The Happy Country
The coastal landscape of Australia is mostly timber and it is used extensively in both domestic and commercial architecture to good effect. The extensive rôle timber and timber architecture plays in the Australian landscape has influenced the works of earlier Australian artists like Nicolas Chevalier and Hans Heysen. It has imposed the particular linear style that is noticeable in Matthew’s Australian landscapes.
In the countryside beyond Melbourne, timber architecture is to be seen in abundance. It is used for farms and outbuildings, dividing paddocks with weather-worn posts and railings and dotted over the landscape in the form of curiously shaped dead trees and grey tree stumps. Also unusual are the buildings roofed in corrugated iron. In Australia it is used with great imagination and elaborate architectural permutations in the roofing of rural houses.
Painting the Australian landscape Matthew was conscious of seeing for the first time, a completely fresh subject: he acquired a new vocabulary, seeing what many possibilities could be wrought from rusting warped sheets of corrugated iron roofs, twisted grey timbers of abandoned farm buildings and the many kinds and varied forms and colours of Eucalyptus trees
Deep greens combine with light acid tones and yellows used in the Australian paintings show the use of scumbling, glazing and overpainting. These works of art owe their deep tones and soft matt appearance to the absorbent and dark brown canvas priming the artist adopted while working in Australia. What principally attracts the viewer is the abundance and variety of the many kinds of Eucalyptus trees and mangrove swamps. The venomous local wildlife, bush flies, poisonous snakes and vicious soldier ants made creating these paintings out of doors especially in the jungles of north west Queensland both difficult and hazardous.