Matthew Trueman

South Street


My name is Matthew Trueman. I am a London based artist.  You are currently standing on the former site of the South Street Hospital.

So South Street Hospital I just found it on one of my wanderings. And the landscape just made for excellent photos. It was this very massive completely abandoned structure by the time I found it. It had the river on the one side and this big beautiful cliff, and all these big mature trees. And the architecture was just sort of insane because this clearly was built for the posterity, and it was modernized over and over again, but the different add-ons reflected the architecture of the periods. You had this jumble of architecture. I just kept kind of visiting it over and over again.  And it wasn’t until it started getting torn down that I realized that I was the only person who was either brave or dumb, probably the latter, but dumb enough to hop over the fences and just wander around this place and take photos.

As the building got torn down you get these insane juxtapositions of inside and outside. This rough tangled exterior of bent rebar with these calm neutral colours of the pastels that coated the inside of the building. I realized that this sort of scene is being taken away; you can never build it again.

It was January, and they must have torn out the entire interior of the building. So you have these mountains of old personal objects, like desks and chairs, and I think that was really important because it gives you something to relate to when you look at the photographs, where you can picture yourself sitting at one of these desks, because everyone sat at one of these generic wooden office desks before. There’s just a mountain of them all jammed together in front of this massive relic of a building.

It wasn’t really about me or my photos or any one person building the hospital, it was just this organism that developed and everyone sort of had a hand in it. Even if you just drove by, you imprinted it into your psyche as this large building that makes up part of the London skyline. I think it reflects the lived experience of everyone who interacted with it.  And really, everyone in the neighbourhood knew about the hospital, even if they were fortunate enough not to have to go there. It was also just part of this sort of infrastructure of the neighbourhood. I felt like the hospital had existed for so long and evolved for so long it was kind of like that, like a tree in a park. It feels like it is a community tree.

I got permission from the hospital to be on the property for the final days of the demolition and talking to the different people from the hospital, I did get a real sense that a lot of people, this hospital was very meaningful for them.