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Madchester designer collaborates with special needs sister for new heart-felt art exhibition


Ups and Downs is an art collaboration between Matt Carroll and his sister Maria who has Down’s syndrome.

Matt is co-founder of Central Station Design, the company whose iconic artwork helped define the Madchester scene of the 80s and 90s. Anthony H Wilson once said: “The second half of the Factory story is best summed up by the painterly eccentricity of Central Station.”

Maria, 54, has lived with Matt since their parents died within a few months of each other in 2011.

The psychedelic expressionist style of Central Station is reflected in Matt’s collaboration with Maria. The exhibition consists of 22 expressionistic observations made up of 198 gouache paintings and prints arranged into a series of grid structures.

Matt says: “Maria had a very strong bond with her mum and dad and has always been very expressive. Painting became a cathartic process for Maria cope with her loss.

“She was born at a time when people with Down’s Syndrome were considered uneducable, they were misunderstood and often ridiculed. But Maria became the life force within the family, a beacon for good and a unique character – her big smile much-loved and respected in her community.”

The work has drawn from their shared experience. A number of the pieces take inspiration from flowers which Matt buys every week in memory of their parents and late sister Mag for the home he shares with Maria in Little Hulton.


The paintings began as drawings by Maria on her iPad, and she and Matt used these as a source to paint together. Matt says: “We have a very similar style and approach to the way we apply the paint. Maria has always shown great artistic flair over the years, making cards for family members’ birthdays”.

One of Maria’s early paintings can be seen on The Happy Mondays Yes Please album cover and the earthy tones of the pieces and liberating energy of her brushstrokes radiate warmth and comfort in Ups and Downs.

The Carrolls’ interest in art began in childhood when their dad would take them on family trips to Salford Museum and Art Gallery. Matt recalls: “A large Lowry print occupied a central position in the house and stirred the imagination of us all, so it’s a real honour to be able to show our work at the gallery.  In fact, mum and dad grew up and met in the area around the gallery and it’s where dad got his library books as a lad, so it’s amazing that Maria and I are exhibiting there.

“The project proved very therapeutic, helping Maria and I to come to terms with the deaths of our parents and forge a positive path together. We hope these paintings will inspire others and offer the wider community an insight into the wonderful ideas and unique view of the world people like Maria have.”

Ups and Downs
Salford Art Gallery
Peel Park, Crescent, Salford M5 4WU
1 October 2016 – 4 June 2017


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