Mixed media on canvas
2000 x 1665mm
Inscriptions: SYNTHESIS 1 ; Matt Dowman 2004 [stretcher]
The following two texts were written for Te Huringa/Turning Points and reflect the curatorial approach taken for that exhibition.
Matt Dowman’s inspiration comes from the street. He gets his ideas from billboards, graffiti murals, flyers on shop counters, brand logos and album covers. His art speaks to a generation steeped in mass media.
Born in Whanganui, he was brought up and educated at Taumarunui, where, of necessity, kids make their own fun. He became a skateboarder, skier, canoeist and was involved in kayaking. Although drawing lilies and pumpkins at school did not satisfy him, he continued looking at art books and visiting galleries to explore other possibilities for creative activity. As well as always continuing to paint and draw for himself, he put his energies into developing his sporting prowess, competing as a snowboarder in Switzerland.
In 1995, Dowman came to Tāmaki Makaurau, where he obtained qualifications from the Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design and from the University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts. Since 2001, he has exhibited consistently in Auckland and New Plymouth, and also in Berlin. In 2004, he was a finalist in the Trust Waikato National Contemporary Art Award.
This canvas buzzes with the city’s constant humming of cars and crowds, the busy but low-pitched noise that underpins the louder, staccato accents of blaringly insistent car horns and shouts across streets. Visually, too, this work resonates with the material aspects of urban life: the plaster of buildings both new and used, soot of industry and exhaust fumes, rust of metal left over on construction sites from the last demolition, dripping paint graffiti under bridges and along suburban railways. Or is it spilt blood? Visual hints of computer screens and high-rise windows reflect big business and high technology. Half-faces looking out of the painting seem to refer to the way people’s individuality is blurred in streets choked by day and night.
It is a highly-populated city, not a peaceful township, a melting pot of culture, a place where the routine of timetables is punctuated by violence and destitution, high and low-class prostitution, pedestrian frustration. Dowman introduces us to this environment through the perspective of his own culturally combined Māori and Pākehā ancestry. At the same time, he also speaks of our own identities and the various ways, both dramatic and mundane, that we might respond to a seething metropolis anywhere in the world.
Te Huringa/Turning Points: Pākehā Colonisation and Māori Empowerment, Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua, Whanganui, 8 April to 16 July 2006 (toured)