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Rowen Matthews, Rain BreakTitle
Rain Break

Location
In storage

Place of origin
New South Wales, Australia

Year
2009

Media
Painting

Medium
Oil on canvas

Dimensions
107 x 107 cm

Credit
Winner Calleen Art Award 2009

Accession number
CAL2009.1

Excerpt from The Calleen Collection by Peter Haynes (2019)

Rowen Matthews was for many years a secondary school art teacher but following a successful solo exhibition at Armidale’s New England Art Museum in 2000 he has devoted himself to his painting practice. In 2012 he was granted an Australian Postgraduate Award to study for a PhD in studio practice at the University of New England. Dr Matthews has won a number of awards and prizes including The Blackheath Art Prize (2012), a Highly Commended in the Countryscape Prize (2011) and the Central West Regional Artists Award (2012), and has been a finalist in the Country Energy Art Prize (2008), the John Leslie Art Prize (2010), the Rick Amor Drawing Prize (2011), the Mosman Art Prize (2011) and the New South Wales Parliament House Plein Air Painting Prize (2011, 2013, 2017). Matthews exhibits regularly in solo and group shows. Recent examples include exhibitions at the New England Art Museum (2015), the Day Gallery in Blackheath (2017) and the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre (2017). His work is held in regional and private collections in Australia, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States. He currently lives and works in Hundle in the north-west of the New England region of New South Wales.

Rain Break is one of a series of works made during a residency the artist had at the King’s Bridge Cottage on the Cataract River just outside Launceston in Tasmania in 2008. He said of his time there that he “enjoyed the dramatic weather and dark drama of the place”. Those sentiments are powerfully visualised in Rain Break. Matthews’ words prompt associations with the work of the great English Romantics of the 19th-century. I am thinking of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Turner and Constable in particular. I wrote elsewhere of the reference to poets that “the Romantic poets…gave prominence to the desirability of creating artworks whose essence lay in producing the sensation of the motif rather than a realistic description, or in painting, likeness of, that motif”. For Matthews the natural motif (here Cataract Gorge) is subject to external forces (such as the weather) and internal forces (unseen but unknown) and it is the activity and action of this that he makes us witness to in this painting. For him the celebration of the actuality of the act of painting enables us to experience (albeit vicariously) what he experienced when confronting the natural drama of his subject. His painted surface is thick and palpable, the paint itself an ingredient that has as much life as the subject itis used to express. For him the place that prompted his imaginative impulse is rediscovered in the act of painting.