Tag Archives: Indian Matchboxes

The New Indian Express – Interview

A short interview in The New Indian Express today about my Matchbox Collection…





‘Sandown’ is a new series that re-appropriates iconography from a collection of Indian matchbox labels and situates them on an isolated beach in the south coast of England. The bringing together of these contrasting visual elements creates a tension between culture and context.

The common thread through the series is the horizon line, which holds together a fragmented narrative where animals and objects, out of place in this setting, are in an awkward and nonsensical dialogue with each other.











The Indian matchbox: a telling element of our visual culture

A feature on my Indian matchbox project, from today’s issue of The Sunday Guardian:


The Indian matchbox: a telling element of our visual culture


While Big B has a fetish for pens, Quentin Tarantino is known for collecting board games. Similarly, Bengaluru-based illustrator Matt Lee, who came across a matchbox at a roadside chai stall a couple of weeks after he moved to the city from London in 2007, has by now built up a collection boasting of more than 600 matchboxes.”

As an artist and illustrator, collecting matchboxes is part of a wider interest that I have in documenting and categorising illustration and visual culture from around the world. The first matchbox featured an illustration of a killer whale with a caption above that read ‘dolphin’. I found this quite amusing, and kept it. Looking back, I think that my first connection with Indian matchboxes was that aside from being great examples of disposable design, they often seemed quite random, and made me smile and keep on collecting” he says.

On being asked about the reason for building a collection so vast, Lee says that it is the new design that keeps him going. He adds that across such a vast country like India, he can only ever have a fraction of the designs available. “So the series is never complete. Each new design I come across does not offer a resolution; but rather adds to the collection and the continuing story,” says Lee.

Interestingly, the matchboxes also signify personal memories for Lee. The visible ‘scars’ of the battered boxes tell a story, which according to him map the places he has visited, and the experiences he has had. He describes his collection as something which is ‘about design that is visual, tangible, yet personal and also somehow elusive and unquantifiable’.

“I often receive emails from people asking if I’d like to trade them, but it’s not about that for me. The satisfaction is in the process of building a collection that holds sentimental significance rather than material value. When I look at the labels I am reminded of many things; an early morning walk through Periyar National Park with my father and brother, getting lost amongst the narrow lanes behind the Ghats in Varanasi, eating fresh fish in Fort Kochi and many conversations with friends in Bengaluru,” he shares.

Lee, who says that he is attracted towards Rs 1 matchboxes, however makes it clear that he does not go out of his way to find or buy matchboxes; instead he prefers to stumble upon them. Talking about his favourite ones, he says, “From a purely design perspective I really like one that I came across in Jaipur a few years ago. The label shows a lit match on a deep blue background. I like the simplified graphic form, the balanced composition and the selective use of bold flat colour. It reminds me of the Priester poster designed by Lucian Bernhard in 1906.”

Deccan Herald

In today’s Deccan Herald newspaper there is a feature on my Indian matchbox project.


The Indian Express

A feature on me in today’s “India by Design” issue of Eye Magazine in The Indian Express.


Collections at Fictilis

100 of my Indian matchboxes are currently featured in ‘Collections’, a show at Fictilis Gallery, Seattle. This “collection of collections” runs until 30th March.

Information about the exhibition and the artists involved can be read here. Photographs from the opening can also be seen here.


Collections at Fictilis Gallery, Seattle

‘Collections’ at Fictilis Gallery, Seattle. Featuring 100 of my Indian matchboxes.




Collections that require some kind of creative categorization or idiosyncratic taxonomy. Collections that draw attention to the processes and politics of collecting.

Opening March 1st 2012 (reception 6-9pm) at FICTILIS. [Facebook event link.]

A collection of collections. Featuring work by:

Center for Genomic Gastronomy
Gina Coffman
Michael Demers

Adam Farcus

Timothy Furstnau
Alan S. Hokins
Tim Hutchings

Mary Anne Kluth
Matt Lee
Noah Pedrini
Ben Pranger
Mary Rothlisberger
Hugh Russell
Dominic Sansone
Sarah Sinclair
Abby Spangel Perry
Ryan Thompson

The world’s largest collection of “mailpiece security screens” (or envelope patterns).  A collection of “meteorwrongs” (rocks mistakenly identified as meteorites) from the Arizona State University’s famous collection.  A set of ceramic models based on a geologist’s verbal descriptions of favorite rocks. A small, traveling natural history museum that holds a lovingly assembled and ever changing exhibit of natural objects.A collection of sticky notes found all over the world. Selections from the Play Generated Map and Document Archive of paper documents created during play. A collection of 120 shoe heels found on the streets of Chicago between the years 1989-1992, with map marking each location. Photographic documentation of lost tennis balls. Twenty 1970s photographs whose provenance is unknown. A collection of matchboxes from the India. An archive of collections of dried slugs, pet coffins, clay and shell sculptures, sweater lint art, and more from a 1980s childhood. 30 variations of Cobra Commander action figures arranged according to color. Crushed Crush bottles and cans photographed exactly as they are found.  A collection of used 35mm film canisters, flattened and photographed in a uniform method. One month’s worth of preserved food for an adult human. Two years worth of nail clippings. Four years of beard clippings. Seven years of drain catch from a New York City loft. A collection of tiny, unholdable pieces of bar soap melded together. A lifetime of daily to-do lists.

And more….

Exhibition runs through March 30th.