From Dust to Water
Matthew Couper, Paintings
May 21 – July 13, 2018
Reception & Artist Talk: Tuesday, July 10, 5:30-7:30 pm (Talk at 6:15 pm)
Sponsored by Smith’s Food & Drug Stores, Inc
In Matthew Couper’s artwork, From Dust to Water, he uses the language of symbols—skeletons and cacti, blenders and playing cards—to combine pictorial elements in witty and incisive visual narratives. Social commentary is the work’s emphasis, and he often uses Las Vegas iconography to get there, but these artworks aren’t just about the Valley. Their surreal content addresses bizarre phenomena in our increasingly posthumanist, globalized culture.
This artwork was created between 2011 and 2017 and includes paintings influenced by Spanish Colonial art. The scale ranges from miniatures to large-format pieces, mainly oil on canvas, metal and paper, along with wood block prints, mixed media works and lithographs. Couper’s unique background – a New Zealander by birth, a Las Vegan by choice – has contributed to the complex, hybrid nature of his imagery. “I’m starting from scratch,” he notes, “but knowing that I need to assimilate socially and culturally while retaining a sense of where I came from.”
An artist with a Kafkaesque view of the world, Couper uses his art to narrate personal uncertainties and frustrations. He has found more than enough strangeness in Vegas — and in America — to challenge and stimulate his secular piety. Couper is an intuitive, a moralist and a visionary. His recent oil, Trickle-Down Effect, which features the Las Vegas Stratosphere tower urinating over a Boschian cast of characters, makes a dark pun on conservative economic theory, and manages to do so with religious conviction. The resulting image is compelling, perplexing and idiosyncratic; a pagan Catholic Cirque du Soleil.
His symbols, which can seem jarring in a contemporary context, may strike some as Surrealist, but that isn’t quite right: they are pre-Surrealist, in fact they are pre-Englightenment, and don’t need to be seen as having Freudian meanings. Couper puts it this way: “I do like Surrealist artists such as de Chirico and Magritte, but I see them as part of a long lineage of painters going back to the image-makers in the Lascaux Caves.” Couper’s symbols aren’t self-conscious or over-thought, they are an acquired vocabulary that his imaginative mind uses nimbly.
Couper graduated with a painting Fine Arts degree in New Zealand in 1998. In 2003, he was awarded a Royal Over-Seas League International Scholarship to work and travel in the UK. He received an Artist Fellowship from the Nevada Arts Council in 2018 and was awarded an Arquetopia Artist Residency in Puebla City, Mexico which resulted in a large state-wide survey exhibition in 2016 and 2017 at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno. He recently completed an Artist Print Residency at Idem Paris and an artist residency at Manoir du Bonhere, Normandie, France. His work will be part of an upcoming group exhibition at Crypte Musee, Saint Eugiene, Biarritz, France in August 2018.