Matthew Clarke

My name is Matthew Clarke and I was born in 1986. I live in a wooded hamlet near Warrnambool in south-west Victoria. I am an artist who has a disability.

In year 12 I was struggling with the academic side of school. My school advised me that I shouldn’t go to study visual arts because I was unable to draw a clock. Nonetheless my dad insisted that I attend South West TAFE in the former Fletcher Jones Building, a Warrnambool icon that formerly employed 1200 clothing workers.

I started painting one session a week. After one year at TAFE, I was excited about the final year TAFE exhibition where I was given a large space for a mini exhibition within the exhibition. A year earlier this would have been totally unimaginable for me. This was the start of my life as an artist.

As I developed as an artist my sense of language around the works also developed. I went from always untitled to always titled.

I outgrew my old studio space in 2014 and I was happy to move into a larger (5m x 9m) studio space with a saw-tooth window at Fletcher Jones, to share with my dad. It is in the same area as the old TAFE campus. I am lucky to be surrounded by other artists including my mentor Barry Tate and my friend Glenn Morgan. It’s no coincidence that these three people plus myself are the main subjects for most of my portraits.

In 2013 I sent a letter to Diane Mossenson of Mossenson Galleries Perth, with photos of recent works. I also sent photos to Naomi Mossenson of Mossenson Galleries in Collingwood, Melbourne. I was delighted to hear from them both that separately they loved my work and invited me to become part of their stable.

I find Mossenson Galleries a happy match as they have an understanding of families and include their own extended family into the life of the gallery. My family is heavily involved in my art practice. My sister Jaq handles the administration, and my dad Andrew does everything from accounting to material preparation. I also like the philosophy of Mossenson Galleries where they take a long-term view about supporting artists in their stable.

After some success I was invited by Jon Butts, creator of C3 Contemporary Art Space, Abbotsford Convent to show a large work. The work was named ‘Travelgander’. It was a large project 9.2 x 1.9m, painted in my front yard over the summer. Fortunately the weather was perfect, it didn’t blow off the easel, there was no rain over the time the work was created and I only got a little bit sunburnt painting it.

‘Travelgander’ first showed at C3 Abbotsford Convent in 2015 and then went to Karingallery in Geelong and then the Warrnambool Artery. The themes for ‘Travelgander’ are wallabies and travel, in particular Kirkstall to South Perth, contrasting current wind farms and the old mill in South Perth (built in 1835). You can watch me creating this work on ABC Open ‘Matthew Clarke Travelgander’.

I continued painting in 2015 and was invited by the Art Gallery of Ballarat to exhibit. I chose to feature the wallabies in our garden. This led to the title ‘The wallabies garden party’. After I saw the space I felt excited and inspired by the height of the walls and the overall space to produce a body of work centred around wallabies and my garden. Each work inspired me to do the next. The key work was ‘the story of the wallaby and the washing line’. All the wallabies that visit our garden ignore the washing line, probably because the washing isn’t edible. One day as I was looking out the window I saw the smallest joey exploring the washing line, maybe the first time out of the pouch. I am proud to tell this story through the painting.

I predominately paint acrylic on linen. I like one-litre Series 2 Matisse paint in a tub. I have been referred to as a naïve abstract painter but I find myself indifferent to labels around art. Constant themes for my paintings are wallabies, portraits, turtles and birds, however chess is a large portion of my life and sometimes a theme for my paintings.

I feel equally excited, from my very first mini exhibition at TAFE to my upcoming exhibition at Mossenson Galleries with Martin Edge, 8 June to 2 July.

I’m also excited about an exhibition at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery
from 24 February to 25 April in 2017.

Matthew Clarke with Martin Edge
Mossenson Galleries, Subiaco, WA
8 June – 2 July

Courtesy the artist and Mossenson Galleries, Perth

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