FOCUS met with well known artist Rowen Matthews, who exhibits at Gallery 126, and he tells us all about his great art escapes at Little Kickerbell …
Hi Rowen; tell us about yourself …
I am an artist/painter with history as a teacher – secondary art, running workshops, and working with the teacher training at University of New England. I also have a practice of my own, which involves exhibiting, being in regional shows, regional galleries, touring exhibitions and so on. Now, I am running a residency and workshop program from the old property we’ve bought, Little Kickerbell, and that’s what I’m really excited about at the moment.
What can people expect if they come along to Little Kickerbell?
We have our first residential workshop next weekend. What I think is special, is that it’s fully catered; my wife is a professional caterer, so people come here and we cater the event. Accomodation is in the bedroom wing of this beautiful homestead that dates back to the 1830s, and it’s a gorgeous space to provide the experience. Having led workshops in the past, I found people would come for the weekend and need to find their own food, lunch and somewhere to stay. I thought if we could get a model going here, where that’s all scheduled in and there’s fantastic food, we’ve got a good thing happening. People can then focus on the art. A package experience!
So, often will you run these workshops?
I’m hoping we can run them seasonally, mainly in spring and autumn, because you’re not dealing with extreme weather. I’d like to run about one a month with breaks at different times. It’s possible to do it here, because we fell in love with this old homestead and the bedroom wing – they must have had a lot of kids, because there’s lots of bedrooms! They’re all renovated and comfy now. It’s ideal for such a thing.
What will participants come away with? Will they learn your style of painting?
Good question. It is Plein Air Painting, so painting outside, dealing with the landscape. We’re on the Liverpool Plains, which is a very dramatic landscape: black soil and hills in the distance, and all these colours that come out to them. Liverpool Plains is on one side and the Great Dividing Range on the other, and I like the idea of people responding to the land, rather than me teaching my own style. Many workshops teach a particular process, but I’m more interested in hooking into how people actually respond to the environment they’re sitting in and encouraging their own style. So if they’ve already developed a style, I’m wanting to identify how they’re comfortable working and support that. This way, they will come away with something that is a more personal, rather than just someone else’s technique.
Wow, that’s a new take on some of the old art workshops. For those who don’t know, your style is quite different … Where do you class your style of painiting?
It’s gestural, because I respect the physical gesture as a response to the landscape. Rather than doing small works, I like to just get a lot of movement in, so it’s an expressionist work.
For the people who are coming, is everything supplied?
Yes, art materials are supplied, and with accomodation, all linen is provided too. As far as art materials are concerned, some people like to have special art materials they use normally, but if people don’t have such a thing, I’ve got materials here that I’ll provide. My experience of running workshops is that people like to work with certain brushes and things they’ve used before, so they tend to bring those along, and I’m happy to work with that.
So what sort of art expertise levels are you catering for?
It’s the type of workshop anyone can do. Beginners will get a lot from this, because everyone has a response to a landscape when they see something quite dramatic. Even if you’re a complete beginner and haven’t picked up a brush for years, you will get something out of it. This workshop really caters for those two groups: beginners, and people already on the path of working out how they like to do things. Whether they want to be more intricate, or more expansive, I don’t see a huge distinction with levels of competencies with something like this.
So what is the best way to get involved?
The Little Kickerbell Facebook page is probably best, or my website email is firstname.lastname@example.org for enquiries.