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March 24, 2008 | by  | in Visual Arts |
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Matthew Couper’s recent exhibition at the Janne Land Gallery

It’s All About Whanau / Ex Niholi Sui Et Subjecti, Matthew Couper’s recent exhibition at the Janne Land Gallery, is an autobiographical series covering his recent art residencies.

The first of the residencies was at the Royal Overseas League, a non-governmental organisation based in London, which offers a travel scholarships for New Zealand artists to spend four weeks in the United Kingdom in a residency on the east coast of Scotland, about a mile from Arbroath. The primary works referencing this residency are My Ambassadors and New Cornerstone,

My Ambassadors is an oil on canvas work highlighting Couper’s journey to and from the United Kingdom. Nothing illustrates this more than the map indicating where Couper travelled, placed centre right on the canvas, or the passport image in the left centre top The work also shows influence from Philip Gaston, whose work Couper viewed in San Francisco.

There also appears to be a least three representations within this image of what it was like to have undertaken the residency. There is one figure slightly to the left centre with two playboy girls attached to his arms, representing the outward glamour of the residency. In the central part of the image is a tortured face within a wooden frame – the struggling artist – which may complement the images of IOU s on the middle left of the canvas, representing the debts that have been incurred and the price that has been paid for the residency.

The last figure present is outside the main focal area and lies at the top left hand corner within its own frame, on its knees kissing the arse of a deformed figure representing art tradition and history.

New Cornerstone is the other work to reference the residency of The Royal Overseas League. There are two figures represented in this pencil drawing. The figure to the left is a Scottish figure – tartan and sword evident – with cobwebs attached to it linking it to the wall. The other figure more vibrant. The figures represent two different worlds – the Old World and the New World, or two different generations, one stifled and the other unfettered and free. One senses tension between the two, as they come across as distant and dysfunctional.

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