My Place: Matthew Simpson

Yarraville-based painter Matthew Simpson. (Damjan Janevski) 306565_03

Yarraville-based artist Matthew Simpson has been a part of the west for more than 25 years. He spoke to Star Weekly’s Matthew Sims about his artistic achievements and what he loves about the western suburbs.

What is your connection to Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay?

I live and work as an artist on the sovereign unceded lands of the Boon Wurrung and Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation and I pay my respects to Elders, past, present and emerging. Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land. I love living in Yarraville and feel very thankful for it.

What drew you or continues to draw you to the area?

I first moved to the west in 1996 when, as a young family, we bought a home in Spotswood. I was drawn by the affordability of the west and stayed when I discovered that the west was a good match for my outlook. The west is more down to earth in my opinion. After Spotswood, I moved to Yarraville and West Footscray and back to Spotswood then Yarraville again. I am settled again in Yarraville and intend to stay here. I am currently enjoying the artistic community called RedWest. RedWest Creatives Co-op Limited is a cooperative for creatives and artists in Melbourne’s western suburbs. RedWest put me in contact with Annette Wagner of Wunder Gym, which has presented continuing opportunities to be seen in group shows. I was excited earlier this year to be a finalist in the Wyndham Art Prize. I am presently painting for an exhibition that will be held at One Star Gallery in West Melbourne in May 2023 with the assistance of a grant from the City of Melbourne.

What are some of your favourite places to visit or favourite things to do in the area?

I favour Cruickshank Park, The Sun Theatre and all the wonderful places to eat in Yarraville such as Cafe Terroni. I enjoy that I can walk to all the amenities and attractions. A bit further afield is West Art Supplies in Buckley Street in Footscray, which is my favourite art supply shop. I have to be careful when I visit as there are so many lovely treasures there I feel like a kid in a candy shop!

How has the place where you live influenced your work?

My current studio is the second bedroom in my Yarraville flat. It has a large window west facing that admits a lot of afternoon sun. The light is good, as I am on the first floor overlooking the neighbouring houses. Other than the light, the fact I am not fighting for survival, my circumstances being stable and favourable, is reflected in my work. During pandemic lockdowns, I could not exhibit or meet with other artists which was isolating. I live a quiet life at the best of times, but I do rely on contact with friends. During the necessary but dark days of restrictions, I feel very fortunate that I had art to occupy me and that I live in a place that I like.

What does the word ‘place’ or the concept of ‘place’ mean to you from an artistic perspective?

Art tells a story and is often a search for identity. Place is part of who you are. My art practice centres on abstract paintings that build up lines into compositions that do not resemble reality but suggest different stories to different people. I am in the habit of giving the larger works titles that fit in a theme. Currently, I am using geological features for titles. For a while, I used the names of all the addresses I have lived at as titles. I had exhibitions called Place Paintings (at a gallery in South Melbourne) and Home Paintings and Location Paintings (at Bassett Gallery in Yarraville). So I have painted paintings called Robert Street, 20 Bayview Road, Hansen Street, Stephenson Street and Stephen Street.

Tell us something people would be surprised to know about you.

I am passionate about science and Scrabble. I enjoy listening to the 3RRR and ABC Science Show and have done so, it seems, for my entire life. Forty years ago, scientists were warning of the greenhouse effect. That we didn’t act then is an indictment on the way we are running (ruining) the world and the short-term political system. I fear there won’t be a Great Barrier Reef for future generations, we have already polluted too much to save it. We live in a strange time where experts are not trusted. I hope Australia is smart enough to invest in science and technology instead of digging up more coal.