Return of wallabies to Maribyrnong: Matthew Clarke
28 January 2022 - 6 March 2022
Artist(s): Matthew Clarke
Location: The Atrium
Enamoured with the vibrant world that surrounds him, Matthew Clarke paints his subjects with an unquestionable spontaneity and conviction. His works tell of an effervescent ecology bursting at the seams with eccentric and dynamic characters. Return of wallabies to Maribyrnong is a jubilant exhibition that celebrates local, thriving ecosystems.
Up until the 1870s, swamp wallabies were a common site along the banks of the Maribyrnong River. Through invasive farming techniques and industrialisation of the area, the natural habitat of the swamp wallabies has since degraded over time.
Growing up in Kirkstall—a small hamlet outside Warrnambool that had been cleared for farmland—Matthew has been inspired by the steady revegetation of native plants and trees throughout the 1980s and ’90s. This environmental reclamation has led to the wallabies returning to area, and inspiring Matthew’s painting, drawing, lino-cuts and sculptures of wallabies ever since.
Upon his first visit to Incinerator Gallery, Matthew similarly observed the rehabilitation and revegetation of the nearby Maribyrnong River. Wallabies are now common on the upper stretches of the Maribyrnong River and on rare occasions have known to been seen nearby the gallery. For this exhibition, the artist draws environmental parallels between Kirkstall and Moonee Valley, along with their flood plains. This exhibition is a celebration of the return of the wallabies.
Matthew Clarke is an artist based in Warrnambool. He loves to paint with acrylic paint—especially in summer—because of its fast-drying nature, which allows him to paint over and through layers in order to build impasto textures. This technique of painting suits his spontaneous style, which is fuelled with expressionistic veracity and loaded with fiery brush-strokes. Painting upon a variety of surfaces including canvas, timber and directly onto the gallery wall, he aims for a liveliness of colour that leaps towards the viewer, challenging painterly conventions of colour, shape and proportion.
Of his work he says, “I am undeterred by the fact that it doesn’t match most people’s curtains, or their wall paper, and it isn’t suited to every beach house. I like making large works.”
Matthew’s largest work to date includes a 12-meter by 4-meter mural painted on the front of the Warrnambool Art Gallery. However, his versatile practice also includes small sketches measuring 15-centimeters by 12-centimeters. In 2021, Matthew was a proud finalist in the Archibald Prize where he painted a portrait of his hero Del Kathryn Barton.
To learn more about Matthew’s practice, and to see more images of wallabies, you can visit his Instagram @matthewclarke86_art