Who is Mathew Halpin?
His short bio from his site describes him as:
“…an Australian visual artist and qualified theater set designer. His theater work had him designing in opera, short films, dance and plays. Mathew has had many solo exhibitions and is at the moment looking for more mainly in Greece but also mainland Europe. Over the last ten years Mathew has lived in London UK, Tallinn Estonia, and Sydney Australia. At the moment he is living in Heraklion city (Crete), Greece and has settled there for a few years.”
I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Mathew when he was visiting Athens from Heraklion, Crete where he currently lives. His Greek series of artwork is being shown at the Grecotel Pallas Athena hotel until 13MAR, and I decided I wanted to know more about him.
Mathew, you’ve lived in various places globally, as well as Europe. What is it about Greece that draws you to her?
I came to Greece with my partner who is Greek. We had many countries to choose from but because of the climate we chose Greece. At first I really struggled with culture shock living in Heraklion (Crete). I found the pace of life too slow and I was not getting artistically stimulated. After a year I started to slip into a more Greek routine. Now I love Crete and am keen to move to Athens in the next couple of years. I love the chaotic nature of Greece; the beautiful neglected old buildings mixed with ugly new ones, the food and fresh produce.
A quality life can be had here without spending a fortune.
(It’s so nice to find & interview another talented Grecophile!)
You walked us through your Greek Series of paintings and they all appeared—to me at least—to represent a certain theme: the irony of what is happening to Greece at the hands of others. Was this the ‘muse’ for the Greek series?
When I first moved to Greece, my mentality was what I had been led to believe by foreign mainstream media. I believed that Greeks were lazy and should pay their tax. Now, after getting to know many locals, my mind has completely changed. Most Greeks are very hard working and, by nature, busy people. With tax I understand why people don’t like to pay it.
Why work hard to pass your money onto a government that is filling their own pockets?
The Greeks have been taken advantage of for so many years that they are naturally suspicious. Maybe if we had a government that is seen to be doing the right thing, people would feel better about contributing to the country.
Some of my paintings reflect the injustices inflicted onto the Greek people. Other paintings show what the Greek people have done to themselves.
The Greeks, I think because they have always struggled, look to the future and tend to neglect the past. A horrible tradition I see a lot on Crete is families holding onto their old family houses. They dont want to sell them and they don’t want to pay to maintain them. So beautiful architecture is left to fall down.
All your work has an underlying political theme—or more obvious one in the case of the Greek Parliament building encased on its own island! What is it about the political that makes you want to represent this through art?
I feel very strongly that Greece is being used as a model for political control by bigger countries like America and Germany.
The debt we have was not made by the people and the people should not be responsible for paying most of it back. Most European countries have huge debts. Why must the Greek people be made to suffer? We need the previous corrupt political powers to go, and start with a party with no previous corruption. My painting No Regrets looks at Germany for once again draining Greece of its wealth with no payment for previous horrendous crimes. It also looks at Washington for lending money that could never be paid back. The central banks lend money that did not exist and then expects people to pay it back in real suffering.
The world’s monetary system is only benefiting a few very greedy people.
Do you see yourself staying permanently in Greece?
I have been happy in Crete, but now I wish to move to Athens.
I have a dream of making a deal with someone who owns an abandoned Neoclassical house in the centre. I will renovate for a deal where I don’t pay rent. I did this in Heraklion and the owner is very happy. So I see myself here for a few years yet. The longer I am here, the harder it will be to move. And yet I don’t want to get stuck in my ways, so therefore moving keeps you fresh. Who knows?
For now, I love Greece and her people.
Any upcoming exhibits in Europe or worldwide?
I have been focusing on my net presence for the last year. I would love to find a gallery in Athens to represent me. The next exhibition is likely to be in a great space in Heraklion this summer.
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions Mathew – it was great to meet a fellow Grecophile, and one who cleverly encapsulates what is going on in this country through his art.