Matt Ellwood's satirical, appropriation based art practice employs the various vocabularies of current advertising, building structures, toy merchandising, and outdated men's magazines as abundant resources for sculptures, drawings, and digital image interventions. These are set up as allegorical filters for a playful, but equally perverse subversion of the ideological master discourses underpinning the relationship between profit and desire. His recent sculptures are often constructed out of industrial materials such as plywood, high density foam, fiberglass and resin. These all have a high degree of craftsmanship, and are unique pieces that challenge their ubiquitous and mass produced origins. His drawings are equally crafted in their high degree of finish, and are predominantly large charcoal pieces that replicate and conflate advertising campaign imagery. Both utilize their materiality as a seductive visual entry into the work that is then often counterpointed with deliberately less celebratory content.
Born in Wellington, 1973, Matt Ellwood gained his BFA from the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, in 1996, and went on to graduate with a PgDip in Teaching in 1997. After four years of running a high school senior art department he went back to post graduate study at Elam and graduated in 2003 with a Master of Fine Arts (1st class honors). During his time as a Masters student, he was awarded the Vice Chancellor's Scholarship for Outstanding Achievement and was included in Break - the Govett Brewster Gallery's biennial review of contemporary NZ art. He has exhibited widely in New Zealand and Australia as well as internationally and is included in publications such as Warwick Brown's 'Seen This Century' a collector's guide book, 2009. He is also included in The Drawing Center NYC's online viewing program. He has been the recipient of the Wallace Trust Development Award (2004) including a 3 month studio residency at the International Studio and Curatorial Program in New York and the Wallace Trust Kaipara Foundation Award (2011) including a 3 month studio residency at Altes Spital in Switzerland.
Matt Ellwood has continued to live in Auckland where he is now the Associate Head of Fine Arts at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design. He is represented in New Zealand by Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland.
In this latest offering Matt Ellwood delves into the advertising of the Seventies via soft porn magazines such as Penthouse and its now defunct women targeted subsidiary Viva. The large charcoal drawings and digital prints of photo-shopped cigarette ads bring attention to the sexual dynamics prevalent in the advertising of the time. Its contemporary validity stems from the never ending ideological structuring of desire in order to assist product consumption.
To function as human beings we need to desire, otherwise we would never experience enjoyment, but desire is not about fulfilment, it�s more about continuance; in order to always exist it must offer a reward. A semblance of pleasure. Fleeting satisfaction. Advertising attempts to structure this reward, to tell us what to want and turn desire into profit. Often, especially in the case of cigarettes, it attempts to cover over the detrimental effects of consumerism through focussing on pleasure and enjoyment. Furthermore, often it is censorship and taboo that breeds desire through the perverse satisfaction found in the forbidden.
The fact that these artworks utilise smoking is intended only as an allegory for the enhanced seduction needed to combat the moral debate responsible for its continual censorship. Cigarette advertising was banned from television in the Seventies, and subsequently proliferated in porn magazines.
Cigarette advertisers of the time stuck to tried and tested formulas vis a vis sexual desirability and/or using focus groups to determine specific target audiences. The result being things like Viceroy�s sponsorship of Formula One racing and their ads targeting males both through identification with the driver and also the sexual innuendo of the beautiful women photographer, typist etc (She�s Tried a Lot of Long-size Cigarettes). Their placement in Viva was also presumably for women to identify with them also in a kind of emancipated reversal, but given that particular magazine�s failure to capture the market it can be assumed that they may have missed the boat or the even the point.
Viceroy adverts also invariably used a square composition with a strong diagonal, two of which have been amalgamated together to create Because They�d Never Smoke a Boring Cigarette. Also following this square/diagonal formula is Bait Your Hook With Playboy which is the beginning of another series of drawings entitled What Kind Of Man Reads Playboy?. The one here is intended to inform the viewer of the source material and �tongue in cheek� implications of the other drawings in the show. What kind of man does read playboy? According to the advert, 55% of men aged 18-34 who visited the Caribbean, Bermuda or Bahamas in 1972.
As much as this now sounds outdated and overtly stereotypical of masculine ego formulation, its sentiment continues to permeate our everyday need to love and be loved.
Source: Michael Lett Gallery 2005