Celtic Connections 2022

Kirsty Matheson - Celtic Connections 2022


Chanter by Kirsty Matheson

“I want you to see what I hear” Kirsty Matheson

A new commission of paintings, inspired by Martyn Bennett’s GRIT is to be exhibited throughout Celtic Connections 2022.

Kirsty Matheson has been described as an “artistic polymath” by Tom Service on BBC Radio 3, who called her art a “jaw-dropping kaleidoscope of images”.

Kirsty is an abstract painter who lives and works in Glasgow. As a classically trained musician, she hears the many layers of emotions contained in a piece of music and transmits the style, movement, rhythm, and dynamism into an abstract piece of art. 

Kirsty is also a member of the Grit Orchestra formed in 2015 to play Martyn Bennett’s Grit album orchestrated for the unique grouping of Classical, Traditional and Jazz musicians mainly based in Scotland. The orchestra opened Celtic Connections 2015 at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall to rapturous applause and critical acclaim for the arrangement by Greg Lawson of Martyn’s homage to the raw energy of travelling folk song and Gaelic singing.


As a musician she finds painting music she has played gives an added connection and dimension to her work as an artist. The stories behind the songs, and spoken words, the story of Martyn’s life, the story of Scottish culture and its place in the modern world weave through this album and consequentially these paintings.

Move literally moves across the canvas and ends uprooting in physical space. Chanter takes the challenge of making art out of a cell – not a melody – and creating impact that makes your eyes want to dance whilst breaking out of the gold frame trying to define it. Blackbird blends the metaphysical and spiritual with the power of an almost pure movement of paint to capture that voice.

None of the paintings are comfortable however, often like Martyn’s music. Nae Regrets has the child-like graffiti in bright bold colours juxtaposed with the dark reality of tenements for those children forced to “bide” with an abusive granny. Ale House is spikey and layered and then there is the track Why, captured in paint as a landscape that shifts between the highlands and battle fields of the Somme or Culloden moor with the word imprinted on it, shouting in silence at the waste of all those dead generations of young Scottish men.

All of this discomfort and rage can be seen to culminate in Rant. Martyn, like MacPherson in the song, smashed up his instruments in a fit of blind rage. The track and this painting are not negative though. The painting and music represent how musicians and artists take great sorrow and pain and turn it into beauty and hope just as Martyn Bennett did with creating GRIT from the depths of his illness with cancer.

Blackbird by Kirsty Matheson

The exhibition ends as the concert did, with a single from Martyn Bennett which was not on GRIT, Paisley Spin. It ends with a sample from Gerry Rafferty’s ‘To Each and Everyone’. Greg Lawson took it further with the Grit Orchestra and extended into a very long repeated fade out where it really did feel like everyone there was saying Goodbye to Martyn Bennett and thank you for his gift to us of this music. In painting it Kirsty has kept it positive with the threads representing all those people and the goodbye leading through a field of flowers towards the sun.

Kirsty Matheson will be giving a talk about her work and how she transforms what she hears into paint at the Glasgow Concert Hall, City of Music Studio on January 30th at 2.30pm. You can see the exhibition of the Grit paintings at the Glasgow Concert Hall from January 20th to February 6th.

In 2020, Kirsty set herself the challenge to create 100 paintings about 100 pieces of music in 100 days. The 100 Days of Music as Art Project was followed by an online audience on Twitter and Instagram and created a loyal following that not only commented on the work but fought to purchase each work as they were released. This culminated in all one hundred paintings being sold by the final day of the project