Matthew Clarke, Archibald Prize 2021 finalist, says nod marks ‘exciting times for people like me’

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Without a certain Victorian wallaby from the southwest, Matthew Clarke might never have made the first brushstrokes that put him on his way to the final of Australia’s most prestigious art award.

Clarke said her passion for animals “grew and grew” after seeing a joey come out of her mother’s pocket to sniff a clothesline outside her home in Warrnambool.

“I saw them as having a strong personality and individual characteristics,” he said.

But Clarke recently put her favorite subject aside to paint her friend and fellow artist Del Kathryn Barton.

The resulting portrait, Del Kathryn Barton Is A Good Listener, is one of 52 works of art from a field of 1,500 to be shortlisted for the 2021 Archibald Prize final.

Matthew Clarke with his portrait of fellow artist Del Kathryn Barton.(

Provided: Matthew Clarke

)

‘Good to see’

Clarke, who identifies as living with an intellectual disability, says it is exciting to be a finalist.

“[It’s] nice enough to see people with disabilities coming in, ”he said.

A man stands on a gondola in front of a large mural on a wall.
The mural outside the Warrnambool Art Gallery is part of Clarke’s upcoming exhibition.(

Provided: Matthew Clarke

)

COVID-19 restrictions mean he’s unlikely to be able to make it to the Art Gallery of NSW for the Archibald exhibit opening next week, but Clarke has an upcoming show closer to home.

The Wallabies Gambit Club exhibition will open at the Warrnambool Art Gallery (WAG) in mid-June.

A brightly colored painting of a castle.
One of the pieces on display at Clarke’s WAG exhibit.(

Provided: Matthew Clarke

)

Big picture

The exhibition includes a large Clarke mural painted on the facade of the gallery.

“The mural is about chess and wallabies,” he said.

Megan Nicolson, head of education at WAG, said Clarke’s sculptural works testified to her “intuitive knowledge of color” and that her works were “bold” and “full of energy.”

“Chess is a game with strict rules and yet Matthew’s illustrations are free and really have no rules,” Ms. Nicholson said.

While Clarke’s art may seem limitless, the space in which it is created is anything but.

“My studio is in my sister’s single garage,” he says.



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