FIELDWORK - THE ART OF MATTHEW GREENHALF
Matthew Greenhalf is a particularly intriguing painter of landscape, because he approaches his subject in the richest sense, on several levels of depiction and meaning. I say 'depiction', but Greenhalf's work essentially borders representation and abstraction, the artist trawling so deep that we travel well beneath the surface, an excavation of earth, of weather, water and place. The spatial densities and infinities of these pictures can be panoramic in scope, yet these images also suggest an almost microscopic examination of the hidden, the teeming life found in land and stream, in wood and ice, in the crust of the Earth. Approaching his subjects in this way, Greenhalf broadens our perception of what 'landscape' can mean.
His ecological sense is often (and inevitably) about counterpoint, the meeting of interdependent evolving worlds and their relationship to our own - and the incursions into these fragile systems that have led, in the 20th century, to environmental imbalance. This is implicit rather than explicit in his work, because the range of his painting, that of his abstract animated surfaces, is not about any kind of obvious narrative. The 'action' is suggested in the motion of the paint, technically controlled but full of energy, arenas that appear to continue beyond the confines of the canvas. The paintwork is suggestive both of different kinds of depth and, conversely, the flat plane of the picture space, preserving a kind of surface integrity, one that reminds us that we are looking at a two-dimensional object aswell as an illusion.
Matthew Greenhalf has an instinct for the strange preternatural pulse of the Earth. We feel we are touching something primeval, age-old but delicate, vulnerable structures that are prone, now more than ever, to fundamental change. Greenhalf is drawn to those locations where, for him, these markings, these pools of life, are more secret and layered. He is fascinated too by the ancient sites where man has utilised the natural geography, making places that signify early forms of deep connection with the land - places where the long passage of time seems compressed, even suspended.
Greenhalf's world is fundamentally untamed, often predatory and restless in its complexity, his fields of pigment almost biological in their minutiae - structures redolent of the varied face of a bark perhaps, the rhythms of a coursing riverbed, the stilled life of some Jurassic sea. This sense of detail is expressive of something so much bigger, work that evokes the continuous cycles of numerous ecosystems, absorbed into his imaginative mind's eye. In this sense his work provides a strong visual parallel to the imagery of writers like Ted Hughes, a poet of integral importance to Matthew Greenhalf's artistic development and outlook. Both have immersed themselves in the inherent dramas of the landscape, alert to its inner vibrations, its mysterious and extraordinary forces - forces we abuse at our peril.
© David Whiting
David Whiting A.I.C.A, F.R.S.A. is an art critic, writer and curator.
CV & Education
Qualifications and Training
2000 - Sir David Murray Landscape Painting Studentship, Royal Academy Schools, London.
2000 - BA (Hons) Fine Art Painting (First), Falmouth College of Arts, Cornwall, UK.
1997 - Fine Art studies, Nicolae Tonitza, Bucharest, Romania 1997.
1997 - Nat. Dip. Foundation Studies Art&Design, Gloucestershire University, Cheltenham, UK.
2008 - 'New Commissioned Paintings', spring - summer 2008, Hatfield House, Hertfordshire.
2007 - 'New Commissioned Paintings', Gloucestershire, UK.
2005 - 'RBWS Scholarship Exhibition', Royal Bath and West Society, Somerset, UK.
2001 - 'Wolf-Watching' - New Paintings, Hailes, Gloucestershire, UK.
2000 - Degree Show, Falmouth College of Arts.
2007 Responding to the Landscape of the Cranborne Estate, Dorset, commissioned by The Marquess of Salisbury for Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, UK.
Competitions, Prizes and Awards:
2005 - Landscape Painting Scholarship , Royal Bath and West Society, Somerset, UK.
2003 - Martini Prize for Abstract Painting, Cheltenham Open, Gloucestershire University.
2000 - Sir David Murray Landscape Painting Studentship, Royal Academy Schools, London, UK.