Matthew Clarke won the 2019 Adelaide Fringe poster competition with a vibrant portrait of himself, which was selected from 357 entries. His painting is now featured on Fringe posters and on the cover of the brochure, not to mention a Fringe scarf. He also recreated the design as a mural on Union Street in Adelaide’s East End, which will feature on the Fringe’s Street Art Explosion map. The work will also appear on Adelaide trams. On top of that he has an exhibition called Wine and Wallabies in the Fringe program – just one of the 1,326 events included this year. He spoke to Limelight about his Fringe experience so far.

Matthew Clarke, Adelaide FringeMatthew Clarke with one of his paintings. Photographs supplied

Congratulations on winning the poster design competition for the Adelaide Fringe! Can you tell us about the story in your painting?

This painting is a self-portrait. It’s how I feel before I paint in public for the public. It’s a mixture of anxiety and excitement. The figure is holding the microphone when I am usually the one holding the paint brush. I am happy how the painting turned out. The vivid colours and fiery brush strokes are a regular part of my practice as an artist.

How did it feel to paint it as a mural? Was it difficult to work on such a large scale?

My feelings of painting the mural for Adelaide’s Street Explosion were really mixed, especially before [I painted it] when I had only seen photos of the space and the colours were yet to be mixed. Over the days I gained confidence on the ladder. Anxiety and commitment turned to excitement as the painting progressed.

How do you feel seeing your painting on the cover of the Fringe poster and brochure?

I am extremely proud to have my work on the Adelaide Fringe poster. It means a lot to me because, as an artist, recognition and financial viability go together. It was exciting seeing my image on the front page of the Adelaide Advertiser.

Your work will be on Adelaide trams, and you decorated a tram in Melbourne last year. How did that feel?

I have enjoyed the positive feedback from people about the Adelaide Fringe tram. I would like to thank Nick the graphic designer for the Adelaide Fringe for his amazing job turning the fringe poster painting and the three extra panels into the graphics on the tram. I have been happy to put a new section in my resume headed ‘trams’. Having two trams on a resume is extra special. You can still watch the video of my Melbourne tram on Youtube. We were amazed to get 22,000 views for the Melbourne tram on Facebook.

When did you begin painting? And what got you started?

I think I have been drawing as long as I can remember. I wasn’t a great student and I was having trouble in the year 12 VCAL program. My dad pushed for me to go to South West TAFE one day a week and study art. I met my long-term mentor/friend Glenn Morgan and came back the following year to study visual arts. I gained confidence over a few weeks with Glenn Morgan. This is where I found my techniques, style, thrived being around other artists and gained in confidence as a young man. I met the beginnings of my Warrnambool support group including my long-term mentors Barry Tate and Glenn Morgan. It was a rewarding experience.

What do love about painting?

Painting is my way of telling stories. I love the process, I use acrylic paint on linen, canvas, board and, when I am fortunate, on walls. I also love vivid colour, paint that flows, and painting large-scale works. My largest is 1.9 by 9.2 metres long.

Why do you love using such bright colours?

I like using bright colours to their best advantage. I find myself mixing lots of white with the colours that I use. I like getting positive reactions from people.

Matthew Clarke, Adelaide FringeOne of Matthew Clarke’s Wallaby sculptures

How many works will there be in your exhibition Wine and Wallabies? And can you tell us about them?

The preparation for the exhibition is almost finished and we are still finalising which paintings will go in but we are expecting four paintings 2 metres high by 1.2 metres wide, five paintings 102cm by 76cm and about eight wallaby sculptures varying between 40cm high and 110cm high.

The exhibition is called Wine and Wallabies because its partly about my experiences of a trip to the Barossa Valley where I tasted some good red wine and imagined some wallabies in the hills. The wallabies are made out of ply wood. I draw out the wallabies, my dad and prime carer cuts them out with the band saw and then I paint them. The tails slide in the back for easy freight and they sit stably because they are on three legs.

Wine and Wallabies plays at Fisher Jeffries – Exhibition Space, Level 1, 19 Gouger Street, Adelaide, February 28 – March 15. Adelaide Fringe runs February 15 – March 17.